Inside: Jealousy, conflict, tears, and fights. What’s a mama to do when every day is full of sibling rivalry? These tried-and-true secrets will help you make a game plan to stop siblings fighting. Ready for more peace in your home? Read on!
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Another squeal came from the living room. As I bent my head over my sink full of dishes, I offered up a silent prayer. “Lord, give me patience.”
You see those adorable children were at it again. Yes, the same ones who just moments before had been cozied up on the couch looking at picture books together.
How do the tides turn so quickly when it comes to siblings fighting?
Surely I’m not alone in this. One minute they are insperable. She’s the jelly to his peanut butter. But in the span of a spilt second someone is crying and someone else is mad.
Sibling conflict makes me chuckle at my happy-go-lucky one-child former self.
Yet as frustrating as sibling rivalry is, it’s nothing new under the sun. Remember Cain and Able? Joseph and his brothers?
Thousands of years later, and yet here we are. Mama, what are we going to do about all this sibling conflict?
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Why do Siblings Fight?
It seems like all siblings have conflict at some point or another. But why do they do it?
In parenting, it’s often helpful to look under the surface. What’s the real root cause of the behavior? Bad behavior is often just a symptom of the bigger issue.
When it comes to siblings fighting, there may be more than one issue underneath the surface. Take a look at the list below. Do any of these strike close to home for your children?
- They’re unsure of their place in the family.
- They don’t feel accepted.
- They lack emotional control.
- They don’t know how to “fix it” without “losing it”.
- They don’t know how to honor their sibling.
- They have a habit of giving in to plain old selfishness!
Which of these root causes is at play when your children fight? Make a note and keep this in mind whenever you address sibling battles.
Make a Plan to Stop Siblings Fighting!
Here’s the good news and the bad news all rolled up into one. Stopping sibling conflict is a long-term game. This is bad news because, let’s face it… sibling conflict won’t end overnight. Sigh…
But it’s also great news! You have years to teach your kids how to treat each other kindly. If things get worse for a bit, or if you feel you messed up, you won’t worry, because you know that consistent and loving instruction always wins in the end.
My kids are still little. We’ve only been dealing with siblings fighting for a few years. I’m learning right beside you!
So I asked my parents and other seasoned veterans of sibling conflict for their advice.
When we boil it down, it’s really not that complicated. Is it easy? No, but nothing worth doing ever is, right? Here’s your (long-term) plan to stop siblings fighting and raise kids who love and support each other!
#1: Make Each Child Feel Accepted
Celebrate the Uniqueness of Each Child
Often as parents we dream of our children being little cookie-cutter versions of ourselves. We’re completely mystified when they turn out to be their own person!
When children don’t feel accepted for who they are, they often lash out at their family. Little arguments turn into big battles because that foundation of identify and accpetance is missing.
It’s like they’re trying to juggle life, siblings, and conflict all while balancing on a flimsy, wobbly balance beam. Acceptance gives your child a firm foundation to stand on!
Accepting your children doesn’t mean you have to turn a blind eye to their sin or personality weaknesses. It just means that you tell your kids through words and actions that you are on their team. That they will always belong in your family, no matter what. You’ll always be there to love them and help them grow.
So find ways to celebrate the uniqueness of each child! If you’ve got a jokester, applaud her comedy at the dinner table. If you’ve got a thinker, ask for a daily family update on what he’s exploring and learning.
Get involved and find out what makes each child special!
Don’t Compare Your Kids in Public
One of the beautiful things about parenting is that you truely do love each child equally. But just because you love each equally, some kids still take more intentional effort and wisdom to raise.
- Some kids are more strong-willed.
- Some are more emotional.
- Some are shy.
- Some can’t hold still easily.
- Some are more impulsive.
The time to discuss your children is behind closed doors with your spouse, close friend, or mentor.
When you protect your children from comparison you enable them to become who they are really meant to be.
I’m sure most modern parents would never consciously lable one child “the smart one” and another “the slow one.” But be guarded against other little labels that may creep in.
It’s always a great idea to evaluate areas that your kids need to work on, but evaluate these in private. In public, be sure that your kids know you have 100% confidence in them. They need to know that you won’t undermine them by constant comparisons.
