It's every parents' dream for all the children to get along. Who would not want peace and harmony in the home? However, the reality is conflicts happen in the house because of different personalities and temperaments. One-minute siblings get along happily; then siblings fight the next minute.

Instead of feeling stressed out, you can realign your focus and energy in helping foster healthy relationships in your home. 

Why Do Siblings Fight?

Fights can range from a simple disagreement to a physical fight and can stem from various reasons.  Toddlers and even teenagers have conflicts too.

Here are some of the reasons for the fights at home.

1.     Jealousy

When a child feels he/she does not get the same attention or affection, the kid may feel unhappy, jealousy, and even anger.  Envy often shows up as aggression or withdrawal. In addition, it may lead to sibling rivalry and comparison.  Every milestone, achievement, and action may feel like a competition that they have to win.

If a child has special needs or is not feeling well, he/she gets more of the parents' or caregivers' attention.  

2. Unmet Needs 

Hunger, discomforts, and tiredness can cause kids to be cranky and sensitive. Likewise, when kids feel unwell, they may feel more sensitive and irritated.

3. Interests 

You may have tons of toys or books at home, but the kids seem to like the same thing.  Can you relate to this?

Because younger children do not yet know how to regulate their emotions and may not be aware of the concept of sharing, they fight over the same thing.

On the other hand, older kids may not get along because they cannot find anything in common or see eye to eye.

4. Temperaments 

Every person is unique.  We all have different personalities, temperaments, and moods.  The difference in the characters may cause children not to get along.

5. Environment 

If the kids grow up in a home where parents argue, shout, or hit each other, they will copy this behaviour.  Children pick up on what they see daily, so they will quickly pick it up if they hear the bickering and foul words.

They will interpret that shouting or hitting is the best way to resolve issues.

How to Avoid Fights At Home

1. Attend to Your Children's needs

The children have physical and emotional needs that only you can provide.

Ensure the children are clean and well-nourished.  Equally important is spending quality and uninterrupted time with each child.  In this digital age, it's pretty easy to get distracted by gadgets and different technologies.  However, never neglect your child's need to have one-on-one time with you. 

Fill up their love bank by spending time with each of your children.  It can be any activity that you both enjoy doing together.  It can be as simple as having a picnic in your backyard, reading books together, or making snacks.  If you give your undivided attention, it will make them feel loved.

2. Treat every child fairly.

Jealousy can spark conflict.  When your child sees you favour his/her sibling over him/her, he may feel unloved, not accepted, or not good enough. In addition, poor self-esteem and self-confidence may cause the child to be aggressive and have negative feelings towards his/her sibling.

To avoid causing sibling rivalry, ensure that you give your kids the same level of attention and affection. For example, avoid giving special treatments or favouring one over the other. 

3. Implement family and house rules consistently.

Rules make it easier for kids to discern right and wrong. Also, when there is a set of rules, it is easy to remind them of them.

If you don't have house rules yet, you can involve your kids in drafting the rules. Then, when they are part of the process, they can feel that they have a voice and remember the rules better. 

Here are some other tips to assist your family makes the rules.

·       Ensure to phrase the rules positively by starting with an action word instead of stating it with "Don't."

·       Place the rules on the wall or an area that can be easily seen.

·       Agree on the consequences.

Once you have drafted the rules, ensure that you implement them consistently.  If they violate the rules, talk to them nicely and remind them of the rules. Finally, implement the consequences that were also agreed upon.

4. Routines. Routines. Routines. 

There are lesser arguments when the children have routines in place.  The routines should incorporate chores, assignments, play, and leisure, studying, and meals.

When children know when to throw out the trash or wash the dishes, they avoid the never-ending finger-pointing and fighting.

You can also include family bonding in the routine.  You can have family movie nights, family game nights, or weekend picnics.  Choose an activity that the family members will all enjoy.

5. Acknowledge good deeds.

Some parents tend to pay attention when a child makes a mistake or does something wrong.  Try to shift this attitude.  Instead, you can start noticing your child for the good deeds and achievements he/she makes.  No need to say "Very good!" or "Good job!".  Simply state what he has done can provide them with positive reinforcement to do it again.  For example, you can say, "I see both of you teamed up to pack away the toys" and "You are patiently waiting for your turns at the swing."

6. Be a role model.

Both parents are leaders and models at home.  The way the parents talk and resolve disagreements or conflicts are the lessons in motion.  The children can easily pick up your facial expression, body gestures, word choices, and your tone.  The goal is to show them that the best way to resolve problems is to look at the dilemma and find solutions without shouting or blaming. 

7. Teach anger management.

Help your child by teaching them healthy ways to manage strong emotions such as anger.  Here are some tips on how to help them regulate their feelings.

a.     Teach them to label their emotions.

Introduce the use of words to describe the emotions so they can say them whenever they feel them. 

b.     Acknowledge their feelings.

Let them know that feeling angry or upset is normal, but that does not mean that the actions resulting from the emotion are right. For example, you can say, "It is okay to feel mad, but it is not okay to hurt yourself or other people."

c.     Teach them how to cope with strong emotions.

Coach your kids to deal with difficult situations positively.  Instead of telling them, "Don't do this, or don't do that." Tell them what is the best way to handle it. For example, you can tell to "Use your words," "Step away and breathe."

You can also work with the child to identify specific actions he/she can do to calm down. 

You can find calming activities from our blog post, Mindfulness Activities for the Kids.

What To Do When Siblings Fight?

mixed race little boy and girl hug sitting on couch making peace after fight

1. Allow the kids to resolve the conflict. 

Give your children time to work out their differences.  However, if they still have difficulty managing their emotions and actions or if the fight becomes physical, step in to intercede and mediate.  Separate the kids until they feel calm and then talk about how the conflicts can be resolved.

2. Be Objective and Fair.

Reserve any judgments.  Find out what happened first before jumping to conclusions or taking sides. 

3. Remind the kids about the rules.

Go over the rules that your family has drafted. If a child broke a rule, implement the agreed consequences.  Do not make any special exceptions.

4. Empathize.

Acknowledge the children's feelings but do not tolerate misbehavior.

When to Seek Professional Help

It is best to talk from a mental health professional if the sibling rivalry or the sibling fights:

·       get out of hand and already disrupts day-to-day activities and interactions

·       affect the children's mental health. (If you suspect, depression, anxiety, etc.)

·       it causes marital problems

·       lead to physical harm to self or other family members

If you have concerns about your kid's behaviour, do not hesitate to consult with the doctor.

Tiny Steps

We play, learn, and grow with children.

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