The Art of Mastering Conflict Resolution With Your Preschooler

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I got there right on time to witness the scene. A flying shoe, a shocked grandma and a preschool tantrum. I dont really know what triggered the scene. What I know is that my grandma was ready to burst into tears as she tried to get things under control and Valerie was throwing her first preschool tantrum.

I had to think quickly on my feet to find a resolution to the conflict as a million questions passed through my mind:

  • What could have happened?
  • What did my abuela do to deserve this?
  • Why a flying shoe?


Apparently the scene unfolded very quickly.

Grandma asked Valerie to do something that she didn’t want to do. My sweet little girl ran out of patience with Grandma’s demands and the only thing she could find was a shoe.

To put her in her place, she threw it!

Verbalizing Emotions or Frustrations

Preschool Children have predictable conflicts about sharing things, following grandma’s orders, or playing with friends.

Conflicts arise due to the lack of ability to verbalize emotions or frustrations.

Situations that require conflict resolution, therefore, offer parents an opportunity to teach assertiveness and empathy.

How to Handle Conflict Resolution

Let’s review some tips on how to handle conflict resolution:

  • Model Self Regulation. It all starts with you. To model self-regulation and conflict resolution you have to remain calm and intentionally follow the steps of the strategy.
  • Identify the Victim First. Right after a conflict, sometimes it is difficult to assess a situation involving Preschool children as they tend to compete for your attention and both of them will start crying, – the victim and the child that committed the aggression. The first thing we have to do as parents and educators is to ask general questions: What? Who? When?
  • Model Assertiveness. Once you identify the victim, your job is to help the child learn how to communicate in an assertive voice. Dr. Becky Bailey, a recognized child-development expert and creator of Conscious Discipline, offers a great strategy to model assertiveness. In her program, the first step is to allow the child who is the victim to find an assertive voice. For example, Ask your child to repeat the phrase I don’t like it when you take my toys. It makes me feel sad. Then ask your child to say the phrase directly to the aggressor.
  • Teach the other child to learn to listen and ask the child to paraphrase what the victim said. Making the other child paraphrase what the victim is saying is beneficial. Consequently, this will allow the other child to practice the skill of listening and understand the importance of empathy. It also offers a great opportunity to learn how we can use words to assert ourselves instead of using force. It’s a great opportunity to practice self-regulation and how to communicate frustrations.
  • Focus on turning the conflict into a life lesson. Take some time to discuss with your child the lessons learned from the conflict.

So How Did I Handle The Flying Shoe?

As for how I dealt with the flying shoe, I knew that I needed to rescue the victim first and then shift the attention to the aggressor, in this case, my 4-year-old Valerie.

The first thing I had to do was to completely ignore her tantrum, which was hard to do as the volume of her cry seemed to increase to compete for my attention.

It was very easy to identify the victim. I asked my Grandma, are you ok? She looked at me with her beautiful wise eyes and nodded.

Once Valerie regained her composure, she was ready to apologize. This was an opportunity to share a life lesson.

“Do you know what you did wrong? How did you think grandma felt?” I asked Valerie.

She looked at me with her beautiful green eyes and told me in a soft voice, I made “abuela” sad today- And then the following conversation followed.

“Why were you mad at Abuela?” I asked.

“She wanted me to go to sleep,” she answered.

I paraphrased what she was saying: You didn’t want to go to sleep, and she was asking you to do something you didn’t want to do. So, You threw a shoe at her. How did you feel?”

“I was mad at her,” she said.

“So what can we do next time when you get mad at Abuela?” I asked her.

Through a list of guiding questions, potential ways to deal with her feelings, and books about grandparents, we turned this experience into a life lesson on empathy, how to communicate frustrations and the importance of grandparents.

We talked about how some preschool children don’t have grandmothers close to them to give them love, but they would love to have a grandma to spare because they give us unconditional love, and they are patient when they make a mistake.

Years later, Valerie was right next to her when my grandma passed away. In her last breath, my grandma looked at her one last time and Valerie had the opportunity to tell her how grateful she was for the lessons learned.

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By Marnie Forestieri

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