How to Stop Siblings Fighting All the Time
If you have more than one child in your family, siblings fighting is likely a common occurrence in your household. There are many wonderful roles that siblings play in each other’s lives – friend, playmate, confidant. But they also can be each other’s rival, competitor, and worst enemy at times.
As upsetting as siblings fighting can be, it’s very normal because of the many differences between siblings – their age, stage of development, temperament, interests and (just like with adults) it’s not uncommon for individuals to have disagreements and get on each other’s nerves when they spend a lot of time together. Below are some strategies for parents to help foster sibling relationships, manage the squabbles and create a harmonious home where siblings learn how to relate to and enjoy one another.
How to Stop Siblings Fighting All. The. Time.
Focus on the positive
Between the squabbles, there are often many positive interactions that exist between siblings, but these activities go unnoticed or at least uncelebrated. Parents sometimes place more focus and emphasis on the negative interactions, which seems to make sense as the fighting between siblings can be extremely disruptive and require attention in the heat of the moment. However, positive reinforcement is one of the most effective tools for parents to modify unwanted behaviour.
Children who receive positive reinforcement for the great things they do are motivated to continue. Be aware of the kind, helpful and fun actions that your children do for one other – they offer a perfect opportunity for reinforcement. If you do hear or see something great, acknowledge these actions and highlight how they make the other child feel. “Max, thank you for helping your brother with his shoes, now we’ll all be on time for school.” Or “Lucy it was so kind that you stayed to watch your brother play soccer; I could tell that he was pumped you were here to watch him score.”
Strengthen Sibling Relationships
It’s important to engage in different activities within your household that promote positive relationships between siblings. For example, building sibling connections into your family’s daily routine (saying goodnight to each other), encouraging siblings to support and celebrate one another (attending each other’s extracurricular activities like sports games or dance or music recitals) and providing shared experiences. A great way to implement some shared experiences into your family’s daily routines are through family rituals and traditions, learning a new skill together, family games (if possible have the siblings team up and play against the parents – this provides an incentive for the kids to work together) and unique outings or adventures.
Start these activities early on in your children’s lives to help them grow and develop with their sibling and understand the value of the sibling relationship.
Even with the best-laid plans, sibling fighting is inevitable. It’s important for parents to teach their children how to disagree with each other respectfully. We can’t force our kids to get along all of the time, but we can expect that they are kind to one another and treat each other how they would like to be treated. Below are some strategies on how to support your children in the heat of the moment when they’re fighting:
Sometimes siblings fight with one another because they learn that it’s an effective way to get attention from their parents. Although the attention they get is not positive, it does make us stop what we are doing and intervene; therefore, the fighting becomes successful. Sometimes it’s best for parents to just hold back (if the fighting isn’t dangerous or harmful, of course!). By holding back, you’re doing two things: (1) you’re not giving the behaviour immediate attention and (2) giving kids space they are able to work out the disagreement independently or realize it’s not a big deal and move on.
The 3 Times Rule
The 3 Times Rule is something that I came up with to help my kids learn how to solve conflict with their words and to stop them from bringing me into solving the dispute (aka tattle-telling). Tell your children that if their sibling is doing something that they would like them to stop (coming into their room or ruining their play experience) they need to say “stop” firmly but in a normal voice. If the sibling doesn’t stop, tell them to say it again but louder. And, if they still don’t stop, tell them to say it again very loud. This will alert you or the leader in the space to come help with the situation and it might also encourage the other person to stop. Not only is this a great skill to teach your kids to solve their sibling fights, but it’s also a great way to teach and practice consent with others!
Teach Your Children Problem Solving Skills
Problem-solving is something that we all need to learn; it is not something that we are born with. When your children are having a disagreement over something tangible – who sits where at the table or who gets to play with the toy – use this as an opportunity to teach your children problem-solving skills. Often during these disagreements, parents will go over and stop the fighting by dictating who does what or goes where. This is not the most effective strategy when we want our kids to know how to problem solve on their own, and can lead to imposing your ideas onto your kids which can also not be well received.
Instead, go over and say “Hey guys, it looks like we have a problem.” Present the problem to them and ask them if they have any ideas on how to solve it. You will be surprised, they will have some good ideas and they will be much more likely to follow through on the solution as the ideas are their own. Extra tip: If the squabble is over an object – hold that object during the problem-solving exercise – this takes the emotion out of it and helps them focus on solving the problem.