All toddlers will experience conflict, particularly in social settings like at a park or in a play group. Parents often find themselves not knowing how to navigate the situation and need ideas on what to do. The following is a set of tips and examples to help parents support their toddlers through negotiating those conflicts that will arise.
Use a calm voice and stay in control of your own feelings. (This isn’t the time to lash out in anger.)
Label the emotion that the child is feeling.
- “Marie, what is wrong? If I look at your face, your eyes are giving me a clue, they are showing me that you are angry.”
Label your emotion or the emotion of the other person on the conflict.
- “I think that Sarah is feeling sad because she is crying.”
Give language to the conflict.
- “Marie and Sarah, it looks like you want to play with the same toy at the same time. I can see that you both like to have fun playing with it and now want it at the same time.”
Offer ideas or suggestions on the next action to take.
- “I see another truck over in the corner. Can we take turns playing with both trucks?”
- “What other toys do you like to play with?”
As the conflict takes steps towards resolution, communicate each step between the toddlers.
- “Sarah, do you see how Marie offered you the truck. She would like to see if you want to play with it. Do you want to play with it?”
- “Marie, Sarah is shaking her head. That is her way of saying that she doesn’t want the truck.”
- “Marie, Sarah is smiling. She is happy that you found a toy for her!”
Give them language that they lack.
- “Sarah, when I want a truck, I say something like, ‘Can I play with the truck, please?’”
Praise appropriate behavior.
- “Sarah and Marie, I can see that you are both working to help each other. That is a great way to be a friend!”