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Seeking Advice on How to Deal with Fighting Siblings

Okay, I have had it up to you know where with the constant bickering and fighting that goes on between my two children. The oldest is a boy who is 11 1/2, the other is a girl who is 10. They can not be in the same room for more than a minute without fighting, bickering, etc. They invent things to fight about. One time they argued over who had been across the Poplar Street bridge more. I can't stand it anymore. I have tried taking away priviledges, I always yell (I know, not good, but very hard to stop), I've tried making them sit on the couch together, I have tired everything. PLEASE HELP. Any advice will be appreciated.

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When my sister's kids bicker, she gives them a teamwork lesson. She hands out baby wipes and they have to clean all the baseboards, or she gives them some grocery sacks and they have to pick up all the dog poo in the yard, etc. When the chore is done, they have a talk about teamwork, family, etc. Plus, her baseboards are clean. Ha!

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Hi D.,

Having raised three daughters I can tell you the fighting is normal! There are no magic tricks to get it to stop, but I might suggest a couple of things for you to try.

First - when the girls were teenagers I too "yelled", but one day it came to me that when I got quiet - they got worried! It took a lot of practice to be able to "remove" myself from that habit but eventually I found I was not yelling anymore! It seemed when I yelled, the more I yelled the less they heard! Even if you have to put yourself in "timeout" in say your bedroom, sometimes you will just need to walkaway and compose yourself, BEFORE you deal with them.

Second - you can not stop all the bickering - but try adding a new twist on the old "sit them on a couch together" - make them hold hands and look at each other - not being able to "say a word". My girls HATED doing this, but I would quietly watch them from another room - the first thing they always did was stick their tongues out at each other, then inevitably one would try squeezing the other ones hand as hard as they could, so naturally the other one squeezes back - eventually this always ended up in a round of laughter and after making them tell each other they were sorry - they were off and best friends until the next time.

Third - do what your children do - elect to use your selective hearing and let them bicker. As long as they are not doing physical harm to each other - they are really just trying to find their places. Also if they were always close and the oldest one is growing up some and moving away from his little sis and finding other interests she may be feeling somewhat left out and doesn't know how to get his attention! Watch quietly to see who "starts it" you may be surprised at what you see.

Good luck - they will "outgrow" most of the bickering - but the other day I threatened to put a 23 and 27 year old on the sofa if they didn't "knock it off"!


1 mom found this helpful

Oh D....I have been in your shoes!!! And I am guilty of the SAME thing you are...yelling!!! Children are like little sponges...they absorb the world around them and then just spit it back out.
How can you...an adult...expect them to get control of themselves when you dont have control of yourself??? I do not mean to sound harsh...or judgmental, as I said, I have been where you are!!
I think your first step needs to be a family meeting...everyone involved...everyone calm and rational and willing to listen...as well as speak. ( Not as easy as it sounds I know!!) If the children are in on the "solution" maybe they will be more willing to go along with whatever you jointly decide on.
You have the really hard work...you need to learn NOT to yell...not to become upset or agitated...don't let them "pull your chain". Somehow you need to find a way to quietly separate them when they start fussing at each other...come up with a "code word or phrase" that they agree on that signals them that things are getting out of control. You need to be the model for the behavior that you want to see in your children.
Think about how you teach someone ANYTHING...from penmanship to swimming strokes...you give them a model to follow....and they imitate it until it becomes second nature.
I wish I had some really great words of wisdom for you...I think what you might do is look for a friend who's children behave in a loving way towards each other and ask them HOW they got there!!!!
Good luck...and hang in there...my 3 girls fought like cats and dogs when they were growing up but now that they are adults...they all get along famously!!! You WILL survive this...I promise!!!
R. Ann

1 mom found this helpful

Good Morning D.! Laughing You had a Instruction Book? WOW I missed that one. Dang!! *Wink Wink*

Kids fight all the time and it is usually about nothing at all. Our son's are 27 months apart and they fought like two dogs after a bone. For a long time I would separate them make them go to different rooms. After a short time they usually found a way to get back together, play again then start all over with the snipping & snapping.
I had them write good things about each other.
Also had to put down what made them angry. *That one kind of backfired as they then Knew for sure what they could do to get the others goat*
When they started getting allowance, if they started fighting again( which ever one started it) had to give the other 25 cents from their allowance. If I couldn't determine who started what, both had to give me 25 cents.
One day I think I got a couple of bucks....lol

As long as they didn't hit, bite, cause bodily harm, A lot of the time I let um have it out. IN a room other then where I was, cause I told them they didn't hear Mom & Dad argue so I didn't want to hear them either. They got tired of it after a few minutes and went to play again.

