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I've been trying to teach my 3 and a half year old son to treat other children nicely and to try and resolve all conflicts without aggression, by talking. We've been talking about the issue and agreed on a couple of rules. Namely, that he should always wait for his turn to play with things and that instead of fighting his way through a conflict he should talk to the child he's arguing with.

Once we get to the playground, I can see him trying to follow those two rules, but he fails each and every time. Even if he waits for his turn to play, others in front of him fight over who gets to go first. If he builds something and somebody is messing up his thing, he first says that he didn't like it and then, when it doesn't help, he slaps them or hits them with a toy.

For example, the other day he was digging a large hole in the ground when some other boy came up to him and started filling the hole up with sand again. My son tried telling him to stop and that he didn't like that, but that boy ignored him and continued filling up the hole. So, my son ended up hitting him. I have always disapproved of such behavior, but I keep thinking that it is tough for him, because I cannot really think of a reliable way of resolving these types of conflicts.

If I'm telling my son not to fight and to try and resolve conflicts by talking, what I can I do if other children either don't listen to him or show him that fighting is perfectly normal?

How should I teach him to react if other children ignore his efforts to resolve conflicts peacefully?

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Very good question. –  Dave Clarke May 1 '14 at 8:08

1 Answer 1

Your son has learned an important lesson, you cannot resolve all conflicts without aggression.

What I can I do if other children either don't listen to him or show him that fighting is perfectly normal? And how should I tell him to react if other children ignore his efforts to resolve conflicts peacefully?

Now you need to tell them what to do when talking doesn't work. Since you seem to be against all fighting to resolve conflicts, even self defense, you need to tell your child to ask a higher authority to resolve any conflicts that he is unable to do peacefully with words. This might entail calling upon you, a teacher, or in very serious issues the state. All three of you have various powers to resolve issues, peaceful and otherwise. You can protect your child, or find the parent of the child who is behaving badly and inform them of the issue. Teachers can remove students who are causing problems on the playground. The Police and other State agents have the legal authority to resolve conflicts forcefully.

Whichever route you choose, no doubt your child will learn another valuable life lesson.

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Thank you for your answer, it got me thinking. Teaching him to turn to a higher authority instead of defending himself doesn't seem like the right way to go. So, the other route would then be to teach him how to defend himself in those situations without too much aggression, right? I guess that would be a more useful lesson. –  Anton Zujev May 2 '14 at 5:07
@AntonZejev, of would depend upon the situation. The examples you gave didn't indicate that your child was being physically harmed (filling in holes, or messing up things he has built wouldn't qualify for self defense.) –  user1873 May 2 '14 at 5:49
sure, that's not real self-defense. But is it justifiable to let him, I don't know, catch the other child by the arm when he doesn't stop interfering with his game, after he tried talking? Or is it better to teach him to turn to authorities? I feel like the latter way would undermine his ability to defend himself on his own in more serious situations later on. –  Anton Zujev May 2 '14 at 7:47
This is a really interesting topic. As a first time father of a 1.5 year old, I'm keen on hearing more discourse. –  justinl May 7 '14 at 3:29

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