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Close up of young girl looking concerned as others talk and point behind her

Helping Children Resolve Conflict

When Sophia was in Kindergarten, she often came home complaining that her friend, who we will call “Jane,” was mean to her. We like to take our time solving dilemmas for her, so Ryan and I listened and asked questions. What did Jane do or say that you felt was mean? What did you do or say back? Did you talk to your teacher about it? What did your teacher say? The main issue seemed to be that Jane was taking over games, not using kind words, and according to Sophia, was "bossy."

After two more weeks of nonstop complaining about Jane, I was tired of hearing about it. Out of frustration and, truthfully, a little annoyance, I said, "I'm tired of hearing you complain about Jane. If you want her to stop, you have to do something. Next time she is mean, tell her that you're not playing with her unless she is kind. You can walk away and find other friends to play with.”

A week went by with no mention of Jane. It was parent-teacher conference day that Friday, so I checked in with her teacher about the relationship between the two girls. To my surprise, she said it was going well ever since Sophia told her friend if she wasn't nice, she wasn't going to play with her. When other children followed Sophia’s lead, Jane quickly started to be more kind to her friends, likely because her behavior was no longer getting the desired results.

Fast forward to this school year when those same words I gave to Sophia four years ago came back into play. A few girls had been bullying and some of the kids in her class were left with hurt feelings. But, this time, Sophia was able to successfully navigate the drama. Not because she was too cool for school, but because she had the right words to say and the confidence to speak up whenever she felt other students were being mean to her or someone else.

The situation between Sophia and Jane back in Kindergarten reminded me of the power of our words, especially when helping our children resolve conflict. Allowing Sophia to work through the conflict by offering her the right words to say, even in this early friendship, gave her the ability to initiate change. Now that Sophia is 10 years old, we have encouraged her to always try to be a positive influence on her friends, and to be cautious of letting people influence her in negative ways. If we as parents and caregivers don’t empower our children with positive actions and words, even at the youngest of ages, someone else may do the opposite.

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About Adrianna and Ryan Walden

About Adrianna and Ryan  Walden Ryan and Adrianna Walden have been married for 14 years. The two met when she was working for an arena football team in Norfolk where he was playing football. Ryan is a service coordinator with the Chesapeake Early Intervention Program and Adrianna is a Licensing Specialist for Children's Programs. Both have enjoyed teaching CHKD’s "Happiest Baby" class together for the past eight years. Together they have one daughter, who despite early health issues, is now a thriving and happy school-age child. The Walden's also lead a weekly community group through their church for married couples and their children.