Conflict and Repair

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This series of photographs illustrates a beautiful example of the repair of a conflict between two children, with many magic moments. E, in the blue shorts, is a 6-yo boy who hit K, the boy in the blue jeans, with a ball. The hit was most likely accidental, but K, who is 4-years old, began to cry and went to get the caregiver, L. In this photo, L is listening to E’s account of the story. A 7-yo girl, B, is the audience. In the the first photo, J has just finished voicing his complaint, and L is looking at D questioningly, waiting for an explanation. 

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In the second photo, E is defending himself, proclaiming his innocence of the charges. K is watching silently. B stands silently as witness. L explains that K was crying, and that E needs to apologize to K and help him feel better, even if it were an accident. B continues to stand, watching, her little hands on her hips. E is refusing to apologize to K. L is firm but gentle, her voice quiet and slow-paced. This is a magic moment, because L does not express anger or impatience, yet she persists.

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In the third photo, L bends down to talk to E. E looks as if he is going to run away, and L takes hold of his arm. E is kicking his foot, rebelliously. At last, E says he is sorry, but he growls it out with a scowl. L tells him that he must say it again in a nicer way. E repeats his angry apology, and L quietly insists again that he say it nicely. This is another magic moment, because instead of getting angry, she persists in a quiet, non-reactive way. E finally says he is sorry – not exactly “nicely” – but without a growl. Here is another magic moment, in that L accepts a gesture that is less than perfect. She must have had the sense that at this point she could help bring the situation to a good resolution. 

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In the fourth photo, L tells E that he should give K a hug to make him feel better. This is too much for E, so in another magic moment, she opens her own arms and encloses the two little boys in a group embrace. 

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In the fifth photo, the embrace continues, but L is preparing to let them go. The boys are giggling.

The magic moments in this set of photos focus on L’s patience, calm, and slow pace. These factors in addition to her quietly loving attitude allow her to side-step provocation into a struggle and generate the creative solution of the group hug. As she watches the scenario, B takes in the gestalt of the repair of conflict scaffolded by an adult, including the magic moments. All three children are more likely to repeat at least one of the elements of this repair in future conflicts.  

 

 

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