What to Do When Siblings Fight

Posted by in No-Cry Discipline

When our children fight, it not only grates on our nerves, it tugs on our hearts. We want them to love each other, and we want them to build life-long friendships. When they quarrel it seems this will never happen. In reality, most siblings fight with each other, and it is not a measure of their love or their friendship. It’s the normal development of social and relationship skills. The majority of sibling battles are not destructive to the relationship between the children. All this considered, there are ways to reduce the number of fights, and the severity of them, as well.

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Identify and solve the problems when siblings fight

Try to determine if there is a pattern to your children’s fights. Do they typically fight over one thing, such as sharing toys? If so, make rules about sharing. Do they always fight while you’re making dinner? You could enlist their help in preparing the meal, feed them a healthy snack, or have an activity planned during that time, such as modeling with clay. Do they fight while they are getting ready for bed in the evening? Create and follow a peaceful bedtime routine that occurs earlier in the evening before the nighttime meltdown occurs.

The idea here is to identify the “hot spots” between your children and create a plan to prevent the problem from continually causing arguments.

Teach

Teach your children how to talk, negotiate and compromise with each other. They both are likely to be blinded by their own side of the story and need help to see the other’s point of view. You can even have both children sit on a sofa together, or on two adjacent chairs to talk. Rather than dictating a resolution, help them discuss the problem and come to the best conclusion. Over time, and with practice, they will learn how to settle arguments on their own.

Distract

If the argument is over a trivial issue, you can often defuse the tension with humor, or distract the kids with another activity. Seriously, it’s okay to sidetrack some of the minor skirmishes. Trying to deal with who gets the red crayon or the green cup every single time can make the whole family crazy.

Praise good behavior

It frequently happens that when children are playing together nicely the parent takes advantage of the peace to catch up on work. Then, when a fight breaks out, the parent shows up to solve the problem. Don’t disregard your children when they are getting along well! Reward them for getting along with some positive attention. Make a comment of appreciation, such as, “I’m happy that you enjoy playing together.” Every once in a while, show up with a plate of cookies!

Giving attention when things are going well will confirm your expectations and encourage them to continue the positive behavior.

Don’t assume that only one child is at fault.

Don’t assume that your older child controls the relationship. Don’t assume that a more aggressive child is always at fault. Sometimes one child has taunted or teased the sibling to the point of frustration. It’s important to be aware of any behind the scenes subtleties that may be testing one child’s patience to the limit.

Don’t assume there’s nothing you can do.

Yes, siblings fight. But they can learn from you about how to handle their disagreements in a kind and respectful way. 

Plan fun family activities

Having regular family time, such as game night or pizza and movie afternoons, are great ways to do something with your kids that will strengthen their relationship – with each other, and with you, too.

Ideas from The No-Cry Discipline Solution: Gentle Ways to Encourage Good Behavior Without Whining, Tantrums & Tears

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