How to Stop Siblings from Fighting

Siblings can fight a lot! I see this as an opportunity to teach them how to interact with others. I look at myself and think about how I might be contributing to the situation. Do my kids have projects/activities they can get on with that will occupy them? Am I putting them to bed at a reasonable time? Am I spending enough time with them? Are they getting enough down time or are we rushing around too much? Am I feeding them well and are they getting enough water? Once Kale (8) was grouchy and I realised he hadn’t had a drink all day. I told him that not having enough water makes us grouchy and he needs to remember to drink more water. A lot of petty bickering can be avoided by a bit of parental troubleshooting.

But let’s say we’ve run out of novels for Ash (10) which is my fault for not taking them to the library last week, and she picks up Kale’s library book (and he didn’t sleep well because of a nightmare!). He wasn’t reading the book, but snatches it off her and shouts ‘that’s my book!’ Then she shouts, ‘no it isn’t it’s a library book and you were playing the drums!’ At this point I can choose to shout at them, and indirectly teach them that shouting is how we solve our problems, or offer advice. At this point I’d say, 'One of you isn’t good and the other bad. Conflict is always the contribution of two people, so it’s both of you causing this conflict, so you can both be the solution to it. Kale, remember when you couldn’t find your shoes for school and Ash said you could borrow her shoes? Now think about the consequences of not sharing this book with Ash. The next time you need help, which is likely in the near future, do you think she will want to help you? Ash, you don’t like it when other people touch your things without asking. Would you like it if Kale had grabbed your book without asking?’ The resolution was that Ash read Kale’s book for a few minutes using a timer and then he read the book afterward.

I’ve found that when my kids have a new book to read, or a project like a science or cooking experiment, or a friend coming over to play, that this keeps their minds occupied and they are far less likely to bicker about petty things, like someone touching their bed! If we're in the car we always have an engaging audio book playing. If one of my kids didn’t sleep well, had a late night or a very early morning, they are going to be cranky! I prepare myself by being present, giving the family dinner extra early and doing the bedtime routine earlier than usual, so if they ‘crack it’ then they would have already eaten and will already be in their PJs and can just go to bed.

Catching sibling love on candid camera- Kale reading Elijah a book in his tent while camping!

Childhood conflict is a good opportunity for kids to learn skills which they will need in life. Previously when Elijah (3) hit Jewel (5), she would sit there and cry. I used this as an opportunity to teach her to firmly say, ‘No! Stop hitting me I don’t like that!’ She has practiced saying that to me. I remind her that she is very precious and must never tolerate people treating her badly ever. The next time if she can’t sort it out and Elijah persists then she can tell me about it and I will put him in time out, so he learns it’s not ok to hit people. Sometimes a child just wants to annoy others. I let them know that if they don’t find an activity to amuse themselves, that I will find an activity for them, like hanging all the washing on the line. They quickly stop pestering!

I can choose to see my kids fighting as an interruption to my day, or as an opportunity to teach them and reflect on my parenting. I also need to make sure I look after myself. Am I happy or stressed? Have I been spending time with my friends and enjoying my hobbies? Am I eating properly and getting enough sleep? Because a happy parent makes happy kids!