At age four, conflicts can emerge as children learn to play together. They are learning how to take turns, share materials and share ideas. They may also experience (or experiment with) verbal conflict such as name-calling or put-downs. Emotions can run high when kids face social challenges ― both children's emotions and parents' emotions! But there are concrete skills that will help kids learn how to collaborate, cooperate, communicate, negotiate, self-advocate and respect others.
Social Skills Helping Your Four-Year-Old Work Through Social Conflicts
Help your child learn to address social conflict:
Promote Problem Solving
When children have a conflict, sometimes they need adults to step in and help them find healthy solutions ― especially if they are using harmful language or physical behavior. But when possible, encourage problem-solving behavior without solving the problem for them. This might sound like, "It sounds like you are upset because you both want to be the pirate king. How could we solve this?" Use the Daniel Tiger strategy song "Find a Way to Play Together" to talk to your child about navigating disagreements during playtime. And remember, sometimes conflicts are the result of kids feeling tired or hungry or overstimulated, and they just need a break! Two children who leave a playdate angry may very well be "best friends" the next day.
Learning to Resolve Conflicts with Role Play
In this activity, your child can work on conflict resolution skills by using two stuffed animals to role play and brainstorm solutions to solve a conflict.Do This Activity
Help Them Make Amends
As the Daniel Tiger song reminds us, "Saying I'm sorry is the first step, then 'How can I help?'" If your child has made a choice that has hurt someone else, help them think about how they can make the situation better ― from helping clean up a mess to writing/drawing an apology note.
"Tell a Grown-Up"
From an early age, remind children that there are times they can solve problems on their own, but there are also times when it's very important to get help from a parent, teacher or trusted adult. If they feel unsafe, if someone is hurting them physically or emotionally, if they see someone else being hurt or if they have tried to solve a situation independently but it didn't work, they should "tell an adult."
Talk About Cause and Effect
Help very young children draw a connection between their actions, their feelings and the feelings of others. "You were mad at your brother. He took your toy! Then you hit your brother. Now you are both upset." Then help them imagine how better choices will change those feelings. "Let's play puzzles together. We all love puzzles and feel better when we share."
Play Pretend: Resolving Conflict
Role-playing possible solutions to bullying or peer arguments can help your child know what to do when faced with a social conflict.Do This Activity
Help Your Child Manage Emotions with Daniel Tiger
Through imagination, creativity and music, Daniel and his friends learn how to manage big and overwhelming feelings using strategies grounded in the teachings of Mister Rogers.Find Activities
Activity Finder: Learn With Your Four-Year-Old
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Arthur's Big App
Focusing on positive social skills and friendship, each game in this app allows your child to explore Elwood City with Arthur, Buster, Francine, and Muffy.
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Elmo's School Friends
Elmo wants to play with his friends at school, but discovers that each friend is having trouble with their playtime task. In this game, your child can choose a friend to play with and then decide how to best solve his friends' problems such as stacking a high tower of blocks, cleaning up spilled toys, or deciding who gets a special dress up outfit.