While it may be impossible to prevent arguments between my children, there are many ways to handle sibling fights.
My daughters can find anything to argue over. Dolls, air, a puff of cat hair – you name it, a sister will start an argument. Ever since Arbor was born I have been looking for tips for preventing fights between Annabelle and Ailey. They really love one another and enjoy playing together. However, most days you can’t prevent the inevitable; the sisters just love to argue.
This summer has been especially brutal with daily explosive fights between my daughters. My therapist says some siblings fight more during the summertime due to a lack of routine. As parents of three children – ages 7 months, 5 and 8 years old – who work from home with no childcare, it is HARD to keep them busy all the time.
To ensure we survive the next six weeks (and the rest of our lives as parents), I’ve pulled tips from fellow parents, my therapist, and high quality sources on sibling fights. I’ve also read through my old research on sibling arguments and rivalry.
4 Ways to Handle Sibling Fights
Even the best sibling relationships will have moments of conflict. My sisters and I are in our thirties and still argue – isn’t it HEALTHY to not agree on everything? With that being said, my daughters don’t need to agree on everything all the time either. They just have to be able to work through their differences!
- Teach your children how to handle conflict in a positive manner. Hitting, name calling, and malicious behavior is not tolerated in our household (and probably yours too). The most positive way to handle conflict is in a constructive manner. Children who grow up learning how to prevent and work out conflicts with their siblings will be better at negotiating and working out compromises in future relationships, both at work and at home. (source)
- Don’t always let your children work it out on their own. When I asked parents for advice on handling sibling fights, a few advised to stay out of the argument. On one hand, I think it can be beneficial to allow children to learn to work through conflict without adult intervention. However, your kids need to have the tools to do this before you leave them to their own devices. I always step in to find out what’s happened before things escalate. (source)
- Listen to both sides. I see fights resolved more quickly in our home when I take the time to listen to each side of the story.
- Try not to play the blame game. I can usually figure out who instigated the fight between my daughters once I’ve heard both of their accounts. However, I know it’s important to avoid naming the child for starting the fight. Instead, focus on each child’s role in the fight.
4 More Ways to Handle Sibling Fights
- Avoid situations that create fights. Keep your children apart – or don’t leave them alone – if they are hungry or overtired. Just like adults, a hangry or sleepy human is more volatile than a well-rested full bellied human.
- Include your children in coming to a resolution. I always ask my daughters how they would like to see their conflict resolved (even if I have a plan of my own). In the end, we want the resolution to be fair.
- If there is a punishment involved, make sure it is tailored to your child’s age and individual needs. It’s sometimes best to discuss punishment separately instead of in front of the children too. I love this article on positive discipline, but I am a firm believer in “timeout” to cool down after a child misbehaves.
- Be a good example. Don’t just show your children how to be a nice person, but show them it’s okay to have an argument with a happy ending. Studies have shown that if parents can resolve their differences and show love towards one another in front of their children, that their children learn to do the same with their siblings and peers. (source)
Love, Kindness, and Empathy
We had a family meeting this week after one too many sister fights in a short period of time. It’s crucial they show love and kindness towards one another instead of negativity and competition. Empathy is another big word in our household; I work hard to show empathy towards my children’s feelings with the hope that they develop empathy for each other.
At the end of the day, I know it’s normal for my daughters to argue. Bickering, arguing, bantering, etc. is necessary for my kids’ social and emotional development. We, as parents, have to remain as cool (as we can) to be mediators during sibling fights. Our jobs are to raise good humans – and we can’t forget that!