Mom used to always say:
“You can’t just have one kid. You’ve got to have two so they can fight!”
Maybe that’s just an old, overused joke, but it has the ring of truth sometimes. If you have two or more children, fighting is probably something you’ve dealt with.
How do you stop your kids from fighting with each other?
Even if you try to be the best example you can – remaining calm in traffic, having respectful discussions with your spouse, and never raising your voice – siblings still fight.
Let’s approach this problem constructively:
Why Do Siblings Fight So Much?
Being a child is hard.
Everything in the world is new, and you’re still learning the correct way to be a person.
Learning to handle emotions, express thoughts, and persuade others to do what we’d like in a respectful way is difficult for children. It takes time, effort, guidance, and repetition, and all the while, you’re leading your child closer to emotional maturity.
Just think of all the adults you know that never quite mastered emotional maturity!
Children fight with each other because they’re struggling to express something, because they’re learning to handle boredom or irritation, and because they don’t yet have the tools to handle conflit and disagreement.
Of course, that doesn’t make it much easier to bear.
When you’re looking for constructive ways to get your kids to stop fighting, try these things.
Ways to Stop Your Kids From Fighting
Preventing a fight in the first place is always ideal, though you’re probably not going to be able to stop all future arguments.
Rather than aiming for perfection, strive to create an environment in which your children have the tools they need to resolve conflicts, and practice keeping your head when you need to step in and resolve something yourself.
Here are some Dos and Don’ts to help you reduce fighting in your household:
Do These Things
Do give each kid lots of individual, one-on-one attention. Kids who feel loved and accepted for themselves are less likely to flare up and fight with siblings. While a little jealousy is inevitable, scheduling individual time with each of your children helps diffuse those resentments.
Do step in when you sense a fight might be brewing. Give them something new to occupy their attention, diffuse the situation, and separate them as needed.
Do give each of your children plenty of personal space. Children should not have to share everything. They shouldn’t even be forced to share most of their things. Be sure that each child has a designated space that is his or hers.
Do separate children when they are tired, hungry, or otherwise irritable.
Do teach even young children about negotiation and problem-solving. It’s going to take lots of repetition before things really sink in. Do it anyway.
Do set and enforce rules about respectful behavior in your home. That means that you and your spouse follow them, too!
Do empathize. Helping your children name their emotions is a big part of developing emotional maturity. Try saying things like “You’re angry right now because your sister took your toys.” Then help them further by giving them a constructive way to process that emotion.
DON’T Do These Things
Don’t compare your children to each other or to any other child. Each of your children is an individual, and by treating them like unique humans, they’ll have an easier time developing self esteem and a sense of identity.
Don’t give older children responsibility for their younger siblings. You are the parent, and your children don’t have rank. When children try to discipline their siblings, thank them for their help in remembering and following the family rules and remind them that it’s the parent’s job to be in charge.
Don’t physically punish your children. It’s hard to explain that hitting and fighting are the wrong way to express anger if you hit your kids. Positive reinforcement teaches cooperation, while punishment shows children that coercion is the way they can get what they want.
Don’t fight with your spouse in front of your children. What you do is always more powerful than what you say.
Don’t force your children to share their belongings. Be clear and consistent about what belongs to each child, what belongs to the household, and what they shouldn’t touch at all.
Don’t lose your cool and shout to be heard over your children’s fighting. If you need to step away for a second to regain your composure, do it. Remember, you’re teaching your kids how to channel and manage their emotions, and that might mean you need a refresher yourself!