Why do we need to cultivate a generation of conflict-competent children? An expert advises

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"Children can be taught to have confidence in conflicts – that it is acceptable to disagree, that differing voices and opinions can be community strengths if properly channelled and applied..."
"Children can be taught to have confidence in conflicts – that it is acceptable to disagree, that differing voices and opinions can be community strengths if properly channelled and applied..."

Like death and taxes, conflict is one of life's unfortunate certainties. 

From an early age, children are already experiencing conflict, whether it be personal conflicts such as bullying, or general race and class conflicts.

For this reason, just as parents need to teach their children how to be adept and socially skilled, they also need to teach them to be conflict competent. 

"Children can be taught to have confidence in conflicts – that it is acceptable to disagree, that differing voices and opinions can be community strengths if properly channelled and applied, that problem solving is the best way to move a community forward, and most importantly they can see the harm that results from unresolved conflicts and how there are alternatives to such ways of thinking and acting," says Conflict Resolution Specialist, Andre Vlok. 

Also read: Anger management is crucial to solving gender-based violence, says social worker

'We need better conflicts, not necessarily fewer conflicts'

According to Andre Vlok, conflict needs to be redefined in the mind of the child and be seen as something positive. 

"Children should internalize the fact that conflict is an energy to be directed and utilized for the benefit of those involved, not something to be avoided and suppressed. They should hear and see that we need better conflicts, not necessarily fewer conflicts," says Vlok. 

Vlok believes that the practical skills involved in conflict resolution are completely transferrable and that adults should take the time to learn these skills from established mediators, conflict specialists and other people working in various conflict fields and use them to "break the chains of cyclical and generational conflict".

In this way, society can cultivate a first-generation that knows how to transcend conflict. 

Not only will this teach future generations to address gender-based conflict, for example, in a constructive manner, but it will teach them empathetic listening, respective framing of a dispute, the value of dissenting opinions and many other useful social skills. 

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