21 answers

How to Handle Sisters Who Constantly Argue?

I have 2 daughters ages 8 and 5. They are able to get along fine until one of them "snaps" and then watch out. They argue and yell at one another. The arguing can be about the smallest of things. Neither is usually innocent. Typically the older one pushes the younger ones buttons...she knows just what to do. The younger one then throws a fit. It is hard to know who is at fault...the button pusher or the tantrum thrower. I like "Love in Logic" parenting, but I can't seem to figure out how to deal with this sort of sibling issue. Summer is fast approaching and I NEED HELP! Any discipline suggestions?

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My cousin use to make her boys hold hands and sit in the corner facing each other for x-amount of time. These two men are the best of friends

I have a simple solution to this at my house... kids who can't play nicely together must work together. I've had them rake the dog pen, clean out trash cans, and pull weeds. I can't think of any other chore I've had to try, they decided after dog doo they would play nicely or just leave eachother alone. I also strongly believe each kid should have a place to retreat to that no other kids are allowed in, it can be a room, a shady tree, or even a small closet with a lamp and some books... sometimes we all just need a little privacy.

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I like my mom's approach to solving the sibling bickering issue. She created an attitude in the house that it wasn't just against the rules, but a bad human trait and not part of our family belief system. It worked. My sister and I became very close and didn't fight very often.

1) BONDING (more of a long term solution) - She found activities that required my sister and I to work together. (Like trust activities, games, chores, challenges, etc.) Also, anytime she had to divide up food like a cake, etc., she'd have one of us show where to cut the pieces and then the other sister got to choose which piece she wants. We never again had the 'she got a bigger piece' fight and we learned that we weren't going to get away with being selfish. Finally, she made it a big deal to cheer for each other (say if one of us was playing in a sport or acting in a play). She said the more we had positive opportunities to work together in every day, casual settings, the less she noticed us fighting.

2) SPEECH (in the moment solution) - Some call it "guilt tripping" but I think of it more as teaching children the importance of sibling respect and love... My mom's attitude (and speech)was always the following (beware, it's long): "You should feel blessed and lucky to have a sister because I was a single child (you could also say, 'there are kids out there who don't have siblings') and I always wished I could have a sister of my own to play with and to tell my secrets to. Someone that would have my back no matter what. Do you realize how nice it is for you to know that when you grow old and all of your friends go off, get married and move away to have families of their own, and something bad happens and you really need someone to talk to, you will always have your sister. Ask yourself right now, would you rather be lonely and sad when you're old or would you rather be happy and with your sister? You better say you'd rather be happy and with your sister or else you're just plain crazy. So whatever is going on right now between you two that makes you feel the need to scream at each other, it better be for a good reason and you better take care of it without including me or I just might punish both of you for not appreciating each other."

That's pretty much the same speech we got every time my sister and I had one of those 'sister fights' (which, by the way, started was when I was 5 and she was 9). I can still hear my mom's finger-shaking tone in my head! While she probably could've stood to have a couple hours of therapy about that sibling issue of hers, she did have a point. And she kept to her word about not getting in the middle of our bickering. Unless it got physical, in which case we were both in serious trouble no matter what, she did not intervene and we knew that we better have a good reason to do it and get it over fast or else we'd get the speech and maybe share a punishment, too.

Looking back, the speech did three things. First, it stopped the fight in the moment because by the time Mom finished talking we just weren't in the mood to scream at each other. (Heck, half the time we couldn't remember why we were fighting by then.) Second, we cut down on fighting because having to hear that speech every time got really annoying really fast. Thirdly, it taught (maybe brainwashed) us to respect and love each other. We became each other's defender and confidante. We pledged to lie to our parents when needed but never to lie to each other. We didn't judge each other. And we kept each other in check. We still do. It worked.

Good luck! Sorry for such a long response but hope it helps!

2 moms found this helpful

We are in the same position with button pushers and tantrum throwers. Instigators, overreactors, escalators. One thing we do for such sibling squabbles is punish all involved. It is fine to have disagreements, we just discourage the yelling, screaming, crying, shrieking, hysterical feuds.

