Parent's Resource Center

Cut down on sibling squabbles 

This is a major issue in our household.  It can be a source of severe stress for most parents.  Although it is true that most siblings fight, and considered completely normal, I have put together some ideas that may help keep peace in your family.  You may not be able to solve all the problems and eliminate fighting, but you can help them reduce the number of fights and learn to fight fairly when they do fight.

Conditions that cause bickering:

  1. Togetherness. Your children are with each other more than with anyone else. They listen to each other's accomplishments and foibles, and usually have to share the same bathroom.
  2. Territorial rights. Spaces often are invaded as siblings raid each other's rooms, borrow toys or CDs without asking, and switch TV channels on one another.
  3. Attention. What better way to get a parent's attention than to start a fight - even if it's negative attention.
  4. Competition. A fight may take place if one sibling gets a privilege or possession the others don't. Competition for friends, grades, and popularity at school also can lead to fighting.
  5. Anger. Sibling fights can be outlets for anger - not necessarily at the sibling, but from school or self esteem problems.
  6. Physical factors. When children are tired, hungry, or fatigued from sports, they are more likely to fight. This is why so many fights occur right before supper.

How to avoid fights:

  • Separate. Children do not need to be in all activities together. Individual interests and activities need to be pursued.
  • Create individual space. If children cannot have their own rooms, create separate areas by rearranging furniture.
  • Take turns. Create schedules for bathroom time, choosing TV shows, and other things that may cause conflict.
  • Find outlets. When children feel a fight brewing show them alternative outlets for their energy: jogging, bike rides, shooting baskets.
  • Refuel. Make sure that children have "down time" when they can relax and rest.


Rules for a fair fight:

  • Avoid name-calling. Names like "brace-face" or "idiot" show a lack of respect for the other person.
  • Avoid cutdowns. Comments like, You're so stupid you... - and similar ones should be banned. Fighting needs to lead to a solution, and slamming each other won't accomplish that.
  • Listen. Each child should tell his or her side of the problem, then listen while the other tells his or her side, making sure each understands the other's point of view.
  • Don't get physical. Kicking, hitting, and pushing don't lead to a peaceful resolution of the problem, especially if one child has a size advantage.
  • Attack the problem. Keep in mind that solving the problem - not destroying the person - is the goal.
  • Resolve the problem by bedtime. Don't let anger, hard feelings, or hurt carry over into the next day.
  • Forgive and forget. Once the fight is over, it's over. Teach your children to forgive as Christ forgave them - completely and forever.
  • Seek peace. Even though fighting is normal among siblings, strive for peaceful times in your family.

Parent's Resource Center
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Revised: November 14, 2006