They are 34 & 32 Now with kids of their own who snip and snap at each other. LOL

If you can get them to do their bickering in a different room let um do it. When it gets loud enough for you to hear, step in and tell them you don't want to hear it, so keep it down and carry on.. Will be amazed how soon it might stop. The shock factor that you are letting them bicker might be enough * for that time* for them to stop.

Our boys get along great, they still argue about who can do what better then the other, but you know if push came to shove they would stand up for the other in a heart beat.

God Bless you D., all else fails get Hair dye to cover the gray...;)
K. Nana of 5

1 mom found this helpful

Well, since my two boys are only 2 years old and 6 months old, I can't exactly give you advice on what "I do", but I CAN tell you that my sisters and I faught like that growing up and now all three of us are as close as can be. I wish I had some advice to give you b/c I know kids can drive you bonkers! Just be sure to take some time for yourself everyday. Your kids are old enough to handle some situations themselves it would seem to me, while you step out of the situation.

Hi D.,
The good news is, they DO grow up!!! I have 3 sons, and we went through a rough spot when they couldn't talk without argueing. I was like you, I just couldn't take it any more. So, I made a rule, in my presence you could only say good things to each other. If you had issues to argue about, it had to be in your own room, away from me. Of course, that took all the fun out of it, if they didn't have an audience, what's the use of arguing??? Soon, the fussing stopped, of course other things took it's place, that's all part of growing up. But, at least I didn't have to listen to it!!! They are now grown, the oldest is an electrical engineer, the 2nd is a systems analyst for a communications company, and the youngest has his doctorate in computer science. I'm sure they all did well on their college debate teams, they had lots of practice at home!! Keep you sense of humor, don't become the audience to the discussions, give it a few years. Good luck, D.

Make them work it out themselves...calmly. If they get out of control seperate them (send them to their rooms or seperate parts of the house). Tell them they have a right to disagree, but that they can not be disrespectful of each others feelings or property. If they refuse to get along, don't let them talk to each other at all... Under any circumstances... They will start to realize that they do need their sibling sometimes... Don't allow "Can you help me...?" questions or anything until they decide they can get along somewhat peacefully. DEMAND that they settle problems calmly, and try to avoid yelling yourself (okay, this doesn't always work, but it does help). I have four kids and the two middle ones can't be in the same room together without some kind of issue...I feel your pain...BUT I can tell you on the positive side of this...My sister and I fought ALL THE TIME and our parents thought we literally hated each other and always would...She is 34 and I'm 37 now and we are the best of friends and have been since becoming parents ourselves... Does it make the constant fighting easier to take? No not at the time, but it might help you sleep to know it's possible they will some day be friends... Good luck.

Leave the room and let them fight. They probably won't find it near as much "fun" if they are not getting to you. I've used this myself on my two boys and you will be surprised at how fast the fighting ended when I left the room and let them have at it. As long as it doen't get physical they need to learn how to get along with out your help.

after reading all of the responses....here's my thoughts: aren't you glad your children are normal??? & mine & my sisters & my best friends' kids!!

So, this is a universal thing...gee, aren't we lucky!

My Mom had some really horrible solutions to this problem: we had to use Qtips to clean my Dad's mini ship collection, we had to sit in corners (even as teens), we had to completely gut the bookcases/dust/& restock, & WORST of all - if we were being particularly hateful/disrespectful -then we had to kiss/hug each other. It was GROSS...until my sister & I figured out how to turn it into a comedy act, which then diffused our Mom's means of punishment!
BUT, after each punishment/time-out, then she always addressed our behavior & made us say something nice about each other. We still tease her about her inhumane punishment....meaning having to kiss each other.