Fair? Maybe not totally at all times, but it prevents us from having to sit in judgment of who is at fault (another process that is never completely fair) and it also encourages the kids to treat each other with respect and attempt to maintain civility even when they disagree. We always let each child tell their side of the story as well and work through how they could have reacted differently.

Of course there are exceptions where one child has clearly committed the transgression, but for the most part this approach works for us - especially in cutting way down on the button pushing.

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When my daughters were younger and fought, we would have "heart checks". Warning, this does take a lot of time and patience on your part, but the rewards (atleast for us) were well worth it. A very short explaination of the process would be for each girl to identify what she did that was inappropriate, how it made her heart feel, and what she will do differently next time. (We explained that we have a connection to God through our hearts, and one way to know if we're being the best person we can be is by doing heart checks. If our heart is happy, we're making good choices. If it's sad, we're not making good choices and need to change our behavior to make good choices.) It's important she only discuss what her inappropriate actions were. That way each is taking responsibility for their actions and not getting into the blame game. (Even difficult to do as adults!) The other rule is they HAVE to respect each other's turn to talk. NO interrupting. The adult's role is to guide the child to identify her feelings and redirect when they begin to blame or argue. Once each has worked through the process, we closed the deal by each apologizing to the other for that specific action, "I'm sorry I hid your stuffed puppy. I'll try to not do it again." I never made my kids hug each other, but I always told each how proud I was of them and hugged each one. Like I said, this takes a lot of time, especially in the beginning. My daughters are 2 years apart and were less than 4 years old when I started it with them. Sorry to ramble...it worked for us and is just a suggestion.

1 mom found this helpful

I have a simple solution to this at my house... kids who can't play nicely together must work together. I've had them rake the dog pen, clean out trash cans, and pull weeds. I can't think of any other chore I've had to try, they decided after dog doo they would play nicely or just leave eachother alone. I also strongly believe each kid should have a place to retreat to that no other kids are allowed in, it can be a room, a shady tree, or even a small closet with a lamp and some books... sometimes we all just need a little privacy.

Before I was married and had children I watched my dear friend work her "magic" on her two boys. They were then about the same ag as your girls. I use the same tactic on my children, now 6+ and 2 1/2.

When the tone becomes hurtful (not playful) first I don't intervene - most of often they will work it out better if I let them, but I turn a mother's ear to the situation so it doesn't become one sided.

Second, if I have to intervene I remind them both that "some day Mommy and Daddy won't be here to help them work through things" and they need to find a way to work it out. "If it can't b resolved quickly I will [take away the toy]; [put you in opposite chairs], [consequences]

Third I look at the example I'm providing for them. Have my husband and I had too many discussions in front of them that they might persevere as fighting. Am I being the role model that I want them to emulate?

As the mother of 9 year old twins, I truly feel your pain! They are constantly arguing. For my peace of mind, I have started sending them to their rooms for "time out to think". Usually after a little while, they are more than happy to get along for awhile anyway. Another things I have done is make them stand in the middle of the living room nose to nose holding each other. Usually after a few minutes, it turns to giggles and laughter, rather than fighting and fit throwing. I don't know if your girls have their own room, but it is also good for them to have their own space (even if only in the corner of the living room and the other the bedroom) so that they can go there and no one will bother them. Sometimes, kids just need space like you and me. When all else fails, get out the water hose, put them in the backyard, and let them have at it!

I'm a mom to an 11 yr old girl and 3 boys ages 9, 6, and 3. In the summers I have my neice who is 10. My 9 yr old and my neice fight alot, my 11 yr old and 9 yr old fight a bit, the 9 yr old and 6 yr old fight, and the 6 yr old and 3 yr old fight. It's pretty much always paired up that way.

I used to be a talker, and intervening all the time when there was an a issue -but all that did was teach my kids that it's MY job to solve all their problems, and took away their personal accountability for the situation.

If it's a matter of hitting, whoever hit loses a priveledge, no discussion, it's just that way. For name calling, they have to write the name 50-100 times (depends ont he name) before they do anything else.

