Ask "What." Young children often can't wrap their heads around "Why," so ask "What" questions: "What made you hit him?" or "What do you think your friend is feeling right now?" "What" questions help the child develop empathy.
Encourage a chill-out. Instead of a "time-out" chair, Cartee set aside an area of her classroom where fighting-mad kids can cool off before they talk. Create your own chill-out zone at home, but keep the area calming versus punishing. Try setting up a play tent or making a little haven out of cushions.
Comfort first. Acknowledge the child who's emotionally or physically hurt before turning to the instigator. When you soothe the injured party, the fighter loses what he may really crave -- your attention.
Do not disturb. If your child is building a house of blocks, say, and needs a potty or snack break, take Lannak's advice: Use an "I'll be right back" sign. It lets everyone know she's not finished and helps avoid conflicts. Although they can't read, "We tell them what the words say," she says, "and eventually they understand that signs mean something, which promotes early literacy."