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15 Conflict resolution strategies every nursery manager should know

12 min of reading
10 July 2023
Conflict resolution strategies - cover image

Conflict in a nursery setting, it’s enough to have you running for the hills! Nobody enjoys dealing with conflict (although some people can tend to have natural talents in managing it). Dealing with disagreements between children, parents, or nursery practitioners can be challenging. We share the common reasons for conflict in nurseries and 15 ways how to deal with it effectively.

Jump ahead to:

    What types of conflict are found in nurseries?

    Conflict can be thought of as aggressive arguments, shouting and raised voices. This certainly can be a way that people make their frustrations and disapprovals heard, especially when dealing with upset and angry parents. But not always. Conflict can be children navigating social situations or staff members not getting on. Let’s first look at the types you may see in your childcare setting.

    Staff-to-staff conflict

    Staff disagreements can be damaging to staff morale and positive working culture. Staff-to-staff conflict generally arises due to a breakdown in effective communication methods. Leading to unaligned beliefs or opinions.

    Staff-to-parent conflict

    Your newer nursery practitioners may be concerned about being confronted by a parent due to dissatisfaction. Communication plays a large part here too. Parents will often complain to nursery managers if they feel their child is unsafe or unsupported.

    Child-to-child conflict

    Social development is a part of learning. This is why it is part of the prime areas of learning in the EYFS Framework. But, how do you manage conflict between two children when they are just getting to grips with social expectations? Managing disagreements effectively between toddlers is a skill that is built on with experience. The key is to be consistent and always model empathetic behaviour.

    What are the common causes of conflict in nurseries?

    The reasons for conflict are endless. It also depends on the weather, the person’s level of tolerance, how well they have slept the night before, and if they are distracted by a worry. The list goes on.

    We have collated some of the most common causes of conflict in nurseries. There can be a lot of crossover between the 3 types (staff, parent, and child).

    Main reasons for staff disputes in the workplace

    Blossom’s nursery software supports staff communication by having everything in one place. Work rotas, leave, and much more. Learn how to improve communication across your childcare setting by booking a quick call with us.

    Main reasons for parent complaints

    Causes of conflict with children

    Examples of conflict resolution for CPD sessions in nurseries

    Running CPD sessions that are bespoke to your setting is important to make scenarios as close to real life as possible. It can be useful to use previous experiences (with the key details anonymised) as a training tool.

    We have created two scenarios for inspiration for your next staff meeting. These focus on two common types of conflict, with staff and with parents, and how to manage it effectively. You also might want to use more EYFS scenarios to help structure your staff training meeting.

    Scenario One:

    A parent during pick-up time wants to speak to the manager, they confront one of the EYFS apprentices in a hostile tone and refuse to leave the premises before they speak to you. What do you do?

    You may want to consider some of the following steps: refer to your complaints policy, stay calm and professional, be mindful of staff safety and don’t speak to them alone, and make a note of the conversation via your nursery software for recording purposes.

    Scenario Two:

    You are made aware of a disagreement between two staff members. They have conflicting opinions on whether a child is displaying SEND traits. This difference of opinion has caused tension amongst the staff. What do you do?

    Depending on your nursery’s policies, you may want to look at discussing the concerns with each staff member separately to reiterate communication expectations. Involving the SENDCo to discuss the child’s needs and the best approach to support can be useful as well.

    Importance of managing staff conflict in nurseries

    How important is it to manage conflict effectively between your nursery practitioners? Well, your setting is only as effective as your nursery team who work there. Achieving happy, supported staff means the children are getting the best version of that practitioner.

    When managing disagreements between staff, it sets a precedent on how the conflict was dealt with and will give confidence to other staff members if they ever find themselves in a similar position. They know it will be handled with professionalism and tact.

    You model desired behaviour with children; adults are no different. You are everyone’s manager or deputy manager. Your role is to provide support and guidance for all practitioners.

    When staff aren’t in sync and working as an effective team, it impacts the supportive ethos you have worked hard to establish. Working hard to quash any conflicts between staff quickly can help to keep the positive working culture needed for an outstanding setting.

    15 Ways to manage conflict in your UK nursery

    The beauty (if we can call it that?) in managing conflict is that you can put your own personal spin on how you deal with uncomfortable conversations to smooth out disputes. We share 15 ways to manage conflict in your nursery.

    5 Ways to manage staff-to-staff conflict in nurseries

    1. Have communication as a priority:

    Ensure that communication between staff is as easy as possible. Information about children (including new likes and dislikes) should be shared across your nursery software platform.

    2. Clear roles and responsibility understanding:

    When roles and expectations are in the grey area, it can cause issues among staff. Your job roles should be regularly revised during meetings with practitioners. This can also be an opportunity for mentoring and supporting your staff to climb up the qualification ladder.

    3. Purposeful CPD sessions:

    Making the most of your staff meeting time to iron out any frequent reasons for disputes can be an effective preventative measure. Having a bespoke CPD plan for your setting can help to support the children but also clarify roles, policies and what to do in times of confrontation.

    4. Encourage reflective practice:

    Tying into your open and honest ethos in your nursery, reflective practice for nursery staff is essential for personal and professional growth. Reflective practice can be changing the mindset to think about staff-staff disputes with curiosity and pausing to think: “Are their frustrations really aimed at me?”

    5. Spot the dispute patterns:

    As a nursery manager or owner, your role is to spot the patterns of ineffective working and then make choices to improve in these areas. Look at the patterns of staff-staff disputes, can you see a trend with the topic of disagreement, person at the centre or even times of year (high stress levels).

    5 Ways to manage staff-to-parent conflict in nurseries

    1. Clear communication channels:

    Parents that aren’t informed of stay-and-play sessions or nativity plays can feel excluded from their child’s learning. Always prioritise clear channels of communication through your Parent App or sending newsletters.

    2. Celebrate achievements regularly:

    Parents want the best for their children, by sharing their achievements and activities through their Learning Journals, parents can have a window into their day. This can increase parent appreciation for the varied activities you organise for the children.

    3. Total transparency:

    Being clear, approachable, and honest about all of your policies and expectations can reduce the likelihood of parent confrontation significantly. Share your latest policies and documents via your Parent App to make accessing important information easy.

    4. Accommodate different languages:

    Sometimes, translated conversations can alter the meaning of phrases. When it comes to child care, this information must be translated accurately.

    5. Clear expectations:

    Communication breakdowns can often stem from a misunderstanding of the parents’ expectations. Share the expectations of your parents via your nursery software (including which steps they are expected to follow during a complaint).

    5 Ways to manage child-to-child conflict in nurseries

    1. Remain calm:

    When conflict arises between children, it is important not to be reactive with your approach. Take a pause (whilst maintaining child safety) and remain calm with your body language, tone and facial expressions.

    2. Separate the children:

    Space can be the best way to give each child time to regulate their emotions. Consider encouraging the children to move on to different activities, keeping a watchful eye on both parties.

    3. Listen carefully:

    You are building the foundation skills for managing friendship disputes. Allow the child time to talk about their point of view with any conflicts, helping them to verbalise their thoughts.

    4. Build mentally healthy habits:

    It is important to build mentally healthy habits with toddlers. Recognise the need to introduce mindfulness strategies and techniques for emotional regulation.

    5. Model positive social interactions:

    Continue to model positive interactions with adults and children around the setting. Highlight and praise when children mirror the same kind words, hands or feet.

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