How To Stop Sibling Fighting

By Danielle Wirsansky on April 20, 2021

Children tend to fight and squabble, but with no one more than their own siblings. They love each other but they often do not like each other and the sibling dynamic can sometimes be difficult to navigate. They tease, they quarrel, they bicker. Their energies are chaotic and it can be hard to wrangle them and keep them calm. What can you do to help keep the peace? Read on to learn some strategies on how to stop sibling fighting.

Photo by Nicholas Githiri from Pexels

Create a Safe Space

A great strategy to implement (for all children and not just in households with sibling rivalries) is creating a safe space (or place) for a child. This is a strategy of Conscious Discipline, which is “an evidence-based, trauma-informed approach” to working with children. You do not need to be an expert in Conscious Discipline to utilize the safe space strategy, and if you see the benefits of it, it might be a great gateway into using more Conscious Discipline approaches.

Back to the safe space- Conscious Discipline describes how it works:

“All learning occurs in the higher centers of the brain. Emotional upset —which is often acted out through behaviors like crying, hiding, yelling, whining, stomping, and hitting — is an indicator that a child is in a lower brain state. If our goal is for children to learn, we must help them manage their emotions first. The Safe Place is a self-regulation center from Conscious Discipline that children use in the classroom or at home in order to recognize they’re upset and then calm themselves. Distance Learning can be challenging; a Safe Place can help children notice, honor, and manage their emotions so they can return to a learning brain state (an Executive State).”

You can create a safe space in your home for your children to use to help themselves regulate their emotions. It is not a place where they are sent for time out or to be used as punishment. It is a place to go where they can be alone, self-soothe, breathe, and most importantly reflect so that they can identify (if possible) what they are feeling and why, as well as work to calm themselves and get themselves on better emotional footing.

Creating a safe space will give the children a place to go when they are upset by their sibling, when they get jealous or sad, when they do not feel like sharing, or anything else that their sibling can set off for them. Having this space set aside for them really helps children be able to bloom and be able to understand what they are feeling and then take the steps that they need to calm down.

Teach Them to be Verbal

One of the main reasons that siblings can have disagreements is because they are not being verbal enough and communicating with each other. Maybe one wants a turn with the truck but the one with the truck does not know that. Rather than having the child snatch it from the other one, help them to learn how to appropriately communicate. Teach them to say, “My turn, please.”

If one child accidentally knocks the other one, teach them to check in on the one who has fallen. Have them ask the one who has fallen, “You okay?” Let them offer to make amends. Teach them to apologize and to find ways to comfort the one who is upset. They can say “sorry.” They can offer a hug or hold hands.

If your child is able to talk, teach them to be more verbal and to communicate with each other effectively. Even verbal one or two-year-olds can get the hang of this, so do not be afraid to start working on this even when children are young. The earlier you start, the better a foundation for communication you are building.

Give Them Choices

Finally, learn to give children choices, especially in conflict situations like when they are bickering with a sibling. Give them two choices that you are comfortable with, tell them to choose, and that if they cannot choose that you will choose for them. For example, if one sibling does not want to share their toy with the other sibling, you can offer them two choices. You can say, “You may play with this toy for five more minutes and then allow your sibling to have a turn, or you may play together.”

Allowing the child to choose helps them to feel independent and like they have a voice and some autonomy. Just be careful not to give them too many choices or they may get overwhelmed or try to compromise.

Just remember that all siblings fight on occasion and there is nothing you can do to completely eliminate it. But implanting these strategies, and others like them, will definitely help your children regulate and handle themselves better not only with their own siblings but with all children.

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