My wife gets credit for this one: When there is a dispute between children, create an opportunity for them to find their own resolution instead of acting as a judge between them. It works very frequently both at home and at school, making each child responsible for getting along with others instead of trying to convince an adult to take his side.
Billy: “I was playing with that ball and he stole it from me!”
Bobby: “He was hogging the ball and wouldn’t let me play with it!”
Teacher: “I’m sorry to hear that. Give me the ball, and stand right here until you have made a plan for sharing the ball that you are both satisfied with.”
Billy and Bobby will usually come up with a mutually acceptable plan in a matter of moments, and get the ball back and happily scurry off after the teacher’s approval of the plan. The conduct of an investigation and trial unlikely to satisfy anyone is avoided.
I must emphasize that this is not always an appropriate course of action. It only works when all children involved are on the same basic level, and in matters of dispute as opposed to incidents of wrongdoing by one child against another. It is important to ensure that one child is not taking advantage of the other, and that all involved are truly satisfied with the outcome.