Conflicts arise even in the happiest of friendships, especially among young children, whose desires are strongly felt and frequently bluntly expressed. During the toddler and preschool years, these disagreements usually arise over toys and other objects.
As children begin to acquire possessive feelings about playthings, they may resort to blow when they feel their rights are being challenged. In the early years, it seems that grabbing, hitting and pushing are automatic responses triggered whenever a child feels his territory to be threatened.
From trial and error, however, and with adult guidance, children learn that such abuse is rarely effective, and they discover that it hurts to be on the receiving end.
A far more positive approach to reconciling differences is assertive behavior, in which a child clearly express his feeling and rights but does not infringe on the rights of another youngster. After a few rocky years of playing with other boys and girls, a child may have enough self-control to manage this kind of conduct.
When children talk openly about a disagreement, it tends to break down their aggressive impulses and a compromise may be reached. Apologies for misbehavior, when appropriate and a sense of humor also help cool down conflicts. If you guide your child to learn these skills as he goes along, you will find eventually that your services as a mediator are less and less in demand.
Young children, vary widely in their ability to handle the social challenges described above. Even a socially well-adjusted child may at times encounter difficulties in the path to friendly peer relations.
If you feel that your child is having problem with some aspect of social behavior, it is entirely appropriate for you to step in with some tactful parental assistance, demonstrating skills in which the child is weak and encouraging her to practice them with you.
Before intervening, observe your child at play with other children for a short while. Note how she goes about initiating contact with other children, how she reacts in group play, what she does when conflicts arise. At the same time, you will get a feel for how other children conduct themselves in their peer relations.