For the last 5 or so years I’ve been using a really effective strategy for conflict resolution. We’ve used it in all age groups with appropriate levels of success. The basic thought behind it is that each child has the right to play with the toys they are using, as well as the social commitment to sharing. We also wanted to promote clear, independent and non aggressive conflict resolution word cues.
Gone are the days when educators would say “use your words” – which words? what will they do? Now the children who want a turn of the toy ask “can I be next?” (or just “be next?” for the younger children) to which the other child responds with “in two minutes”. Now we all know that kids usually can’t tell time, but they certainly get the idea of mine now and yours later. They now have the power in the relationship, something that ‘sharing’ often takes away as toys are taken from them. Individual children might give the toy over straight away, others need a time reminder “1 more minute till it’s Timmy’s turn on the bike!” while others will need to be guided into activities to wait out the time, so the other child is free to play without feeling the need to protect their possession from a ‘stalker’.
It’s a bit of an intense process at first. Explaining it with puppets at group time, constantly reiterating it during play, but it takes hold. The kids KNOW what to say and they KNOW what’s expected of them. No more “Use your Words” and more time for playing!