How to help your child navigate playground politics

Social conflict and playground politics provides the perfect learning opportunity for your child and teaches them important life skills.

 Playground politics can teach your child important life lessons.

Bullying, tall tales, and close-knit cliques are all commonplace in school. While it may be heartbreaking to see your child upset over one of his first friendship problems, it could also be an opportunity to teach your child an important life skill: conflict resolution.

Understanding is gained through conflict

“Social conflict, particularly when your child is at the centre of it, provides the ideal learning opportunity: it teaches them how to be an effective problem solver,” says Lynne Arbuckle, principal of Riverside College, a pre-primary, primary, and secondary school in Cape Town’s northern suburbs.

Conflict teaches personal understanding, respect, communication, and negotiation skills. Rather than fighting their battles for them, as parents, we can try to help our children by making them understand the consequences of their actions – both good or bad.

Here are a few ways you can help your child navigate playground politics:

The importance of being a good sport

Teach your child how to be a good sport by reminding them that you don’t have to like everyone, but you must treat everyone with respect.

Help your child distinguish between feelings and actions; they don’t have to control or change their feelings, but they must control their actions. This is a difficult distinction for children (and even adults) to grasp.

Follow the leader

Remember that children love to imitate their parents, so modeling how to get along with other people – even those you don’t like being around – is the best way to teach your child how to do the same.

Help your child establish genuine bonds and strengths

Are there any other strong friendships in your child’s life? Is your child confident in his or her abilities? Is there a strong bond between him and the adults in his life? When children feel insecure and unsupported, they may take out their frustrations on others.

Make your child feel like he is an important member of your family and remind him of how much he is loved.

The importance of saying sorry

Teach your child to express regret by saying, “I’m sorry”. Making a genuine, heartfelt apology – one that stems from acknowledging that you have wronged someone – is difficult. It is, however, a critical skill to master.

It’s also important that you ask your child how his actions may have made the other person feel, and what he could have – and should have – done differently.

Children should understand that while saying “I’m sorry” is important, it does not erase what they have done.