This is a
topic that I believe will have a lot of different views. This is mine, based on
the theory and experience I have working with children and parents.
Years ago, I encountered a situation where a calm and withdrawn four-year-old girl overnight turned into a seemingly aggressive girl who hits all the friends in the group. I communicated the observed behavior of the girl with her mother, who answered me with that famous sentence: "Yes, others beat her too, so I told her to give it back!". Let's face it, all of you who have such a belief, it's a belief that you carry with you for a reason. You may have been unable to fight for yourself as a child, so you decided to raise your child in the direction of returning as a defense. You may have never encountered this, but now you feel powerless and want to help your child the way you think is right. This belief is often accompanied by these questions: "And where was the educator/ teacher, is she not watching for kids?". Very rarely do parents suggest to a child to turn to an adult during the problematic situation. Maybe because they don't know what great resources we have to deal with such situations.
Let us return to the example mentioned before. It is difficult to change a mother's beliefs just like that, after all, like all parental beliefs, especially those that lead to an instant solution to a certain situation. But I repeat myself with the question - do you want instant solutions for your child or quality ones that work in the long run and shape your child into a mature, quality and responsible adult? What actually happened in this case to the girl int he example? She was given permission to hit other children. Kids at that age don't understand the concept of "hitting back," they understand the concept of "mom told me I can hit". Well, think about the next time you suggest your child returning the hit. Did you enable him/her to develop competencies for quality conflict resolution?
So what to do in case of a conflict? These are really challenging situations for the parents and also for the professionals involved in your child's upbringing and education. There are certain methods of raising awareness and respect for others around you, but they need to be adapted to the child's temperament and developmental competencies. There is also controversy over whether adults should be involved in conflicts between children or not. So we have a stream of those parents who literally verbally attack another child in the parks because the child didn't give their child to swing (unfortunately, I witnessed that). And there is another group of parents who think that children should solve "their things" on their own and adults should not interfere. This would be true if we were sure that we had provided the child with all the resources and tools for such a "solution".
When a conflict arises, whether it is your child who started it first or it is the one who is a "victim" in your eyes, it is done and talked to by both children. We teach children to express themselves well. I will start from an early nursery age. Children at that age often bite. Dear parents of children who do this, I express my great support and understanding and I hope that you have it in the immediate surroundings. So your child is at nursery age and is biting other children. These are terribly embarrassing situations for parents. The child does this because that is the only way to express himself at that moment. It is not an expression of aggression, sadness or anger. It can be, but it can also be an expression of great joy. Some children who are not verbally expressing yet, but still desperately want to express themselves, in stead bite. We adults are here to make it easier for them. Now comes the first example of how not to react. Don't punish a child, don't put them in "time out" or whatever you call it. Don't yell, and especially don't bite to show the child what it's like (yes, there's that too). Your child just doesn't know how to express himself, he/she can't do it, but has a need to express in any way. Such a child needs an environment full of warmth and understanding and must know that he/she is loved and accepted. In this example, it is obvious and should always be so - it is not the behavior that is considered, but the cause of that behavior. It is the same with older children.
Teaching a child to regulate conflict, not getting into conflicts, is easier the older the child is and the more advanced the verbal competencies are, as well as the socio-emotional ones. This does not mean that it cannot be done in a younger age. I will describe an example of a toy conflict. If you react violently to a child who does not give / snatch a toy, you may notice that the child's level of inner anger increases and the child can become really aggressive, frustrated, dissatisfied only with himself and the environment. It does not gain understanding or acceptance in that situation. If you take the side of another child, the other child never learns to just fight for himself. For this example, we will name the children Anica (a child who takes or does not give a toy) and Marica (a child who feels powerless). So, you don't yell at Anica and don't force her to share because she doesn't learn anything that way. That way you teach it is O.K. to be on Marica's side and to develop feelings of inferiority. You do not ease up to Marica and do not substantiate her helplessness because she will always rely on others. Depending on the age, Anica, Marica and you calm down the conflict by sitting together and freely and calmly everyone expressing their wishes, feelings and needs. Then an attempt is made to reach an agreement. By working in this way with your children, you create the foundations for self-regulation of emotions, for the competence to negotiate, negotiate, respect and respect others, and most importantly - you teach your child how to respect only himself! The method I am writing about has been tested, the children accept it very well and it really works. In the beginning, you get involved more and more often, and later the children resolve the conflict on their own with the resources and tools you have provided them. Without this, when you just tell them, "Agree on your own!" And they don't know how, the conflict situation will repeat itself.
Conflicts happen and will happen. They are a normal occurrence, especially if two characteristically different children are in place, who are also of different temperaments. They are also normal among adults. You can also notice among adults that in conflicts they shout at others, withdraw, cases where they both shout .... Such a pattern of behavior is manifested in adulthood because these people as children were not taught how to resolve conflicts, and until they become aware of it as adults and start working on it - they won't even know it. Conflict resolution is a complex process that involves a lot of work. What I want to emphasize to you is that it starts from the earliest age. Whether you are a parent whose child is more inclined to "start first" or a parent of a child who endures this I express great support to you. It is not easy to be on either side. Don't leave it to chance. Work on it with your child and don't use instant solutions, they don't serve anyone.
Daria without taboos