Dealing with Sibling Fighting


If you’re like most moms of more than one child, you are probably tired of hearing, “He touched me” or “She’s on my side of the car.”

You may also be weary of the bickering and name-calling that are so prevalent with siblings. Even though these ideas are not the only ones parents have come up with, these six strategies for helping siblings get along may be just what you need to get a little peace and quiet in your home.

House Rules

Establish house rules about acceptable behavior and be prepared to follow through with agreed-upon discipline if they break the rules. (I talk about House Rules in my FREE mini-parenting series!)  This is one of the first items I cover when talking with moms about any type of pattern changes that need to happen in the home.  When your children know what is expected of them and that you will dole out consequences when necessary, they may be more willing to adhere to the rules better.  Even so, you know exactly what to do and are not caught off-guard when things start to down spiral.

If you have a plan of action already in your mind, it is much easier to put it into practice rather than be at a loss about how to handle a situation.  If the house rules indicate  {for example} that when someone hits another, they immediately are sent to their room for a set period of time, then that is what happens.  When I began to incorporate house rules and consequences consistently it was almost as if my kids looked to me to follow through, they knew exactly what should happen and if I didn’t follow through, they were a bit at a loss!


When the bickering starts, separate the children.  Depending on the age of your children you can either allow them to come back together and try to solve the issue, or you may have to help mediate the proceeding.  If you are trying to help them gain skills in “working it out”, ask them to slowly explain, without calling names or blaming the other child, what caused the disagreement. Acknowledge their feelings and try to understand what is underneath them.

Explain to your children that even though you understand their feelings, the way they handled the situation isn’t acceptable. Suggest that they think about what was said and done, how things could have been handled differently and how they can make amends.  It really works to your advantage to try to stick to facts and not be sucked into the disagreement or trying to play referee.  It worked really well in our home to keep everyone on their own unless they could hang out together without incident.  That was the natural consequence of not getting along, being by yourself.

Show-Off Strengths

Try to focus on each child’s strengths rather than on their weaknesses. Giving your child tasks that allow them to show their accomplishments and what they are good at really can help any problems with self-esteem and feelings of jealousy.  Give them a reason to feel good about themselves without having to compare themselves with the other children in the family. Celebrate their uniqueness and ask them to cooperate rather than compete.

Perfect Praise

Obviously you know that each child is an individual but sometimes it is important to verbalize it. While you may enjoy Mary’s singing voice, you also appreciate Todd’s willingness to help cook. Be sure you let them know that you love each of your children as much as the other and that you don’t have favorites; however, because each child is different you may appreciate different things about them. It may also be helpful to explain why you decided to let one child do something while the other one is told they may not.

Be specific when you encourage and give out compliments, rather than general statements like, “good job.”  These will sink in and help your child really grab hold of true characteristics that will grow when they are pointed out.

Hug ‘Em

Encourage them when you see them doing something nice for their sibling or when you catch them playing nicely together. Sometimes hearing “It was very good of you to let your brother play the game instead of continuing to play yourself” or “Thank you for reading to your sister while I was cooking dinner when you wanted to watch television instead.”  You will be amazed at how it will increase your child’s desire to choose the ‘right thing’ in the future and be more willing to show how to be compassionate and helpful in their everyday tasks.  Seal that bit of praise and thankful words with a big hug and you really make an impact!

Stay Out of It

When your children get a bit older and you have had time to be consistent with house rules, try to stay out of their disagreements as much as possible.  You need to remember that dragging you into issues between the two of them, is one way to create a huge power struggle and cause more drama than is necessary.  Do not buy into it, do not allow yourself to be sucked into the drama.  If no one is getting physically hurt, then my take has always been to try to allow my kids to work things out for themselves.  When they come to be I may ask a question for them to reflect on, for example:  child comes, “So and so just took my book from me while I was reading.”  Me, “Oh, that doesn’t sound like a nice thing to do, how do you think you should handle that?”  This leads to problem solving on his part, rather than me trying to fix his problem.  Often times if he has to take the time to solve his own problem, it doesn’t seem like such a problem – but if I had jumped in to solve it, then it would reinforce him coming to me to take care of them.  This takes some practice and obviously some judgement calls on our part as mom too!

These five strategies for helping siblings get along are by no means exhaustive. You may find some strategies work better for your family than others. Remember to use what works and toss the things that don’t. When your children understand that you are serious about their behavior and their getting along, it may be easier for them to follow the house rules and finally get along with their siblings.

Do you have a strategy that helps in your home?

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