Making Children Mind…Siblings Fighting

What you must not do when your children fight or argue. Tips for how to respond to siblings fighting and how to prevent siblings from fighting.

Two children on a cobblestone path

Brayden (4) and Kaitlyn(2) argue sometimes, but it is short-lived and has never been something big. Neither child seems to have the desire for arguing. When they do fight, however, my first reaction is to jump up and get in the middle and sort it out.

Before Kaitlyn was ever born, I recognized this in me as we would have play dates with other children. If they were having a hard time sharing, I wanted to jump in and work it out for them. I recognized that this was not the best approach. Children need to learn how to resolve conflicts, and if you never give them the chance, they will never learn.

In the book Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours, Dr. Kevin Leman states a few times that when your children are fighting, let them work it out among themselves (page 172). Of course, there are always exceptions to rules, but I follow this rule in general, also.

When Brayden and Kaitlyn are having sibling playtime, they will sometimes be arguing about something. I always give them a few minutes to work it out before I go in there. They work it out between the two of them 99% of the time.

It should be noted that arguments are always verbal and no one is in any physical “danger.” They have learned to compromise and work through problems with each other. They don’t constantly need a mediator. They don’t come running to me to tattle on each other.

What You must not do when your kids fight pinnable image

The fact is that people disagree with each other. You all know this. You disagree with parents, siblings, friends, associates, and your spouse! Disagreeing is completely normal and is not a sign of problems. The sign of problems is in how you resolve these conflicts. Allowing your children to practice conflict resolution skills while young will help them when they are older.

Naturally, we don’t just throw our kids in a room together and say, “Have at it! Happy Learning!” We need to teach them.

Teach them in times of non-conflict. Teach them about loving each other and how we show that love. Teach them about sharing and taking turns. Teach them what to say when they want something.

Then time with siblings becomes the practice for what they have been taught. You should also pay attention as they play together and take note of what needs work. How is the sharing? How are they at taking turns? Is the oldest too bossy? Is the youngest crying at every turn?

Read: Training in Times of Non-Conflict

Leman also points out that children often fight in order to get attention. This will especially be true if you are quick to intervene every time there is a disagreement. He also seems to be referring to older children (about 5 and up through the teenage years) more than the toddlers and preschoolers. He says that often times if you require that your children leave your presence for their fighting, they will stop fighting. It isn’t as fun without an audience (page 145).

As always, use your judgment in these fighting situations. Intervene when you need to, but give your children a chance to work things out among themselves. Train in times of non-conflict and be vigilant about observing the areas your children need to improve on.


4 thoughts on “Making Children Mind…Siblings Fighting”

  1. I have no experience with this but I've thought about it a lot since there was a lot of fighting in my house with 10 kids–8 of which were born in 8 years.My question is when do you intervene beside the obvious physical abuse? It seems like sharing would be a common time when you may or may not need to interfere. What if your child takes something from another and the victim does nothing about it or tries to grab it from the other siblings. I not sure what is the best plan here.

  2. hello, i have been following your blog throughout the past year and i love it! my question for you is in regards to my 2 year old. we are expecting our second baby in about 9 weeks, so my question is not necessarily in regards to sibling rivalry, but peer rivalry. my son (who is also named braden) has an extremely hard time when he is around other children. he is not necessarily the kid that is gonna come over and take things away from your kid, but he is the type that will run over to other children and just start screaming if they have something he wants or may have played with recently. this is the hardest when children come over to my house because he thinks that all the toys are his and so he will just scream and fuss endlessly. i know that 2 year olds don't necessarily know how to share, but this behavior is so difficult to deal with. we definitely experience this at other people's homes too or even out at the park if a child is on a swing and braden wants on it, he will just run to the swing and scream. his communication is good, but he gets easily frustrated (throws lots of frustration tantrums) and although he knows how to say "help me," he chooses to just yell. i feel extremely discouraged. we've tried time out when braden behaves like this at my house, but it seems like it doesn't even phase him because he will just turn around and do the same thing again and again and again. i know you said to stand back and let the kids work things out on their own, but this is hard to do when you are in a playgroup situation with other parents who are expecting you to control your child who is yelling at all of the other kids. and once or twice the yelling has turned into hitting or something more aggressive. i have always been the hovering type parent like you say you were so i am currently trying to work on this, but again we are in a tough stage to just back off and let things happen. i desperately need some advice. thank you!

  3. Rachel, I have done both ways. When they are having sibling playtime, I don't interfere unless there is something major going on. If it is a sharing issue, I let them work through it. If I am around, I interfere.

  4. Stacey, In that situation, I wouldn't stand back. I would definitely step in, remove him from the situation, and tell him yelling is not okay. I would model at home. Get a stuffed animal and give the stuffed animal a favorite toy. Then go to the stuffed animal and ask to share. Then thank the stuffed animal for sharing. Start with that. In real life, a child isn't going to share like the stuffed animal did. Once you have him asking nicely, model waiting your turn, "Oh, you are still playing with it? Okay, I will wait." Children learn fastest through modeling. good luck! It is a long road.


Leave a Comment