Conflict is a familiar happening in children's ministry. You've probably heard the following.
"He called me a name!"
"She won't let me play with them!"
"He's not supposed to be in our group!"
"She took my crayons!"
"He's sitting in my seat and won't get up!"
When conflict happens, here's how to resolve it like a pro.
Take the children who are having the conflict to a place where you can have a private conversation with them. Make sure there is another adult with you. (never be alone with a child)
Have the kids cool down. Ask them to take a few deep breaths and take the deep breaths with them. This helps release some of the stress and tension they are feeling.
Have one of the children share why he or she is upset with the other person.
- If they child starts sharing with you, re-direct them to share with the other child. (Example - If the child says "she wouldn't let me play with..." - stop the child and have him or her tell the other child - you wouldn't let me play with...) This is teaching them to use direct communication which follows Matthew 18.
- Have the other child then rehearse back to the child what he or she said. (Example - "You said I wouldn't let you play with us.")
- Next let the other child talk and share about why he or she acted that way. (Example - I didn't let you play with us because I hadn't seen her in 3 weeks and wanted to spend time with her.)
- Give both kids a last opportunity to share their thoughts or view.
- Ask them how they can come to an agreement. The goal is for them to come up with a mutual understanding. If they cannot, then you can step in and guide the conversation as needed.
- Once they've come to an agreement, encourage them to forgive each other if it is needed.
- Make it a teachable moment. (If it involves forgiveness - share with them what God's Word says about it. If it involves treating others with respect - share with them what God's Word says about it.)
- Pray with them.
- Once they are back in the environment, observe and see if the conflict has been completely resolved. Is the child including the other child play in the group now? Are they getting along?
- If the incident involved physical conflict (hitting, pushing, etc.), then fill out an incident report and bring it to the attention of the parents when they come to pick-up. Do this with the parents separately.
Your turn. The floor is yours. What other tips do you have for helping kids resolve conflict? Share with us in the comment section below.