Let Children Learn To Resolve Conflicts On Their Own


If Breyen doesn’t look very happy in the picture above, that’s because he wasn’t. Just three seconds before I took this picture, he was fighting with his sister. Phoebie was following one of the instructional cards from the building blocks and Breyen decided to grab the card from her.

I sat and watched and they took turns to scream, both holding the card and refusing to let go.

Now that Breyen is getting older, this was becoming a common sight at home. Breyen would take the one thing his Sister was using and insisted on wanting it. Other times, Phoebie might spot her brother holding a toy she really liked and decided there and then that she needed that very toy back. And the fights would begin. 

When such fights first began, husBenKoh and I would often ask Phoebie to give in, on the grounds that Breyen was still a baby. As time went by, we knew that it wasn’t fair to Phoebie if we expected her to give in every time. We also didn’t want Breyen to grow up thinking he would always have his way just because he is younger.

HusBenKoh and I started teaching Breyen to give in to Phoebie too, but I have to admit, because we don’t always get to see who had the coveted items first, we don’t always end up making a fair judgement. When that happens, we would use “take turns” as an excuse to resolve fights.

Today, as this fight over that precious card unfolded before my eyes, I decided to sit back and watch as Phoebie screamed at Breyen for grabbing the card she needed to complete her construction. Breyen screamed right back at his Sister, demanding for the card. Both of them took turns to look at me and I looked back at them.

They screamed and tugged at the card for a minute or two. Eventually, Breyen let go of the card, obviously very unhappy (and that was when I took this photo). I watched as he moved on to the cards on the floor. He soon forgot about the fight with his sister and played with other things.

This made me think. 

With Breyen being 19 months old and growing older each day, he is learning his likes and dislikes, as well as to push boundaries. If we always interfered whenever he got into a fight with his sister, he may think that we would always rescue him. The communication between Breyen and Phoebie would be one where, they can be happy together, but they wouldn’t learn to solve issues together.

I guess when toddlers are of a certain age, it is okay for us to let go, and let them learn to resolve conflicts on their own. This applies to Phoebie too. She is already five and she is not always with us. How would she learn to resolve conflicts and problems if we would always step in?

Of course, I am not saying that we should totally let go and let kids do whatever they want to resolve conflicts. If they were throwing punches at each other, I would definitely have to step in. 

It is, however, okay for them to learn to resolve conflicts under our supervision. We don’t have to say a word but we will have to watch them. Watching our kids as they learn to resolve conflicts gives us a chance to observe their characters. It also gives our kids a chance to solve issues without help. 

The ending might not be fair to every child and some may end up unhappy, like Breyen in the photo. But this is where they learn about life too. Life isn’t always fair.

The most important thing, is perhaps to share our observations with our kids after the conflict. Ask them how they felt about the conflict, and how they felt when they saw their sibling upset.  This might turn out to be a more tedious process than simply jumping in to break up the fight, but it is a learning process for everyone.


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