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How to Teach Peace to Preschoolers

by Julie Christensen

Spend time in a preschool classroom and you'll find that conflict is a normal part of the day. Preschoolers lack the emotional development to always handle problems with grace, but they're willing learners. The next time fists fly, avoid the impulse to scold. Instead, use these moments to teach your child peace-building skills. In a world where many adults don't know how to solve problems peacefully, your preschooler will be ahead of the game.

Set a good example of solving conflict peacefully. You're probably cordial to the bank teller or your child's pediatrician, but how do you respond to the inconsiderate driver who cuts you off and then gives you an emphatic hand gesture? Use collaboration and problem-solving to respond to stress and conflict. Your child learns more from your example than anything you'll ever say.

Teach preschoolers specific words to use to encourage peaceful interactions. Parents and teachers often repeat the phrase, "use your words" to encourage preschoolers to use language instead of fists to solve conflicts. Preschoolers usually have no idea what this vague phrase means. Instead, say something specific such as "When Jamie takes your toy, you can say please give me back my toy," or "Please can I have a turn with the car," or "I don't like it when you take things from me. Please stop."

Teach preschoolers how to handle negative emotions. We all feel angry, sad or frustrated sometimes. These emotions are a natural part of life, but preschoolers have to learn how to deal with them appropriately. Teach your little one some "calm-down" steps, such as count to 10, talk to a grownup, draw a picture about why you're upset, listen to music or take a break. Many preschools provide a cozy corner or special place where an upset child can go to decompress. Try making a cozy corner in your home to deal with meltdowns. When kids are allowed and encouraged to express emotions, they're less likely to blow up at others.

Read books about peace. Children's literature is an ideal method for teaching any abstract concept, including peace. Children's author Leo Lionni was the master of teaching social skills through children's literature. Teachers have relied on his classic books, "Little Yellow, Little Blue," "It's Mine," and "Swimmy" for over 30 years to gently teach children about peace.

Offer specific praise when you see your preschooler demonstrating peaceful behaviors. Comments such as, "You asked Joey for a turn and then you waited patiently. Great job!" or "I think that made Katelyn feel really happy when you shared your cookie with her" help children know when they've hit the mark. These comments encourage more positive behaviors.

Tip

  • Frequent intense temper tantrums, harming other children or self-destructive behaviors might indicate a behavioral disorder or spectrum disorder. Talk with your pediatrician if such behaviors continue for more than a few weeks.

About the Author

Julie Christensen is a food writer, caterer, and mom-chef. She's the creator of MarmaladeMom.org, dedicated to family fun and delicious food, and released a book titled "More Than Pot Roast: Fast, Fresh Slow Cooker Recipes."

Photo Credits

  • George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images