They’re driving you crazy. The yelling. The screaming. Here’s a quick way on how to stop sibling fighting in your home.
Without warning, your 3-year-old daughter lashes out and hits her baby brother. Or maybe your four-year-old son yells at his 9-year-old sister and then snaps the head off her Monster High doll.
You wish this was a one-off occurrence. But, no…
Something like this happens EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
“Be nice to your sister,” you plead.
“OH MY GOD!! Don’t hurt the baby!”
When will it end? Nothing is helping.
In fact, the nicer you ask them to be to each other, the more belligerent they become.
Don’t you wish you knew how to get your kids to stop fighting?
How did you deal with sibling rivalry?
First, let’s think back.
Do you have a sibling?
My little sister is 7 years younger than I am.
One day, we were playing in the backyard and I said something that made her mad. To get back at me, she planted her toddler jaws into the fleshy part of my tricep.
When I tried to lift my arm up and away, she held tight like a little piranha, her feet dangled six inches from the ground.
We got into constant fights.
From my experience, she was the young and cute one – always in pigtails and looking so pretty.
I, on the other hand, was just entering puberty. Clothes suddenly pinched my waist, I never knew what to say to my peers and I hated that my sister took all my parents attention.
So, I excluded her. Told her to get out of my room. Refused to play with her and…
…tattled on every little bad thing she did.
I hit her too when I got mad.
I did exactly what I don’t want my kids to do.
But what’s the alternative? Ask them to be nice all the time?
Actually, that might exacerbate the situation more.
How to stop sibling fighting
(FYI: For your convenience, this post may include affiliate links to products and books I find useful. They cost you nothing more to buy, but I may get a small commission.)
According to the book, Siblings Without Rivalry, the bad feelings need to come out before the good feelings can come in.
This means that we as parents need to acknowledge the hateful, vengeful feelings between our kids before there can be any chance of harmony.
What?!? Do you mean that my kids yelling at each other is not only completely normal, but ideal?
Yep. Well, to a certain extent.
Need to acknowledge the bad feelings
Just like adults, when kids hold all of their emotions inside, they’re likely to explode in some other way.
For instance, when I’m having a completely sucky day – those days when no one is visiting my blog, the dog used the dining room floor as her personal commode, the kitchen drain is clogged – and I try to maintain a happy exterior.
One of three things will happen, I’ll:
- drink my weight in wine,
- eat my entire kitchen, or
- yell at my kids if they even look at me the wrong way.
All those negative feelings – that I have every right to feel – come out in horrible, awful, no-good, very bad ways.
We need positive ways to let our feelings out just like our kids need ways to express how they feel about their sister or brother.
How to Stop Sibling Fighting With Words
From a very early age, we as women are told to be nice.
That doesn’t exactly work when it comes to mental health.
Women tend to ruminate more than men. Whereas men turn their problems into anger and substance abuse, women tend to hold it all inside and blame themselves – thus causing depression.
Now, I’m not saying that either way is good. Both sexes could use guidance on how to better deal with emotions.
Why not teach our kids this skill at a young age? We benefit in two ways:
- it helps our kids stop fighting, and
- they’ll have a process they can use the rest of their life.
Here’s how to do it.
Last week, my son screamed at his sister while unloading the dishwasher:
“STOP IT, SISSY!! YOU ARE SO RUDE!! I DON’T LIKE YOU!”
And I responded,
“Stop yelling at your sister! Can’t you two just along?”
Ummm… ya, that didn’t help the situation one bit.
My son was furious and that’s completely OK. And, we need to show our kids how to release their feelings without attacking the other person.
Instead, I could have said,
“WOW! You sound furious at your sister. And you used your words to tell her how mad you were.”
Now, say instead of yelling at her, he hit her or he called her a name like “stupid” or a “jerk”.
Then, we can step in, stop the behavior and say something like:
“Whoa, no hitting and name calling in our house! You sound mad! Tell her in a way without hitting or name calling.”
How to Handle Sibling Fighting With Wishes
When we can’t give our kids what they want in reality, we can always find a way to give it in fantasy.
For example, I was busy typing in our office upstairs, when my daughter came in:
“MOM! Erik threw my doll across the room!”
My first inclination as a parent: “Ignore him. He’s just trying to get your attention.”
How many times were we told this as kids? And did “ignoring him” make the situation any better?
No way! Our siblings still took our dolls and threw them across the room.
Instead, I could answer –
“That is frustrating. You sound mad. You wish he would stop throwing your dolls and apologize.”
Notice that this doesn’t require any compliance from my son – something I probably wouldn’t get immediately anyway.
But giving my daughter’s feelings a name and saying aloud what she wishes would happen shows that I understand what she’s feeling – even if her brother does not.
Deal with sibling rivalry through a creative or symbolic act
When kids are mad, they need an outlet.
Creativity is one of the best emotional outlets there is.
Some ideas for how your son or daughter can handle their emotions towards their siblings:
- Draw on a piece of paper
- Write exactly how they feel
- Use a pillow to show what they want to do to their sibling (Warning: This may shock you, but remember them hitting a pillow is in place of what they would do to their brother or sister)
At first, your kids might resist doing something like this.
Since kids tend to copy their parent’s behavior, show them how you use creativity to release your own negative emotions.
Laundry repairman charging you for a job that he didn’t finish? Draw an ugly picture of him with dollar signs for eyes.
Mad at your 10-year-old for always leaving clothes on the floor? Write her a note.
Chances are, the next time your children are mad, they will use the form of expression that you modeled to deal with it.
Pretty cool how much influence we can have on our kids…
The next time your kids start to argue, stop sibling fighting by allowing each child to express their negative emotions.
Show them how they can use their words, give them their wishes in fantasy and model how to creatively express their emotions.
You’ll be surprised how the simple act of releasing bad feelings is one of the best sibling fighting solutions there is.