What Should Parents Do When Siblings Fight?

8 Tips to Minimize Your Kids Fighting

Angry boys sitting on opposite ends of sofa
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Children fight with each other for many reasons. Parents and providers often have the difficult task of knowing when to let it run its course and when to intervene and take action. Kids, especially siblings, can fight for the silliest reasons, but it can become a friendship maker or breaker in the minds of young children. Having disagreements is a part of child development, but there are things parents and providers can do to help minimize or keep kids from fighting at all.

Below are some tips for parents when their children are fighting:

Teach Kids Ways to Discuss Solutions and Problem Solve

Even very young children can understand the basic issues of fairness and no fighting. Talk to kids about fighting and other ways that a problem can be resolved. Always set the ground rules of what can be done and what can't to resolve an issue. For example, yelling, crying, or hitting or definite problem-solving no-nos. Ask them to come up with ideas, and then let try them out. You might be surprised at their solutions, and they may know what works best.

Praise Kids and Provide Positive Reinforcement

Praise and positive reinforcement works wonders in helping to build positive child behaviors. The key point is to ignore fighting and then to lavish attention when they're caught doing something kind, positive or helpful. Children will quickly get the hint that good behaviors gets them more attention than negative ones.

Be a Positive Role Model

You can't expect kids to not fight and bicker when they observe it regularly among adults. Parents must serve as role models as to how to cooperate and get along with others. Set the example of expected behavior at all times. Remember, your kids are watching!

Be Calm Under Pressure

Kids watch how adults behave and act when they are mad, disagree with something or are offended.

Being calm under pressure and exhibiting self control sets a positive example. Adults should talk with kids about situations in which they have felt angry or mad and what steps they took to calm down.

Pay Attention to How You React and Intervene

If adults yell, embarrass, shame, or dole out angry or strong words, the result actually could be that the annoying child behavior of kid fights occurs again. Punishments like the ones above may escalate a child's angry feelings and cause them to act out more.

Don't Pay Attention 

Most kid fights are not meaningful and end quickly on their own. Adult intervention delays the process of children working it out themselves. Fighting is often a way for kids to get attention – and for some kids, negative attention is better than no attention at all. If adults ignore the fighting and don't let it become a "center stage" in the home or location, it becomes less of a reason to do it. One idea is to declare a separate room or space in your home as "the fighting room." Whenever kids or friends of your children fight, simply tell them to take it to the "fight room" and do not come out until it is worked out.

Treat Everyone Equal

The quickest trap an adult can get into is trying to investigate who started the fight, and who said what and then what caused the escalating issue.

Taking sides or doling out punishment differently sets the stage for labeling victims and bullies. In most cases, the punishment should be the same: no exceptions. Again, the goal is to take the challenge out of fighting and strip any initiative for "winning" or "losing" a fight.

Minimize Occasions for Fighting

Consider all the reasons kids fight, and do what you can to eliminate those situations. Know when youngsters are at their worst, such as when they're tired or hungry or just had a bad day, and minimize any potential fight zones. Children need to know they are loved equally and are special, regardless of how they act, but that you as an adult feel most happy when they are at their best.

Sometimes a hug is all a kid needs.

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