The Opportunity of a Toddler Dispute


Dr. Kimberly Schonert-Reichl is both an internationally renowned scientist researching social and emotional development and a mother of two sons. In this short video clip, Dr. Schonert-Reichl recalls a personal story about an experience one of her sons had in a child care center. It is a familiar story about two preschoolers struggling over toys. The actions of the early childhood educator demonstrates what research now tells us - it is possible to transform conflict and rebuild relationships[1]

Restorative practices, such as the one this early childhood educator used, emphasize thinking about:

  • the other person’s perspective and feelings,

  • what could have been done instead or next time, and

  • ways to restore or repair the situation.

As Dr. Schonert-Reichl points out, research[2] has shown that when we help young children resolve conflict in this way they eventually internalize the process so that they are able to independently apply peaceful problem solving strategies later in life.

Conflict is bound to happen.  Our challenge is to turn it into an opportunity for children to learn.

Researchers Brenda Morrison and Eliza Ahmed published a review of scholarly work related to restorative justice. They write, "restorative justice seeks to harness the power of relationships to strengthen accountability and support mechanisms within civil society."

Children shown a decline in peer conflict over time connected with secure attachment relationships with adults and learned social problem-solving skills.

  • Secure and Calm

    Secure and calm describes the ability to take part in daily activities and approach new situations without being overwhelmed with worries, sadness or anxiety. To be secure and calm also means being able to cope with stress and pressure, and to bounce back from difficulties.
  • Gets Along with Others

    Getting along with others is the ability to form positive and healthy relationships with peers and adults. Children with better abilities to regulate their emotions and behaviours have more friends and experience more positive playtime with their peers.
  • Alert and Engaged

    Being alert and engaged is the ability to manage and direct one's own feelings, thoughts and emotions. In general, the ability to be 'present' and to exercise self-control.
  • Compassionate and Kind

    Being compassionate and kind is closely related to empathy. While empathy refers more generally to the ability to take the perspective of and to feel the emotions of another person, compassion goes one step further.
  • Solves Problems Peacefully

    Managing conflict effectively is about creating an atmosphere where violence and aggression are not likely. To resolve conflict means using empathy, problem-solving skills, understanding other points of view and coming up with ways to make things right in a fair way.