What is the difference between normal and harmful conflict?
Conflict is an inevitable part of growing up as children develop the social skills to interact with the world around them. Certain types of conflict, however, can be harmful. Learning the difference between normal and potentially harmful conflict empowers parents to help their children respond appropriately to peer conflict situations.
A Closer Look: Normal vs. Harmful Conflict
Characteristics of Normal Conflict
- It is occasional and not pre-planned
- Both parties are usually upset and wish resolution
Characteristics of Potentially Harmful Conflict
- It is deliberate and includes the intention to hurt someone
- It is repeated and targets the same individual again and again
There can also be confusion, especially among children, about joking and teasing. Children will often respond “I was just joking” when they are confronted about their behaviour.
- Joking is reciprocal. It is intended to exchange humour and fun, usually between friends.
- Teasing is not reciprocal. It is a one-sided exchange that provokes anger, resentment and/or confusion.
Roles in a Conflict
Conflicts can include more than two people. Depending on the situation, a child may play a variety of roles in a conflict – the aggressor, the victim, the bystander, the supporter or the defender. Bystanders play an important role in conflicts. Learn more about how bystanders can help or hurt in a conflict
Parent Toolkit: Signs of Problems with Peer Conflict
Do you think your child is having problems with peer conflict? While parents hope their children will come to them for help, that’s not always the case. Check out Is Your Child Having Peer Conflict Problems? for a list of signs that your child is being victimized or having problems with chronic aggression.
If you think your child may be experiencing problems with peer conflict, check out the links above for ideas on how to help.