Support children to develop effective conflict resolution skills

Children with poor self-regulation skills are at increased risk for experiencing conflict with peers and educators. Conflict situations provide learning opportunities to promote self-regulatory skills. While there are different approaches to solving conflict, a problem-based approach, such as Highscope’s Six Steps to Conflict Resolution, increases children’s sense of agency and involvement and increases problem-solving skills important for self-regulation.

Scenario: During outdoor play, an educator observes Max happily playing with the fire truck he has shown interest in all week. After leaving the truck briefly to go to the toilet, Max returns to find Isla is now playing with the truck. Max instantly becomes upset and attempts to grab the truck back from Isla as the two children struggle over the toy.


Ensure all adults in the setting adopt a consistent approach to managing challenging behaviours. An example of one approach is Highscope’s (2014) Six Steps to Conflict Resolution (for more detail, see

  1. Approach calmly, stopping any hurtful actions.
  2. Acknowledge children’s feelings.
  3. Gather information.
  4. Restate the problem.
  5. Come up with possible solutions and choose one together.
  6. Be prepared to follow up.

Make sure children are aware of the steps. Engage children in discussions around this process and make these steps explicit during times of conflict.

Use visual cues where appropriate to help aid children’s comprehension of, and engagement with, the process. These can be images of the children that map each of the above six steps, for display. Where possible, involve children in the process of making these. Download support visuals for problem situations and solutions (PDF)

Ensure children have a voice. If conflict is to be a learning opportunity it is important that children are seen as active participants in the resolution process. This means being able to express their feelings and perspectives, and engage in problem solving to derive, implement and evaluate possible solutions. Children’s solutions may not be what an adult would have come up with, but in order to truly involve children in the process their solutions should be recognised and appreciated.

Focus on problematising the issue rather than assigning blame. For example, rather than trying to determine who had the toy first, an educator may frame the problem as two children wanting to play with the same toy, and ask the children to think about solutions that would give them both an opportunity to play with the toy (e.g., sand timers so children can manage turn-taking).

Engage children in the evaluative component of problem solving. Children’s reflective and evaluative skills are integral to their developing self-regulation. In acquiring these skills, children are able to respond to the behaviours and feelings of others. Opportunities to engage these skills can occur outside of highly emotional situations by encouraging children to provide constructive feedback on each other’s work, paintings, constructions, etc. During this process it is important that children are guided away from assigning value to the work (i.e., deeming it ‘good’ or ‘bad’) and instead engage in their own questioning and suggestion making.

Links to the Early Years Learning Framework

This principle and associated practices are referenced in the following sources of evidence in the EYLF:

  • Secure, respectful and reciprocal relationships (Principle 1)
  • Learning environments (Practice 5)
  • Children become aware of fairness (Outcome 2.3)