But for the constant arguing and whiny battles - I make my kids clean! When they cannot get along, I pick a room, and tell them to go clean it TOGETHER. I used to send them to their rooms, but all that did was teach them they can run away from and ignore their problem. Now what they are learning is cooperation, they must get the room cleaned, must get it done together, and must be nice. If they continue to argue, they get anotehr room. I feel that it teaches them to get along, to not aruge about the petty things, and frankly they get sick adn tired of cleaning REAL quick! So far, this has been the most effective "behavior modification" in our home, plus my house is cleaner :)

My mother did the cleaning thing when we were that age. She always had a list of chores she never could get to...I particularly remember that my brother and I had to clean every baseboard in the house with a couple of old toothbrushes, starting together and ending in the middle of each room (this was also part of the summer, "Mom, I'm bored!" solution.) Needless to say, we learned to solve some of our own problems and only ask Mom for help when it was really necessary.

OH my gosh, I thought I had posted this one!! My 8 and 5 year old girls fuss about most anything. One thing I will say, in my situation, is that it is actually not usually the oldests who is the problem, yet I tend to punish her too. It is not fair, and I am working on being more careful of that. My 5 year old is a firecracker to say the least, and so, I actually end up grounding them from each other sometimes. I dont want to get in the middle of their squabbles, so I will also at times, leave them to deal with it, but the 5 year old will not back down, so in order for peace to ensue, it is my 8 year old that gives in, and I just dont think it is fair for my youngest always to get her way. So, although I clearly dont have a great answer here, just wanted to let you know tha it is not just your girls, and that maybe a forced separation will help. I am worried about the summer too..ahhh!! Maybe if we put them all together they can duke it all out. JUST KIDDING:) ~A.~

I have four kids and we go through a lot of small disagreements every day. They have had to sit and hold hands while watching a whole TV show, say 10 nice things about each other, do each others chores, or my favorite is that everyone gets a 20 minute time out in their room (myself included!) and add 10 minutes for the next time out in the same day. We also have a lot of drama when the girls get hurt such as a whole melt down over a small accidental hit. So I have the one that hurt do the caring for...getting the cool wash cloth, band-aid, or just hugs and kisses till they feel better.

www.nogreaterjoy.com and the "To Train Up a Child" book with the "No Greater Joy" series by Mike and Debi Pearle. They work very well. They have some good thoughts on discipline and how to help you sort those things out.
good luck,

My cousin use to make her boys hold hands and sit in the corner facing each other for x-amount of time. These two men are the best of friends

I just have a suggestion. Have you ever thought about punishing them both when you do not know who starts it? I know it is not really fair for the both of them to get in trouble, but if you cannot figure out who is at fault maybe it would be best to try this stratagy untill they figure out that it is best to not start anything or untill they can tell you who started the problem.
My son and daughter constantly fight also one is 9 and the other is 6, I know how you feel! I have tryed that and it has helped some, but not completely. Kids will be kids and they will fight no matter what you do! At least mine do!

Good Morning A.,
Someone recently gave me this advice and so far it has worked. I work from home and have 3 daughters (3, 6 & 9) so this advice has came in real handy. If one of them makes the other made or bugs her or whatever they ALL get in trouble (spanking, no movie night, no dessert, etc.) Boy, did that work. At dinner one is usually bugging another and then you hear "mom, she's touching me with her feet"....and on and on. Since I implemented this they all encourage each other to get along.
I hope this helps. Blessings on your day,

I don't have any advice (there are lots of good suggestions already!) but did want to reassure you. I have 2 boys 2 years apart, now 25 and 27. When they were young they fought a ton and being boys lots of time if was physical fighting. There were times I didn't think they'd live to grow up! Today, however, they are great friends and really close. You have a wonderful resource in Mamasource that I didn't have! Good luck!

Have you emailed Love & Logic to ask this question? You can even call and they will respond!

Basically, whatever you decide be consistent and think it through. I didn't have two girls, but I had a sister. I have a daughter and two sons. One thing I did, and I got a lot of flack from ppl for doing it, but I didn't stop, was to talk through the problem. I got involved every time as soon as I could see or hear that there was a problem. I worked through the issue of what happened and who was at fault and the apologies commenced. Now I have an 18, 16, and 11 year old crew who about 95 percent of the time don't argue... is it a lot of work, YES!! A Freaking LOT OF WORK!! but I'm glad I did it then and don't have to deal with near adults having the fights. People who I'd have babysit and housekeepers actually would comment later that they couldn't believe how well my children get along. AC repair guy that I've known for years says "I can't beleive that there are three children in teh house.. nobody's screaming or yelling." This isnt my way of saying that what others have suggested is false, but different things work for different families. This one has been awesome. I think that when this kind of thing didn't work I resorted to punishing the group as mentioned in some of the other replies also time outs and using parenting with love and logic.

