What To Do When Your Kids Fight

You feel ‘wow’ when you see your children cordially playing with each other. A minute later, you see them yelling and throwing things at each other. Gosh! Wondering what to do? Read on.

By Arun Sharma

What To Do When Your Kids Fight

Adults usually assume that being born to the same parents will make siblings naturally love and respect each other. Well, nothing can be further from the truth. Positive and negative emotions are a natural part of every relationship, and the relationship between siblings is no exception. But, the key is to give a positive shape to sibling relationships. Who better than parents to help do that.

Having said that, you may be clueless when it comes to helping your children develop a closer relationship with each other. You are filled with questions in your mind about how to bring your children closer together in their relationship. Should you make your children always share their possessions with each other? Should you make them sleep in the same room? Should your elder child carry the responsibility of taking care of the younger one? Well, you’re not alone. There are many parents who struggle when it comes to managing conflicts between siblings.

Sibling relationships – interesting facts

  1. Most parents show a preference for one sibling over another
  2. Siblings spend more time together than with others
  3. Having an older sibling makes the younger child smarter
  4. Younger siblings are likely more extroverted than older siblings
  5. Older siblings tend to have slightly higher IQs
  6. Having siblings helps children develop better social skills
  7. Siblings at home reduces the likelihood of parental divorce
  8. Siblings share unhealthy habits with each other
  9. Middle-born children are the ones who usually compromise
  10. Fights between siblings are natural and can’t be wished away

Sibling statement

My sister and I

My sister is three years older than me. When we were young, my house used to be a battleground – powder tins and notebooks used to fly like UFOs in the house. Now I'm 25 and working. I hardly have the time to speak to her. Now I look back and miss those times. I guess the fights only helped us bond better. — Balaji, Chennai

What you can do to resolve conflicts between siblings and foster good relationships

It is not easy for children to get along, as they do not have the skills necessary to resolve conflicts and make things work. But, as a parent, you have the power to influence sibling relationships. You can coach your children on how to resolve conflicts and stop the fights. Here’s what you should do:

1. Show empathy:

a. Stay calm, don’t react: The everyday cacophony of fights, tears and complaints can drive you to the edge. But, this is not the time to lose patience. Remember, you have an important task at hand.

b. Don’t take sides: Each of the siblings (up in arms against the other) expects you to play the judge and deliver the judgement in her favour. Don’t prove this expectation right by taking sides or punishing one of the siblings.

c. Talk about what you see: When siblings come to you expecting a resolution to the problem, begin by talking about what you observe. For example, “Arjun, I can see that you pinched Tanya and she pushed you to the ground.”

d. Understand their feelings: To diffuse the situation, help your children calm down first. Ensure you tell them you understand their feelings.

2. Encourage communication:

a. Coach them to listen: As a first step, begin training your children to listen to each other’s point of view without interrupting the person who is speaking.

b. Help them understand feelings: To do this, one by one, ask each of your children what he thinks his sibling may be feeling at the moment of conflict.

c. Show them how to express feelings: Equip your children with the right vocabulary and technique to express their feelings. For example, Tanya can say, “Arjun, I don’t like being hit as it hurts me.”

3. Teach problem-solving:

A good understanding of problem-solving skills is important to prevent conflicts from escalating. So, teach your children to resolve conflicts. Listen to the problems they voice against each other and handhold them towards finding an amicable solution. With time, your children will learn how to do it on their own.

4. Apply the healing touch:

Help siblings understand how to make up with each other after they have been in a fight. Also, make them understand how badly hurt the other sibling feels when unpleasant words are exchanged, or meanspirited behaviour is displayed. This will help siblings act with restraint.

What triggers sibling rivalry?

  • Unequal treatment by parents
  • Feelings of jealousy
  • Lack of clarity on who is in charge at home – parents or the children?
  • Lack of problem-solving ability
  • Lower age difference among siblings

Sibling rivalry can: 

  • Adversely affect self-identity and emotional growth
  • Increase violent behaviour
  • Diminish social skill levels
  • Increase stress and frustration
  • Negatively impact mental health

How strong bonding helps siblings

When siblings have a good relationship with each other, it:

  1. Makes them understand each other better
  2. Helps them act as emotional anchors
  3. Fosters unity in the family
  4. Helps them learn from each other
  5. Instils in them the need to support and encourage each other
  6. Makes them comfort each other during times of crisis
  7. Prepares them to act as a sounding board
  8. Fosters values of selflessness and empathy
  9. Helps them feel happier and thus, stay healthy

Tips to strengthen the bond

Games and outdoor activities that siblings can do together are effective ways to foster close relationships between them. Here are a few ideas:

  • Going on a scavenger hunt
  • Playing water games
  • Engaging in messy play
  • Reading to each other
  • Planting a garden together
  • Planning a picnic
  • Competing together against parents
  • Dancing to music

When nothing works

While solutions are meant to work, there is no rule that says every solution must work. So, when all your attempts to resolve the conflict fall flat, come up with some wild and creative ideas to distract your children from the situation. For example, get your children to write all the bad names they called each other. You can also infuse humour to help ease the tension, or come up with a fun game to play – siblings versus parents always works.

Sibling rivalry is absolutely normal. What's important is to teach children how to respect and understand each other, and resolve conflicts by themselves. So, don't worry if they fight; they will start playing together in no time.

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