Why do siblings fight?

Children fight for many reasons; control over personal space and belongings, lack of social experience, need for attention, trying out new roles, boredom, and just for fun! Where there is more than one child in a family, and any two of the children are closer in age than 6 years, there’s bound to be conflict of some degree between them. Sibling fighting, like marital arguments, is simply inevitable and just as normal. Young children battle it out by pushing and hitting. Older kids shout.  The bickering can often make you feel like bad parents—particularly when it happens in public. You are not bad parents of course, but if you can begin to see these situations as learning opportunities for your children instead of punishable moments, you will feel less stressed and you may even be able to avoid some of the squabbles.


Even though fighting jangles your nerves, realise there are hidden benefits. Your children have the opportunity with every scuffle to learn to solve conflicts on their own and resolve their differences. But understand, you can’t ignore every battle. Sometimes they really do need your help.


When a fight ensues, you have three options:

  • Step in and end the squabble. Take this approach when one child is unmercifully teasing, bullying, or hurting the other. Separate the fighters and say, “I love you both. I won’t allow you to hurt each other.”
  • Teach them skills for managing the conflict. Suggest strategies for trading or taking turns, such as using a timer to determine when time is up for each turn-taker.
  • Allow them to resolve the conflict themselves. Even if the older one is clearly taking advantage of, but not hurting the younger, stay out of it. How else will the younger child learn to stand up for himself? 

    Children’s conflict is natural, as siblings fall out with each other and compete for their parent’s attention.  With Schoolhouse Daycare Limited’s top tips you can equip your children with the skills and attitudes needed for a fulfilling relationship. This is not always easy to do, but here are some suggestions:
    Teach Supportive Communication
    Help children work out their differences by listening to them and identifying their feelings. When a fight starts, children might feel many emotions, such as anger, frustration, loneliness, sadness, jealousy, or disappointment. Begin by acknowledging your children’s feelings toward each other, e.g. “You both sound really angry at each other.” Listen to each child’s side without making judgments of who is right or wrong. Recognise the difficulty of the situation and express faith in their ability to work things out.
    Focus On Each Child’s Talents 
    Each child is a special and unique person. Children also need to know that the contributions they make to the family are valued. By focusing on the positive talents each child possesses, parents can build the child’s confidence which can lead to stronger family relationships.
    Avoid Comparing Children 
    Children who are compared will often feel resentful and angry both toward their sibling and you.

    Tell your child directly what you want or expect of them without comparing her to her brother/ sister.
    Use Positive Reinforcement
    Parents are role models for their children. If you want your children to be loving toward one another, then we must praise that behaviour when it happens, e.g. “You guys worked as a team, you picked up all the toys before the timer finished.” When we praise positive interactions, the likelihood of the behaviour reoccurring is greater.
    How you deal with sibling squabbles determines how the children treat each other. If you punish them, they will punish each other. If your approach is to work on solving the problem in a mutually respectful way, they will also take the same approach.


    And celebrate your children’s fights! What a great opportunity to teach relationship skills and conflict resolution skills that they are bound to need later in life.

Rachel Burley, Nursery Advisor

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