How to Deal with Sibling Fights

· April 12, 2019
Regardless of the reason for the sibling fights, it's very important to teach children the importance of always having mutual respect for one another from a young age.

Finding out that a new sibling is coming into the family can be challenging for children, even for those who ask their parents for one. All of the normal rules and functions of the house change when a new baby arrives. Unfortunately, these change may sometimes bring sibling fights.

Children have countless reasons to antagonize their siblings. There are so many situations that could spark a fight, from having to share their parents’ time and love to having to share their toys or their space with each other. It doesn’t matter if the children are close in age or not; there will almost always be fights.

That’s when we have to play the role of parent, mediator and referee. It won’t be easy, but you have to make your children understand that a sibling is the ideal friend, not enemy.

Sibling Fights

It’s normal for children to fight. After all, it’s how they demonstrate their personality and their role within the family.

A kind of “animal territoriality” instinct develops in children who shout, insult or disagree with everything their sibling says. This is his way of getting attention from “the herd,” or their family.

Fights among siblings are common. That’s just how it is. However, it’s our job to establish the limits so the children know that the family space needs to be harmonious. Additionally, this will help them develop into well-balanced adults.

To do this, keep these recommendations in mind.

1. Respect is the first boundary.

Sibling fights are very common.

Teach your children that respect is non-negotiable. That has to be the most important value in the family, and even more so among siblings.

Under no circumstances should they disrespect one another with offensive words towards the person, their characteristics or physical condition. And naturally, they should absolutely never reach the point of violence. 

The moment you stop a sibling fight, make clear the importance of respect. Be firm. Children need to understand that respect is important and that they cannot cross this boundary, no matter how angry they are with their sibling.

2. Encourage reflection and an apology.

When you intervene in sibling fights, you have to make them understand what they did. To do this, have them reflect on what happened. Beyond what triggered the fight, try to establish an emotional connection between them.

If they’re fighting over a toy, show them why it’s important to share with each other. Then, they should apologize and ask for forgiveness, no matter how big the offense was. No fight should be too big for siblings to forgive one another.

Discover: How to Control Fights Between Children

3. Give them the chance to solve the problem themselves.

It’s important to give your children the necessary tools for conflict resolution. In this case, it’s even more necessary that your children know how to solve problems with each other, especially without violence.

Dialogue and negotiation are the best ways for them to solve their differences. If the situation goes past that point, before they start attacking one another, they should ask you or another trusted adult for help.

Establishing clear boundaries will allow your children to work on their conflict resolving abilities and to use them in other aspects of their lives. Therefore, they’ll be able to generate better relationships with friends, teachers and relatives.

4. Teach them to empathize with one another.

A brother and sister are in bed.

When they’re reflecting, it’s important to teach your children empathy, or the act of “putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.” It’s essential that they understand their sibling’s position, what s/he felt, what affected him or her. This is the best way to avoid future conflicts.

The key question you have to ask them is: “How would you feel if you sibling had done that to you?” This exercise will have a positive impact on many of the future aspects of your children’s lives.

5. Create family spaces.

Another beneficial tool to deal with sibling fights is to create a space for recreation and family time together. This will allow your children to relax, come together and share time with their parents and each other.

However, you may be faced with some resistance and arguments at the beginning. If this happens, separate them for a bit and talk to each sibling individually until they calm down again.

6. Have patience, patience and more patience.

To live a happy life with your children, make sure you stay calm and patient when faced with confrontational situations. There will definitely be times when you feel worn down, when you question yourself as a parent, and you may even feel depressed.

Regardless, don’t lose your cool. Everything will pass and it will all go well. When you feel like you’ve lost all your patience, dig deeper for more. You can do it.

However, if the confrontations start to become too much for you, don’t hesitate to seek support from a professional psychologist.

Parents are the Key

Four children are laying together.

In order to form a healthy relationship between children and their parents, you have to dedicate love, attention and time to each of your kids equally. It’s very important that you don’t differentiate between them. 

If parents start to choose favorites, the family relationship will start to fall apart. This results in antagonistic and competitive relationships between siblings, which can continue into adulthood.

All children are the same when it comes to one thing: Mom and Dad are the center of their world. You have to understand that as a parent. You can’t think that since one is older than the other, s/he should stop expecting to receive the same amount of love and attention as s/he got when s/he was younger.

Read this article: A Sister Is More Than a Friend, She’s Half Our Heart

Final Considerations

Sibling fights are natural, to a certain extent. After all, they:

  1. Are a mechanism with which the children mark their place within the family.
  2. Help children develop their personalities.
  3. Help children learn to identify and control their emotions.
  4. Strengthen their self-esteem.

…that is, as long as their parents are properly limiting the fights.

Can it be exhausting?

Yes.

However, timely guidance will help your children find the best way to solve their conflicts.  All of us with siblings know how important this is. As adults, we may even be able to think back to some fights we had with our siblings and laugh about them.

Now, it’s your turn to teach your children to appreciate the extraordinary blessing of having siblings.

  • Hodges, L. S., Gushiken, R. A., García, J., Ferrer, M., Croft, P., Cimiano Quintana, A., … Martín, J. L. (2008). Dealing with Jealousy/Que Hacer Con Los Celos. Aula de Infantil. https://doi.org/10.1174/021037001316949275
  • Research Gate. (2018). The Development of Sibling Jealousy. researchgate.net/publication/229953994_The_Development_of_Sibling_Jealousy
  • NCBI. (2014). Sibling Relationships and Influences in Childhood and Adolescence. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3956653/