Siblings: What to Do When They Won’t Stop Fighting

Posted Jun 23, 2017

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Summary

  • All siblings fight, even those who are close.
  • Fighting can be a good way for kids to learn important skills.
  • Establishing family rules can help prevent fights.

Sibling rivalry touches most everyone. Fighting is very common, even among siblings who are close and generally get along well. Kids may also switch between fighting and getting along. Yet even though it is common, it is still hard to see your kids argue. It can be downright painful and annoying to witness.

The good news is that there are things you can do to help your kids get along, even if you can’t fix every fight. The key is knowing when to let them solve conflicts on their own and when to intervene. Experts don’t always agree on the best approach, but thinking about how to get your kids to express themselves and work together will go a long way.

Why do siblings fight?

Sibling rivalry usually is a result of competition for love and respect from parents. For some families, the rivalry may begin before an additional child is even born. The idea of a new baby can be hard for older siblings to adjust to. It is simply natural for kids to compete for attention and resources.

There are many reasons that siblings fight, including to:

  • Get attention from parents or seek to gain favor by making a sibling look at fault
  • Feel powerful
  • Stop boredom
  • Have contact with another person

There are also factors that can cause fights to become more severe or frequent:

  • Kids change and grow, as do their needs. Younger kids may argue over toys and taking turns, while older kids in school may focus on how fairly they think they are being treated. Teens may be upset if they have more chores to do or have to help take care of younger siblings. They may also not want to spend as much time together, which can cause tension.
  • Kids have unique personalities. Sometimes kids clash because of their differences. It may also depend on mood and how adaptable kids are.
  • Special circumstances impact families. If one child has an illness or difficulty in school, it can mean more time and attention from parents. This may be hard for siblings to understand. It can lead to behavior problems, including fights.
  • Kids learn by example. If kids see parents fight loudly, in a disrespectful way, they will likely do the same.

Keep in mind that fighting that doesn’t go too far can be a good sign that children are able to communicate what they want and need. Fighting can also teach kids important life lessons, such as how to deal with power struggles, how to compromise, and how to stick up for themselves.

What parents can do during a fight

It may seem hard to step back, but not getting involved is often the right thing to do. Even though it is tough to strike a balance, you don’t want to always rescue kids. At the same time, you don’t want kids to feel unprotected. Try to see if they can work it out themselves. If they are unable to resolve the fight on their own or they become physical, it is time to get involved.

The Center for Parenting Education offers a useful guide for knowing if and how to get involved. Their “Green Light to Red Light” guide starts with minor conflict at a green light. This would not require a parent’s involvement. At the other end is a red-light situation that signals danger and must be stopped by a parent. Establish a pattern with your kids so that they know what to expect if fights escalate.

When you do help, the Nemours Foundation recommends solving conflicts with your children, but not for them.

Parents can:

  • Give the kids space from one another and from the object that may be at the center of the fight.
  • Avoid placing blame.
  • Help the kids work out a solution together that everyone likes.
  • Reinforce the love kids have for one another underneath the conflict.
  • Listen, even if it involves a tantrum. Kids are able to heal and move on if they feel they have been heard.
  • Make time to reconnect with the child who sparked trouble. This can help make sure hurt feelings surface and resolve and remind the child that the love remains.

Tips for keeping the peace

Family rules are a great way to establish standards. This can help prevent fighting from getting worse over time. Involve your kids in making these rules so that they feel empowered. Some examples of rules include:

  • Use words, not hands, to express anger.
  • Do not take something that belongs to someone else without asking.
  • If you hurt someone’s feelings, you have to make amends.
  • If parents have to get involved, kids do not get a say in the outcome.

When working through conflict, it helps to review the rules and ask kids to try again. It also helps to remember that it is normal for kids to fight. And while it may be hard to listen to, the skills kids learn through conflict can be very important. Navigating sibling ties requires much patience from parents, but the effort is well worth it.

Resources

The Center for Parenting Education
www.centerforparentingeducation.org

Hand in Hand
www.handinhandparenting.org

By Sarah Stone
Source: Hand in Hand, www.handinhandparenting.org/article/siblings-fighting-get-late/; The Center for Parenting Education, http://centerforparentingeducation.org/library-of-articles/sibling-rivalry/coping-sibling-rivalry/; Nemours Foundation, http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/sibling-rivalry.html?view=ptr&WT.ac=p-ptr; Mayo Clinic, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/sibling-rivalry/art-20046568

Summary

  • All siblings fight, even those who are close.
  • Fighting can be a good way for kids to learn important skills.
  • Establishing family rules can help prevent fights.

