OK, most siblings are going to fight at times, whatever you do!
While you may not be able to stop it entirely, you can reduce the frequency by following the tips below relating to preventing fights between siblings.
Preventing fights between siblings
Here are our top tips for dealing with sibling fights, assuming both are under 6-8 years old:
- Share your time evenly between your children – where possible.
Many, though not all, fights between siblings arise as a result of them attempting to get more attention from their parents or care providers.
You can often see this shortly after you’ve spent some time with James and his sister Claire will very soon afterwards go up and pick a fight over something or other (or vice-versa of course).
- Let them help to define sharing rules.
Quite a few punch-ups will come about as a result of your children disputing ownership of something – most commonly a toy and who is going to play with it. This is quite natural behaviour often linked to establishing a pecking order and isn’t cause for concern in the wider scheme of things.
However, you can help to reduce this by helping them to understand sharing and also to join you in defining sharing rules for use in the home.
- Encourage them to be fair.
Disputes often also arise over perceptions of ‘fair share’. You can see this at the dinner table in squabbles over who has the biggest piece of a pie etc.
One good trick here is to say “one cuts or divides it and the other gets to choose first which piece to take”. Make sure they take turns in the cutting-division and choosing. This puts responsibility back on them to play fair.
- Use rosters/calendars/schedules.
Disputes about whose turn it is (e.g., to choose a TV programme) are very commonplace. They can turn fractious very easily and don’t expect them to remember who had the last turn yesterday!
This can be overcome by having strict (but not totally inflexible) schedules for things like that. Make sure your children can see the schedule and comply with it.
- Stop an older sibling throwing their weight around.
This is often very tricky for parents because an older and physically stronger sibling will sometimes try to enforce their status as ‘top dog’ by being argumentative and domineering with younger children.
This requires patience and educating the older child in respect of their younger siblings. Try to ask them to imagine how they’d feel if a bigger child pushed them around.
- Manage out flash-points.
Going on a long boring car journey with two fractious siblings directly side-by-side in the back seat is a fight waiting to happen.
In that case, try to put someone or something between them. There are many other instances where it might be sensible to provide circumstances that won’t throw them physically together in close proximity for long periods.
- Don’t hesitate to use sanctions.
‘Punishment’ has become a very unfashionable word in some parenting circles but it is sometimes essential if children are to learn that unacceptable behaviours will have negative consequences as they grow up. Sadly, that message can’t always be communicated by reasoned debate where younger children are concerned.
Make sure your children understand that fighting will result in privileges being removed or deferred etc.
Watch out for genuine bullying
In some typically very rare cases, one of your children may show that they are unable to go for any period of time without engaging in fighting with their sibling(s).
This is often, though not exclusively when an older and more powerful child constantly gets their own way by physical force.
In these situations, you should discuss your concerns with your doctor or a child behavioural specialist.