Many blessings!!

I was one of those sisters. Being the oldest I could not stand anything my younger sister did. From the time they brought her home I was jeolous. Now at 59 yrs old I am ashamed I felt that way. We are very different people. I was a girly girl and she is a tomboy into horses all her life. But I think what girls need to understand is God loves us all. That our differences are what make us unquic and loving each other and protecting within our family is our way of loving God. You need to nip this in the bud. My sister was closer to my dad and me mom. But I think they need some one on one time alone with parents. We never got it with two boys 8 and 10 yrs younger. My brothers have always been close. They stayed that way all through their lives. Then when my husband divorced me my sister was there fighting for me. She stood up and revealed she loved me. She is also the rock for our mom who is the only one not working to take time out to care for her when she needs it. We are different and raised our children different. When my children rebelled as teens I felt she saw me as a bad parent until it happened to her. She never lets me know about her children who one in each have been really aweful. I think it was the fact she just never knew what I went through until she did. As we mature we realize that family is more precious. I remember my dad coming in from working outside and we quit fighting but with mom yelling at us we kept fighting. I also remember them makins us hold each other and that really does not work. I do not know how they stood us. I had my kids in their own rooms as I thought that was a big problem since I was picky and she was messy.Even as an adult my home was clean and her she never made her beds or ironed her clothes. Her kids cooked for themselves and funny thing all these years they have stayed married for 30 yrs. I did everything from yard work, cooking, cleaning and washing cars. My two husbands cheated on me. I think just get them in a church that will teach them to love each other. Because we are different that needs to be looked at as possitive that we can share and learn from. If some little thing bothers us then we need to talk it out not fight it out. I have two little girls in my day care and the parents are awesome. Those little girls would fight for each other. When one comes in the other is so happy.
Same with some boys I have. My one little 4 yr old says he likes everyone and loves his brother. These are Christian families teaching values to them. Just hang in there and separate them if you can. My kids would still fight across the hall with separate rooms. Hopefully I have given the reasons why and maybe some ways to solve them but refuse to let them hate each other.
Being the biggest sister I never wanted t0 share the same friends and never invited her to be with us. She found her own friends and we lived separate lives. She embarrassed me as she was very bold and outgoing. I was shy. Years change us. Family crisis change us and maturity. Good Luck. Maybe ear plugs is the answer LoLO G. W

When we were little my mom used to make my sister and I sit face to face in the corner and stare at each other. Within a few minutes we were cracking up and best friends again.

I learnt this from Dr. Laura and it works wonders.
When they are not fighting, sit them down and tell them the following. You must however be ready to follow up or else do not even start it.
Tell them that you are tired of them fighting all the time and that here is the new rule. if there is fighting, you do not care who started it, they all will loose a privilage like staying in their room with no tv, or no going out to play with friends all weekend. When you do that to them 2 or three times, you will get the problem solved. do not incquire about what happenned. Just punish them both and where it really hurts. Like no computers or video games or dolls. they will stop.

My two best sources for parenting were: 1) the "Love and Logic" program by Dr. Foster Cline. It is sometimes taught as a workshop for parents by some school counselors. If you see it offered - - sign up! and 2) the book, "How to Talk so Kids Will Listen, and Listen so Kids Will Talk."

Once I also read that in some Native American tribes, ALL the children would be punished if one child did something wrong. I did that to my kids, too. They quickly learned to solve their own problems before MOM would appear in the room to say something like, "Oh, you can't share the TV - - hmmm, I guess TV will be shut off for the rest of the day! Aw, what a shame you guys couldn't figure out a way to share . . . Now you will have to go find something else to do." (Note the tone of sincere EMPATHY from the parent - - I learned that in my LOVE AND LOGIC class!)

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