Sibling rivalry touches most everyone. Fighting is very common, even among siblings who are close and generally get along well. Kids may also switch between fighting and getting along. Yet even though it is common, it is still hard to see your kids argue. It can be downright painful and annoying to witness.

The good news is that there are things you can do to help your kids get along, even if you can’t fix every fight. The key is knowing when to let them solve conflicts on their own and when to intervene. Experts don’t always agree on the best approach, but thinking about how to get your kids to express themselves and work together will go a long way.

Why do siblings fight?

Sibling rivalry usually is a result of competition for love and respect from parents. For some families, the rivalry may begin before an additional child is even born. The idea of a new baby can be hard for older siblings to adjust to. It is simply natural for kids to compete for attention and resources.

There are many reasons that siblings fight, including to:

  • Get attention from parents or seek to gain favor by making a sibling look at fault
  • Feel powerful
  • Stop boredom
  • Have contact with another person

There are also factors that can cause fights to become more severe or frequent:

  • Kids change and grow, as do their needs. Younger kids may argue over toys and taking turns, while older kids in school may focus on how fairly they think they are being treated. Teens may be upset if they have more chores to do or have to help take care of younger siblings. They may also not want to spend as much time together, which can cause tension.
  • Kids have unique personalities. Sometimes kids clash because of their differences. It may also depend on mood and how adaptable kids are.
  • Special circumstances impact families. If one child has an illness or difficulty in school, it can mean more time and attention from parents. This may be hard for siblings to understand. It can lead to behavior problems, including fights.
  • Kids learn by example. If kids see parents fight loudly, in a disrespectful way, they will likely do the same.

Keep in mind that fighting that doesn’t go too far can be a good sign that children are able to communicate what they want and need. Fighting can also teach kids important life lessons, such as how to deal with power struggles, how to compromise, and how to stick up for themselves.

What parents can do during a fight

It may seem hard to step back, but not getting involved is often the right thing to do. Even though it is tough to strike a balance, you don’t want to always rescue kids. At the same time, you don’t want kids to feel unprotected. Try to see if they can work it out themselves. If they are unable to resolve the fight on their own or they become physical, it is time to get involved.

The Center for Parenting Education offers a useful guide for knowing if and how to get involved. Their “Green Light to Red Light” guide starts with minor conflict at a green light. This would not require a parent’s involvement. At the other end is a red-light situation that signals danger and must be stopped by a parent. Establish a pattern with your kids so that they know what to expect if fights escalate.

When you do help, the Nemours Foundation recommends solving conflicts with your children, but not for them.

Parents can:

  • Give the kids space from one another and from the object that may be at the center of the fight.
  • Avoid placing blame.
  • Help the kids work out a solution together that everyone likes.
  • Reinforce the love kids have for one another underneath the conflict.
  • Listen, even if it involves a tantrum. Kids are able to heal and move on if they feel they have been heard.
  • Make time to reconnect with the child who sparked trouble. This can help make sure hurt feelings surface and resolve and remind the child that the love remains.

Tips for keeping the peace

Family rules are a great way to establish standards. This can help prevent fighting from getting worse over time. Involve your kids in making these rules so that they feel empowered. Some examples of rules include:

  • Use words, not hands, to express anger.
  • Do not take something that belongs to someone else without asking.
  • If you hurt someone’s feelings, you have to make amends.
  • If parents have to get involved, kids do not get a say in the outcome.

When working through conflict, it helps to review the rules and ask kids to try again. It also helps to remember that it is normal for kids to fight. And while it may be hard to listen to, the skills kids learn through conflict can be very important. Navigating sibling ties requires much patience from parents, but the effort is well worth it.

Resources

The Center for Parenting Education
www.centerforparentingeducation.org

Hand in Hand
www.handinhandparenting.org

By Sarah Stone
Source: Hand in Hand, www.handinhandparenting.org/article/siblings-fighting-get-late/; The Center for Parenting Education, http://centerforparentingeducation.org/library-of-articles/sibling-rivalry/coping-sibling-rivalry/; Nemours Foundation, http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/sibling-rivalry.html?view=ptr&WT.ac=p-ptr; Mayo Clinic, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/sibling-rivalry/art-20046568

Summary

  • All siblings fight, even those who are close.
  • Fighting can be a good way for kids to learn important skills.
  • Establishing family rules can help prevent fights.

