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02. When “words do not work”: Intervening in children’s conflicts in kindergarten

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journal contribution
posted on 12.03.2019, 11:03 by Ruth Ingrid Skoglund

Conflict situations occur in daily life in kindergarten. Often children find solutions by negotiations and compromises, but sometimes they also can use physical force against each other. The focus in this article is kindergarten practitioners’ interventions in conflict situations when children use physical force and do not stop when they are told. This may cause new conflicts between the child and the practitioner who intervenes. The aim is to contribute to a discussion about ways to meet children in conflict situations when words do not work. Data consist of semi-structured group interviews with practitioners from a Norwegian kindergarten for children from 1 to 6 years of age. Excerpts from the interviews underwent thematic and dialogic analysis. When children do not obey oral directions as the practitioners demand, they get angry and use physical force themselves. Analysis reveals that words as well as feelings and physical behavior influence actions not only for children but also for practitioners. The practitioners were not comfortable with this means of handling the situation, acknowledging the need to explicitly discuss, with each other, what to do. Exploring and understanding more of the complexity of intervening in children’s conflicts when words do not work, can contribute to choosing strategies that don’t undermine overarching democratic aims for conflict solutions in kindergartens.