How can early childhood educators support children’s
development of a peaceful approach to conflict resolution?
How can we help children in choosing peaceful solutions
to interpersonal problems? How can the social emotional
environment be structured in such a way that children’s
first impulse is to reconcile their differences and generate
a solution to problems where everyone is satisfied? How
can we support children’s development of nurturing, tolerant,
accepting, mutually empowering approaches to conflict?
Do we expect to eradicate conflict from children’s
lives? No, that would be completely unrealistic and would
eliminate many wonderful opportunities for children’s
growth in their ability to be peacemakers. Watch what happens
with four-year-olds Rose and Lydia. . .
Rose: Lydia, I was using that doll.
Lydia: But Rose, you weren’t holding it. It
was in the crib.
Sharon, the It sounds like there is a problem here.
teacher: Let’s take this doll over to the Peace
Table and you two can try to work
out this problem.’’
Lydia: Rose, you weren’t holding that doll
or near that doll so I thought you
weren’t using it.
Rose: Lydia, my baby was taking a nap and
I was doing some cooking while she
slept. You can’t take my baby.
Sharon: We have some new information.
Rose was still using that doll but
Lydia thought she was done because
Rose wasn’t near the doll. What are
we going to do about this problem?
Rose: I know. Lydia can have a turn when I’m
Sharon: What do you think about that, Lydia?
Lydia: No . . . I want a turn now. I know, Rose,
you can be the mom and I can be the
Rose: O.K., and you can have a turn when I’m
Sharon: So Rose is going to be the mom and
Lydia is going to be the babysitter and
Lydia will have the baby when Rose is
Lydia: We solved the problem!!
Why did this episode end so peacefully? Does simply
adding a Peace Table to a classroom insure there will be
peaceful solutions to every problem? Actually, these two
children have had two years of experience using the
Peace Table at the University of Rhode Island Child
Development Center as a safe and peaceful place to go to
solve problems nonviolently with their peers. At first, children
require a great deal of adult support and input in
negotiating their problems, and often, it is the adult who
guides the discussion. The steps which can be followed to
guide these conflict resolution discussions are:
● Initiate the mediation. It looks like there is a problem
here. Or, what’s happening here?
● Clarify each child’s perspective. In this step each child
is given the opportunity to explain his/her perspective
on the situation.
● Summarizing. In this step, the teacher clearly articulates
a summary of each child’s perspective.
● Generating alternative solutions. What can we do
about this problem? In this step, the teacher supports
children’s generation of alternative solutions.
● Agreeing on a solution. Here, both children agree on a
solution to the problem. It is critical to allow sufficient
time for children to arrive at a mutually satisfying
● Following through. The teacher checks with the children
later to be sure that the solution actually satisfied
everyone. You had a problem with that doll before. You
two solved that problem. Did your solution work?