Sibling rivalry touches most everyone. Fighting is very common, even among siblings who are close and generally get along well. Kids may also switch between fighting and getting along. Yet even though it is common, it is still hard to see your kids argue. It can be downright painful and annoying to witness.

The good news is that there are things you can do to help your kids get along, even if you can’t fix every fight. The key is knowing when to let them solve conflicts on their own and when to intervene. Experts don’t always agree on the best approach, but thinking about how to get your kids to express themselves and work together will go a long way.

Why do siblings fight?

Sibling rivalry usually is a result of competition for love and respect from parents. For some families, the rivalry may begin before an additional child is even born. The idea of a new baby can be hard for older siblings to adjust to. It is simply natural for kids to compete for attention and resources.

There are many reasons that siblings fight, including to:

  • Get attention from parents or seek to gain favor by making a sibling look at fault
  • Feel powerful
  • Stop boredom
  • Have contact with another person

There are also factors that can cause fights to become more severe or frequent:

  • Kids change and grow, as do their needs. Younger kids may argue over toys and taking turns, while older kids in school may focus on how fairly they think they are being treated. Teens may be upset if they have more chores to do or have to help take care of younger siblings. They may also not want to spend as much time together, which can cause tension.
  • Kids have unique personalities. Sometimes kids clash because of their differences. It may also depend on mood and how adaptable kids are.
  • Special circumstances impact families. If one child has an illness or difficulty in school, it can mean more time and attention from parents. This may be hard for siblings to understand. It can lead to behavior problems, including fights.
  • Kids learn by example. If kids see parents fight loudly, in a disrespectful way, they will likely do the same.

Keep in mind that fighting that doesn’t go too far can be a good sign that children are able to communicate what they want and need. Fighting can also teach kids important life lessons, such as how to deal with power struggles, how to compromise, and how to stick up for themselves.

What parents can do during a fight

It may seem hard to step back, but not getting involved is often the right thing to do. Even though it is tough to strike a balance, you don’t want to always rescue kids. At the same time, you don’t want kids to feel unprotected. Try to see if they can work it out themselves. If they are unable to resolve the fight on their own or they become physical, it is time to get involved.

The Center for Parenting Education offers a useful guide for knowing if and how to get involved. Their “Green Light to Red Light” guide starts with minor conflict at a green light. This would not require a parent’s involvement. At the other end is a red-light situation that signals danger and must be stopped by a parent. Establish a pattern with your kids so that they know what to expect if fights escalate.

When you do help, the Nemours Foundation recommends solving conflicts with your children, but not for them.

Parents can:

  • Give the kids space from one another and from the object that may be at the center of the fight.
  • Avoid placing blame.
  • Help the kids work out a solution together that everyone likes.
  • Reinforce the love kids have for one another underneath the conflict.
  • Listen, even if it involves a tantrum. Kids are able to heal and move on if they feel they have been heard.
  • Make time to reconnect with the child who sparked trouble. This can help make sure hurt feelings surface and resolve and remind the child that the love remains.

Tips for keeping the peace

Family rules are a great way to establish standards. This can help prevent fighting from getting worse over time. Involve your kids in making these rules so that they feel empowered. Some examples of rules include:

  • Use words, not hands, to express anger.
  • Do not take something that belongs to someone else without asking.
  • If you hurt someone’s feelings, you have to make amends.
  • If parents have to get involved, kids do not get a say in the outcome.

When working through conflict, it helps to review the rules and ask kids to try again. It also helps to remember that it is normal for kids to fight. And while it may be hard to listen to, the skills kids learn through conflict can be very important. Navigating sibling ties requires much patience from parents, but the effort is well worth it.

Resources

The Center for Parenting Education
www.centerforparentingeducation.org

Hand in Hand
www.handinhandparenting.org

By Sarah Stone
Source: Hand in Hand, www.handinhandparenting.org/article/siblings-fighting-get-late/; The Center for Parenting Education, http://centerforparentingeducation.org/library-of-articles/sibling-rivalry/coping-sibling-rivalry/; Nemours Foundation, http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/sibling-rivalry.html?view=ptr&WT.ac=p-ptr; Mayo Clinic, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/sibling-rivalry/art-20046568

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