Dealing with Disputes

Dealing with Disputes

Let’s say you are observing your little one during an Open Gym session at Romp n’ Roll. She and another child seem to be heading toward some unpleasantness because they both want to use the same piece of equipment or play with the same toy at the same time. What should you do?

My advice? Back off. Rather than intervening right away, give the kids a chance to work it out themselves. By doing so, you will be giving your child a chance to learn something that many children are not getting the opportunity to learn these days.

In the olden days, young children typically played with each other with no adult supervision or involvement. So let’s say some boys were having a pick-up baseball game and there was a close play at first base. The team at bat is screaming, “He’s safe! He’s safe!” The team in the field is screaming, “He’s out! He’s out!” What happened?

Flip a coin. Rock, paper, scissors. We’ll let you have this one but the next close call goes our way. If the kids wanted to keep having fun, they had to figure out a way to settle the dispute themselves. And in most cases, that is exactly what took place.

I think one of the reasons we have such a litigious society today where people are suing each other over every little thing is that children are never allowed to develop the skill of resolving interpersonal conflicts on their own. So if things seem to be escalating to the point where physical harm is becoming a possibility, of course, you and the staff should intervene. But otherwise, exercise some patience and restraint. You probably will be surprised and pleased by the result.

Dr. Mike

Michael K. Meyerhoff, Ed.D. (a.k.a. “Dr. Mike”) is a member of the management team at Romp n’ Roll. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Columbia University, he earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in human development from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he also held a position as a researcher with the Harvard Preschool Project. He may be contacted via e-mail at