What To Do When Siblings Fight

by | Oct 21, 2022 | Family, Parenting with Purpose, Tips

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Do siblings fight at your house? Sibling arguing is totally normal. One moment they are playing together and having fun, the next moment they are arguing and fighting about being first. Siblings fight over toys, the color of their dinner plates or even who the bigger cookie.

As parents, you feel like referees. You wonder if it’s normal. The answer is yes it is normal for siblings to fight. It’s actually good for them to fight or argue at times.

Fighting in some degree is a normal part of sibling relationships. It’s up to the parents to teach kids the skills to problem solve and what to do when they have big emotions. That involves parents taking the time to give their kids the tools to solve arguments and conflicts among themselves.

boy and girl with backs to each other. siblings fight

Why Kids Fight

Your kid’s individual personality or mood will play a big role in how well they get along with their siblings. If one child is more anxious and the other is more calm they may have conflict. Also, if one of your children feels like they get less attention than another that may cause some sibling rivalry. 

Here are some of the most common forms of sibling rivalry:

  • Name-calling
  • Blaming
  • Lying
  • Arguing
  • Tattling
  • Not sharing
  • Take something that doesn’t belong to them
  • Hitting
two girls tugging against a rope

Tools To Teach Kids To Get Along

Change Your Language

Replace the word ‘stop’ with ‘I won’t let you’. Instead of saying stop doing that or give that toy back to your brother use the words ‘I won’t let you’ which tells your child that you are there to support both of them. When your child is in a situation where they are having big emotions with their sibling they are not in control of their actions or thinking. By telling them that ‘I won’t let you’ is saying that you are the adult and supporting them in this situation. Then once they are calm talk about some ways to problem solve the situation that happened. 

Be A Narrator

Narrate the situation with your kids. For example, if one of them takes a toy from the other, you need to take the toy and say, “We have a problem so let’s solve the problem.” Then say, “What do you think it’s like for your little sister to not have the toy she wants? I think she is angry or maybe sad.” Then sit with them to help them co-regulate. This is the one-on-one connection they need to feel support. 

Role Play Solutions

Practice problem solving by role playing with them. Give them a scenario that has happened in the past and talk about what could happen. Have both kids role play being each person (the one wanting something and the one that has something). This way both of them will learn to see both sides of the situation. Ask each kid what they could do in each situation. 

Create New Sentences

Give your kids the words to use to ask for a certain toy. For example, words to use would be ‘May I play with …’ or ‘I’m not quite done yet, but I’ll let you know when I am finished.’Also, help them to use “I feel” statements. This helps them to own their feelings and not place blame on the other sibling. 

Use A Toolbox

Help your kids with a toolbox of items and activities to do if they feel like they are going to have big emotions. This could include theraputty, a favorite stuffed animal or blanket, a fidget. Something that will help them to calm down. It might even be breathing techniques to use. 

How To Help Prevent The Arguing

  • Set up expectations together. Everyone has to be safe, no swearing, no door slamming, no yelling or name calling.
  • If your kids fight or argue over time on their device or with certain toys then set up a schedule for each to have time for the activity. Set up a schedule together. 
  • Make sure each child has their own space. Kids need time away to regulate their emotions.
  • Give each child their own parent time too. For example, make sure to give each child 10 minutes of your time each night to do something they enjoy doing. That means giving them your undivided attention, no phones or television time. 
  • Let them know that you will love them forever. Just because they have a bad day/moment doesn’t mean that you will love them less.
  • Make sure not to label your kids such as, athlete, smart, or wild child. This draws comparisons among siblings which creates animosity.

What Kids Learn From Sibling Rivalry

Although sibling fighting can be very frustrating for parents there are some skills that kids learn from it. They learn to deal with power struggles, manage conflict and resolve differences, be assertive and to stand up for what they need or want and how to negotiate or compromise. These are all lifelong skills that kids need to be successful in life. 

 What To Do When Siblings Fight

By Dr. Kim Grengs, D.Ed., Parent Coach

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