There’s no way to avoid it: At some point, everyone gets angry, frustrated, or hurt. This goes for kids as well as parents.
But how we handle those feelings is what really counts, and how we teach our children to handle conflict will make a big difference in how well they do in school. Learning a few ways to avoid conflict, and to deal with it in a nonviolent way, will help your child in class, on the playground, and at home.
There are some basic techniques you can teach your child that will help him or her at school when conflict arises. Practicing them at home will keep the peace there too!
1) Stop and breathe
Why it works: Learning to take a moment to just breathe instead of lashing out can train the brain to not react without thinking. While some people might think that venting is a good way to let off steam, studies have shown that reacting quickly doesn’t reduce a person’s anger. The same studies found that a much better way to ease anger is to take deep breaths or relax.
Try this at home: Explain the idea to your child, and role-play a situation in which she’d get angry. Have your child breathe in deeply while counting to five, then breathe out. Do this five times.
2) Walk away or count to 10
Why it works: Just like the idea of taking a few breaths before responding, walking away helps your child cool off when he’s angry. Taking a time-out gives your child a chance to blow off a little steam, which will actually lessen his feelings of anger.
Try this at home: Talk to your child about a situation at school in which he has gotten upset, then try to re-create it and coach him to walk away or count to 10 before responding. Also give him examples of how he can talk about what he’s doing, such as “I’m going to step away for a minute. I’ll be back.”
3) Talk it out: Use words to express feelings
Why it works: Sometimes just putting feelings into words helps to diffuse a tense situation. The person your child is angry at may not understand why his or her behavior is hurting your child until she explains it.
Try this at home: Whenever your child gets into a sticky situation at home with a sibling or friend (or even you), stop the action and help her put a name to her feelings. For example, if your daughter is angry because her best friend is spending a lot of time with another classmate, try saying, “You’re feeling left out and sad because Maria is playing with other kids. I’m sure she doesn’t mean for you to feel that way.” Believe it or not, since this may be the first time your child has run into this kind of situation, you telling her how she’s feeling really helps.
Then suggest she tell her friend exactly how she is feeling. Help her out with a few ways she could talk about it: “I really miss playing with you,” “I feel like you don’t like me anymore,” or “It made me feel bad when you didn’t include me.” Overall, it’s good to help your child name her feelings and practice talking about them. Teaching your child to use “I” statements (“I feel,” “I want,” “I don’t want,” etc.) will help in sticky situations.