An essential part of conflict resolution with children involves learning how to talk with them, how to listen to them and how to be assertive with them to maintain the norms and limits which we consider essential for their protection, education and development.
But at the same time we need to face their needs, give them an opportunity to participate and attend to their suggestions.
Sometimes adults do not consider children as equal communicators and do not listen to them. Sometimes children are so angry that they are not able to understand the reasons given by their parents or teachers.
All these situations lead us to conflicts that we have to learn to face in a positive way. The first step for conflict resolution is to learn positive and adequate communication skills.
Every person uses different types of communication styles, depending on who we are speaking with, situations, possibilities, consequences and different factors.
That is why it is important for us to analyse these styles, to be able to recognise strategies for communication, which can sometimes produce conflict with others.
There are three basic
Aggressive, where a person chooses to attack, to act first and win irrespective of the content and the objective of the communication. Sometimes people want to be right and have the last word.
Passive, where a person does not express his/her feelings and thoughts because either they do not want to confront the other or they are unable to do so. They prefer to be silent and lead the other person to guide the communication. This style could be a strategy or the result of lack of confidence.
Clearly, the assertive style is the one to strive for. Remember that you need to know these styles to deal with different situations.
Remaining aware of your own communication style and fine-tuning it as time goes by gives you the best chance of success in life.
To communicate we must focus on the child, get as much information as possible about him/her and avoid generalisations when evaluating the child. We can ask questions that will open the other to talking: questions about specific facts, emotional aspects, perceptions, needs, interests, concerns and feelings.
Talking about one’s self, about theories or generalities does not promote dialogue. And we must encourage family members and children to inter- and intra-subjective dialogue.
Positive discipline techniques require an assertive communication style because we have to impose upon the child certain norms and limits, at the same time being open to their needs, ideas and feelings. However, every communication style has its uses.
When we are disciplining a child they could react to us aggressively (even being violent with us) or passively (accepting what we say without reacting, although they do not believe in it). We as adults have to learn to be assertive: firm but open-minded.
Decisions made when solving a conflict should always value the needs of each individual involved.
To learn good communication skills, we have to first learn to listen and secondly, how to speak. When we are talking with a child the same rules apply. To have good communication with children we have to build a relationship with them, know them and listen to them as with any other adult. We must create a climate of confidence, which is built on a foundation of empathy and interest.