Fighting Like Cats and Dogs: Dealing With Sibling Fights

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Siblings fighting over remote control at home, brother and sister have quarrel, copy space

Whoever said that it was easier to raise two children than one probably didn’t have any kids at all. Raising kids is hard work at the best of times, but when you’re dealing with sibling fights, that’s something else. 

Not even the wisest parent has found the solution for these battles, but that doesn’t mean that they’re inevitable.

We tend to forget that we were kids once, and so should know when our kids try to hide stuff. We know perfectly well that we used to try and blame any disasters on the weakest link sibling. And yet, as parents, we seem to have forgotten this diversionary tactic or don’t notice when our kids use it.  

When it comes to actively parenting our kids, sometimes we can be our own worst enemy. It’s easy to say that we are fair parents, that we don’t have favorites or discriminate between our children. 

But can we honestly say that we never automatically believe the “good kid” when they tell their version of events? 

What about when the designated “naughty kid” tries tearfully to defend themselves against accusations brought by the good kid? If parents rely on their previous conceptions, they might not be fair. Not only do they have to compete with each other, but with their parents’ often unconscious bias. 

Our first significant relationships are within our families – parents AND those pesky siblings who share mom and dad’s attention. We have to learn to get on with them – they aren’t going anywhere (and if they do, that’s a tragedy). And as parents, it’s impossible to stop sibling fights, because these tend to be an innate part of being human. 

Join Twin Cities Kids Club for access to local discounts and tips and tricks for parenting in these crazy times.

Two little kids, brother and sister fighting over a toy. the conflict between children.

Why Do Siblings Fight?

Siblings fight for the same reason as the sky is the color it is. Atmosphere, weather, science, and the like all play a part, but the bottom line is, they just do. They share space, time, DNA usually, rooms often, pets, food, experiences, clothing, and most importantly, parents. 

Sharing room or space is a biggie because kids tend to value having something that is “mine”. When one child has a special space, and another child decides that “sharing is caring” that won’t go down well. You may have your opinion of who should own the space, but that’s not the point.  

Sharing clothes, especially if the outfit isn’t ready to be handed down, is another interesting cause of sibling fights. Were you aware that this jacket was a particular favorite of the child you’ve just taken it from? You soon will be, when said jacket is forcibly removed from the body of the child laying claim to it. 

However, having siblings help children learn conflict resolution in a real way.

At home. Children fighting, pulling on tablet, trying to take it from each other and feeling aggressive

My Parent, The Peacemaker

The problem with sibling fights is that you are supposed to be neutral, wise, and the final arbiter. This can put you in an untenable position because it means having a winner and a loser. Which in time, will lead to more fighting because children are masters at grudge-holding, revenge, and have long memories. 

So what can you do when the inevitable happens, and your little darlings don’t play nicely all the time? 

  1. Pick your battles. It’s a good idea not to intervene in ALL of the sibling fights because they won’t thank you for this. Just as importantly, children need to learn how to resolve problems without intervention or referees. You don’t have to hover over every argument they have, just the ones that are likely to be damaging.
  2. Don’t pick a side. One of the things siblings hold against each other is when mom or dad favors one child over the other. Their perception may not be accurate, but don’t fan the flames by deciding on the issues too soon. Kids need to know that their parents are unbiased and prepared to hear both sides. 
  3. Listen to all parties. Let each child speak, with no interruptions from the other party or parties, and listen to what they are saying. Don’t make any assumptions or ask questions that are perceived as unfair, biased, or likely to increase tension. Most importantly, don’t make a decision until all parties have had a chance to state their case and raise any counterclaims.  

Two little siblings fighting with each other at park - Kids hitting and pulling dress due to conflict at school

Physical Versus Emotional Fights

How serious are your children when they fight? Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that fights resulting in physical damage are the only ones worth worrying about. While kids may get a few bruises in a physical skirmish, mental bruises can be as damaging, and last longer. 

Time for Time Out

If the children won’t stop fighting, is physical separation, even for a short time, feasible? Sometimes all kids need is space, and time out is as good a method as any. Give them time to calm down, think about things, and you may find that the fights resolve themselves. 

Create Limits

Set boundaries for acceptable behavior, and don’t let any child cross that boundary. Make sure that all the children know that the boundaries apply equally. The last thing you want to do is give one sibling bragging rights over the others. 

Don’t Go Down The Rabbit Hole…

Every argument tends to have more than one issue, so try to concentrate on the main one. However, don’t forget about any secondary or less important problems that might come up in the argument. Put these to one side, and talk about them later when things have calmed down. 

“No Blame” Philosophy

Don’t scapegoat one child at the expense of the other. Real or perceived favoritism is a surefire way for your child not to trust you when it comes to settling arguments. Make sure they can see you addressing the problem, not the child. 

Two little mad angry girls sisters having fight at home. Friends girls can not share toy bag. Lifestyle authentic funny family moment of siblings quarrel. Kids bad behaviour.

Keep Kids Entertained

While boredom isn’t necessarily the root cause of sibling fights, it doesn’t help. If the kids stay entertained, they are less likely to fight with each other. And spending time with other kids may help them to appreciate those people they have to share their home with.

Check here for more about birth order and how that affects your children, as well.

Sign up for membership at Twin City Kids Club and let your children loose on the many adventures available. Let them pair up on the tiger tours or compete in the swim races as a team. It’s a good a way as any to remind them that having siblings can come in handy at times.

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