Out on a Limb Teacher's Guide
Conflict Resolution Styles
Web Activity Maria, Cliff and Jim, and Ann pages
Objectives Children will learn the three ways people react when in conflict: loud, soft and think and share. Children will also learn some of the possible benefits and drawbacks of each of these conflict management styles.
Time Frame 30 minutes
Background Information

Children generally use two methods of dealing with conflict: avoidance and various forms of fighting, including yelling, and name-calling. A third choice, the Think and Share Choice, occurs when children communicate to solve a problem. A child's choice of style to resolve a particular conflict depends on: the importance of the conflict, the nature of the relationship with the other person, and the time available to resolve the conflict, among other factors.

The three Conflict Resolution Styles are:

Soft — Occurs when a child avoids a problem, gives in without expressing how he feels, denies a problem exists, and avoids relationships with other children he thinks he might have potential problems with.

  • Examples:
    • "You can have it, I don’t want to play with it anymore."
    • "It doesn’t bug me when you keep calling me names."
    • A child chooses to be unhappy by playing alone instead of dealing with another child with whom he has a problem.
  • Benefits:
    • The Soft style gives the child time to cool off.
    • The child can use the Soft style to ignore conflicts that aren’t really important to him.
  • Drawbacks:
    • The child never resolves the conflict so the situation stays the same or might get worse.
    • Only one person gets his/her interests met.

Loud — Involves a child's use of verbal or physical force to get what she wants. Force includes yelling, screaming, not listening, pushing, and fighting.

  • Examples:
    • A child punches another child after she is hit.
    • "You're stupid!"
    • "You wear old clothes."
    • "She's dumb."
    • "He's ugly."
    • A child refuses to listen to another child who wants to talk about a problem.
  • Benefits:
    • A child may need to use the Loud style to defend herself and others.
    • A child gets feelings of extreme anger off her chest by using force.
  • Problems:
    • The conflict is usually never resolved and it may get worse.
    • A child can harm herself and others.

Think and Share — Occurs when children openly communicate to understand what each person wants and what interests are involved. Children also develop ideas that meet everyone’s interests and needs.

  • Examples:
    • A child discusses how she feels when called names.
    • A child talks about why he doesn't like being bullied and what the other child can do to stop it.
    • The children with the problem don't dwell so much on what happened in the past. Instead, they focus on what should be done in the future.
  • Benefits:
    • Each child expresses his or her feelings and listens to those of the other child.
    • The conflict is resolved in a peaceful way, where everyone’s interests are met.
  • Problems:
    • It’s hard to listen, summarize and think of ideas to resolve the conflict when you are mad at someone.
    • The Think and Share response takes more time than the Soft and Loud styles.

When you explain the styles to children, emphasize that each style is valid in certain situations. For example, the Loud style is best used if someone is trying to physically hurt you or abduct you. The Soft style allows you to reach a safe place or get the help of another person if you cannot resolve the conflict on your own (problems with bullies or more than one child against you). Finally, the Think and Share style is best used when you feel comfortable sharing your feelings and thoughts, and you have the time to have this discussion.


How Much Do Students Know?

Before working on the website exercise or the additional exercise below, ask the kids how they would respond if they were in the following situation.

A friend borrows a toy or CD from you and breaks it. The friend refuses to replace it or buy a new one and calls you stupid for worrying about it. Write the children's responses on the chalkboard or newsprint, grouping them into the soft, loud and think and share styles. (See Figure 1) Introduce the three styles as the ways children resolve conflict.


Soft Style Loud Style Think and Share Style
I would just take the CD back and not say anything. I would yell at him and make him buy another CD. I would tell my friend how bad I feel.
I would go home and tell my mom. I would call her stupid and clumsy! I would talk about it with my friend.
I would just stay mad and not play with my friend. I would take one of his CD's. I would ask my friend to buy a new CD for me or give me one of hers.
Activity 1

Ask children to remember a problem or conflict they recently had with a friend or sibling. Ask the children which style they used to respond to the conflict. Have children draw a picture or write a story of that conflict and their style. Ask the children to think of what happened when they used that style as they draw and/or write. Ask two students that used the Loud style to share their story/picture. Ask:

  • What style did you use?
  • What happened?
  • After you tried the Loud style, what happened?
  • Did you fix the problem?

Discuss the activity by asking all the children why we sometimes like to use the Loud style. List the responses on the chalkboard or newsprint under the "Loud Style" heading. (See Figure 2)

Then ask children what are some of the problems of using the Loud style. List the responses under the "Loud Style" heading. (See Figure 2) Review both columns under the Loud style and emphasize the benefits and problems with the Loud style from the Background Information section. Repeat this with the Soft and Think and Share styles.


Loud Style

Why do we use it? Why doesn't it always work?
Shows other person I'm angry. It makes the other person angry.
It makes the problem worse.

Note: For a quicker, more-verbal activity, have several students, representing each of the three styles, share their stories/pictures and why the style they each used did or didn't work. Review the benefits and problems of each style using each of the stories/pictures.


Activity 2

A variation of Activity One that can be used as a take home exercise over a number of days. Have each child think of his or her favorite book, movie, or cartoon. Ask them to think of a character from the book or movie that has used the Loud style to fix a problem. Have each child draw a picture of the character on the Conflict Resolution Styles: Loud Style worksheet. Discuss the reasons why the character used the Loud style and whether or not it solved the problem.

Repeat the process with the Soft Style Worksheet and Think and Share Style Worksheet.

Conflict Resolution Styles | Communication Skills | Listening | Perceptions | Steps to Think and Share

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