NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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When Siblings Fight

When Siblings Fight


                While many kids are lucky enough to become the best of friends with their siblings, it's common for brothers and sisters, brothers and brothers, sisters and sisters to fight. It's also common for them to swing back and forth between adoring and detesting one other!)

                Sibling rivalry can even begin before the second child is born as the oldest child reacts angrily to all the hype about the upcoming birth. Sibling rivalry continues as children grow and compete for everything from toys to attention. As kids reach different stages of development, their evolving needs can significantly affect how they relate to one another.

                It can be frustrating and upsetting to watch — and hear — your kids fight with one another. A household that's full of conflict is stressful for everyone. Yet often it's hard to know how to stop the fighting, and or even whether you should get involved at all. But you can take steps to promote peace in your household and help your children get along.

                Learning to get along with siblings is one of the first opportunities for children to develop skills to appropriately interact with others in social situations. It is crucial for parents to teach siblings how to fairly fight and compromise. Children whose parents help them work out their disagreements tend to develop good conflict management skills.

                One way parents can teach conflict management with children is by encouraging them to work out their problems themselves while a parent serves as the mediator. Below are steps to do this:

  • Show respect for their feelings by giving them time to explain their side of what happen. “Boy, you two sound angry with each other!”
  •        2. Listen carefully so that you can summarize clearly what each child shared. “I see, so you want to build the tower by yourself.” “And, when you saw that, you wanted to build a tower too.”

           3. Show respect for the problem. “This is a tough situation. Two children who both want to play with the same toys at the same time.”

           4. Express that you have confidence in their ability to find a mutually agreeable solution. “Know something? I believe that if the two of you work together, you will be able to find a solution that will work for both of you.”

           5. Provide them a short amount of time to try to work out a solution.

                    The majority of the time siblings will be able to work out a problem on their own. Problem solving skills is one of the best gifts a parent can give their children; yet, we often swoop in and solve the problem for them. The majority of the time, when given the opportunity with guidance, children will be able to work out the problem together

                    A few skills in anger management and respect for others can go a long ways in preventing children’s fighting.  All children are unique; don't compare your kids to each other or to any other child but do give lots of individual attention. Kids who feel loved and accepted for who they are will be less likely to fight.

                    Everyone needs some personal space and that includes children.  Children should not have to share everything, or even most things.  The need for personal space increases when an adult or child is tired or hungry.  Work to avoid situations that create fights.

                     Enforce standards of respect in your home: "We don't call people names or tolerate meanness in this house. We treat each other with respect." Set up an expectation that if anyone forgets themselves and calls a name or is disrespectful (this includes adults!), they need to “Repair” the damage they've done to that relationship. (Do a favor, help rebuild the tower you knocked down, make a card.) This doesn't mean your kids can't disagree. It means that there is always a way to stay respectful, even if we're angry.

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