10 lessons from kindergarten that can help with conflict resolution

Kindergarteners have got to be the most darling group of people in the world (after cute newborns and toddlers of course!). Their lives are made up of a kind of simplicity that is beautiful and enviable. They have some amazing characters and behavioural traits.

They hardly ever keep a grudge. If they get mad at you, the entire run time of their angst is usually about 5-10 minutes, and this will probably be in a case where the kindergartener is quite strong-willed. They view life through lenses of purity and simplicity, a trait that an adult would be wise to emulate. This is not to say, however, that they do not have disputes.

Let’s take a look at the following scenario:

Jayden is playing with his building blocks and Evans comes up and smashes them. Jayden screams in anger, and pounces on Evans. Evans throws a retaliatory punch, and in a blink, both boys are crying and throwing punches. An adult steps in and tries to bring a resolution to the dispute.
From this scenario, we can glean quite a number of lessons:

Evans smashed the building blocks because Jayden did not allow him to play with them, and he felt hurt.

The lesson here is this: Do not let your feelings of hurt influence you to hurt the other person

Count to ten before you react (or hundred, if you feel it will help)

This is a powerful tip for handling emotional upheaval. Counting to ten (or hundred) will give you time to get a better grip on your emotions, and help you react in a way that will not result in destruction of either relationships or property.

Take time to ask questions

Do not let anger be your default reaction to hurts. Take out time to understand why the other party did what they did. The reason may shock you (and probably shame your anger). If Jayden had taken the time to find out why Evans did what he did, he would have had a better understanding, and not needed to fight with him.

Walk a mile in the other person’s shoes

If Jayden had spent a few minutes in Evans’ shoes, he would have realised why Evans did what he did, and also understood his feelings. This is one of the things the adult will have to emphasise when helping the two boys resolve the dispute.

Walking a mile in the other person’s shoes enables you to see things from the other person’s perspective, and also broadens your own perspective and teaches you a new way of seeing things.

Don’t be reluctant to say sorry

Getting the two boys to apologise to each other may be a bit tricky, but it is something they will have to learn, and also learn to do sincerely. They need to understand that saying sorry does not make people think less of you. Rather, it makes you more sociable and endears you to people.

Don’t rush into conclusions

Never assume that you have a perfect understanding of the situation, especially the motive for the other party’s behaviour. Jayden assumed that Evans just wanted to destroy his game, and he reacted based on that assumption.

Ask questions

Asking questions does not make you look stupid (even if the other party expresses that sentiment), it just makes you wiser. You learn another (and probably) better way of looking at things.

Listen with an intent to understand, rather than an intent to respond

Listening with intent to respond has a funny effect on the mind, in that it filters out everything the other person says, that does not support your standpoint. You are left with hearing only the parts that you are raring to respond to. In listening with intent to understand, however, you hear everything, and get a better understanding of everything. You might even discover that you and the other person were saying the same thing from the beginning. The difference just lay in your individual modes of expression.

Be mindful of the other person’s feelings

“I only spoke my mind! She’s just over-reacting!!”

This is a classic scenario in disputes. Each person feels vindicated in their right, and feels that the other person’s approach and reaction is wrong. This should not be. When you speak your mind, speak it in consideration of the other person’s feelings. If you feel the person might misunderstand your intent, run your thoughts by a neutral third party first, and filter out anything that might sound insulting. It looks like too much work, but you should strive to keep a peaceful ambience around you as much as possible.

Speak politely

Kindergarteners are taught to speak politely, and also taught the magic words: ‘Please’, ‘Sorry’ and ‘Thank you’. As an adult, you cannot go wrong incorporating them into your communication. It makes it easier to deal with disputes, and resolve them quicker. It definitely would have helped Jayden and Evans resolve their dispute quicker.

I understand that learning dispute resolution from kindergarteners may seem odd, but see what we have gleaned from a simple interaction between two little boys. Even if the learning points are a bit above their learning grade, they are not above that of an adult. Yet, we find that some disputes end the same way as with Jayden and Evans. This shows that learning dispute resolution from kindergarteners is not a far-fetched idea.


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