Teach this Verse: I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139: 14
#2: Teach Respectful Conflict Resolution
Your child’s prefrontal cortex isn’t fully developed until at least age 25. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain responsible for reasoning, logic, problem-solving, and impulse control.
These skills are so helpful for conflict resolution! But just because their physical abilities are not yet fully developed doesn’t mean that you can’t teach conflict resolution even in those early years.
He may be a little boy, but even little boys can listen to the Holy Spirit. She may be a litte girl, but even little girls can love like Jesus.
Here are some helpful tips for teaching conflict resolution:
- Actually teach it! Don’t expect your children to know how to resolve conflict by themselves. Step in when conflict arises and map how how they can respond and solve the problem.
- Don’t move on until they communicate respectfully to each other. That means putting aside whatever the family is doing to correct the heart attitudes first.
- If the fight is physical, remove them to separate rooms or spaces for a calm down period. Once they are calm, then bring your kids back together to solve the conflict.
So what can you actually say to teach sibling conflict resolution? We love these simple phrases to encourage our kids to get along.
- They must apoligize to each other. “I’m sorry” in a pouty voice just won’t cut it. Teach your kids to mean what they say, “I’m sorry for…” If it isn’t spoken kindly, they’ll have to try again.
- Help them find solutions by asking questions: “What problem can you solve together? How can you compromise? What are you going to do to fix this? What is a gentle word you could say instead?”
- If one child wants the toy the other is holding, we use the two minute rule: “May I play with that when you’re done?” “Yes, in two minutes please.” Two minutes give the child with the toy enough time to finish playing and not feel like his sibling can boss him around. But it’s short enough to discourage toy-hogging and encourage generosity!
- If the kids use hurtful words, they must build each other up. For every hurtful thing they said to their sibling, they must say three uplifting and loving things. “I love the way you…. I think you’re great at…”
Teach this Verse: A gentle word deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. Proverbs 15: 1
RELATED: Click here to enroll in a FREE webinar: How to get kids to listen without nagging, reminding, or yelling. Don’t miss a chance to join parenting expert Amy McCready of Positive Parenting Solutions for a powerful, FUN, interactive, answer-filled hour of tools you can start using IMMEDIATELY in your home.
#3: Create a Culture of Honor
If you really want to get to the heart of it, stopping sibling rivalry is all about teaching your kids to honor each other.
Honor simply means to show another person respect because of who they are. It means recognizing someone’s value and acting accordingly.
Sure, we show honor to leaders and important figures. But does your family honor each other?
Here’s the hard truth. Often, those we are closest to receive the worst of ourselves. Our family gets version of ourselves that the rest of the world wouldn’t like to see.
When it comes to siblings fighting, the same holds true. Siblings have conflict because they don’t honor each other.
So what’s the solution? Make it your mission to create a culture of honor in your home.
- Talk specifically about honor and what it looks like.
- Describe how each member of the family is created in God’s image.
- Explain how showing honor means humbling yourself and putting others first.
I started trying this with my son and his cousin. They’re about the same age, which of course means they love the same toys and want the same things at the same time.
One day, when they started to fight over a toy, I gave them a challenge. “God says to outdo each other showing honor. Let’s have a contest, who can show the most honor right now?”
Instantly their attitudes changed. “Can I give you my toy? How about if I give you two of my toys? What if we did this together?”
I was blown away! With boys a little competition goes a long way, so why not compete to show honor in your family?
Teach this Verse: Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12: 10
Want to jumpstart your family in living God’s way? You’ll love the resources I’ve got for you in the shop! Check out one of my favorite tools: 31 Days of Proverbs for Little Ones. Dive into wisdom with even the littlest learners!
Remember this about Sibling Rivalry…
Remember, this is a long term game. Little squabbles will still pop up from day to day.
That doesn’t mean your kids will grow up to be enemies. It means they’re human. It means they make mistakes, take offence, and harbor pride just like the rest of us.
Focus on creating this long-term culture of honor, acceptance, and love. It may be a journey, but it will pay off in the end!
What are your biggest struggles in your family with siblings fighting? What solutions are you using to stop sibling rivalry?
Share your expereince below in the comments!