With 9 years between our sons, we've been fortunate to avoid most of the bickering. My sister, on the other hand, deals with this daily with her 12 y.o daughter & 16 y.o. son. They are truly hateful & atrocious & have no qualms about performing in front of friends/family. So, I'm passing these ideas on to my sis!

I totally back what the last writer Christine said. I haven't seen that particular video but I've done 1-2-3 Magic, Love & Logic, and Common Sense Parenting and the approach from EVERY class is NOT to let the kids get to you. Most kids don't get enough attention so even being yelled at (as bad attention) is attention nonetheless. It's time you have to look or deal with them.

I would recommend looking into Love and Logic as well. One of the approaches is to look at the kids and say something like, "Hmmm, it's really sad you two can't get along. I guess I'll have to think of some consquence for this action (whatever the latest greivance is), but let me get back to you on it. I've got to think about it." And walk away. No emotion (other than empathy that they can't get along) and let them stew on what is to come. Maybe they will work something out on their own.

In the meantime, I would carve out some extra one-on-one time with both of them AND some quality time together...maybe a movie where you sit in the middle???

BTW- the nurse's only lied to you about the instruction manual at the hospital...they all told us about it but amazingly enough none of us made it home with one! LOL...Perhaps it was fairies at work???

Hang in there...take a deep cleansing breath (or several) and try a different approach than what you've been doing. It will catch them off guard and will likely provide SOME kind of different action. Anytime you feel like you're going to yell, just remove yourself from the situation until you calm down (lock yourself in your room the bathroom...but control yourself first). You can do this...you just need some different tactics in your arsenal! Good luck!

Hello D.,

My "experience" comes from being in your children's shoes. My sister and I are only 12 months apart and we fought like cats and dogs until we were in college and my mom threatened to evict us. The fights weren't always verbal and I still carry the scars. When we were young, my mom made us sit in chairs facing each other across the room. We hated it, but we stopped fighting for that day. My mother did not yell, she had a look we did not oppose.

Your children are also close in age. One of the things I absoultely hated was that whatever I was allowed to do, she was too. There was no priviledge to being older. Perhaps if you sit down with each child separately and ask them what annoys them the most about the other, then together the three of you can come up with a solution to the fighting.


I went to a training seminar yesterday and it included watching a short video called, "Supporting Children in Resolving Conflicts." I would definitely recommend renting/buying this to watch it. It is really helpful to see this being done and to watch someone actually try this technique. (It was with pre-schoolers, but you could adapt it for your kids).

Anyway, it includes approaching the situation calmly--don't let your emotions get to you because that can translate onto the kids' reaction. I know, easier said than done.
-Next, ask questions to find out what the problem is. Repeat what each says to make sure there is an understanding. This shows them that you understand, and when they know someone understands, often right away some of the anger subsides. (re-phrase hurtful words for them when you are repeating).
-Then ask each one how they might solve the problem. As the adult, it's important for you to accept the response/idea for how to solve the problem. For example, in the video, one child did not want another child playing with him so they were fighting. His solution was that the other child play somewhere else. She had to accept that, but then she stayed with the other child and helped him to find his own solution. She helped him get involved in a different activity so that he was not upset.

Most teachers/parents who hear about this problem solving strategy say, "I don't have time!" But, as the presenter yesterday pointed out, every minute you spend teaching your children how to problem solve on their own, is a minute saved later on. This can take time and practice for both you and the kids. It's a learning process. Think of how good you'll feel the first time you over hear them solving something on their own without you. (They may be in their 20's, but ya know). This is a skill they will use as adults too. It's so easy to just jump right into the middle of a conflict, but teaching them how to do it on their own, step by step, will give them skills they will use for a lifetime. Just think of that phrase, "If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach him how to fish, you feed him for life." Same concept here.

I also wanted to add that my sister and I (one day less than a year apart in age) fought ALL THE TIME growing up. We are now best friends. It didn't happen until we went to college though. I think it can just take some growing up (and maybe some distance, too).

Oh, you might also want to make up some games where they have to work together as a team. They could be on a team against the grown-ups where they have to work together. If they start to fight, again, walk them through the problem solving.

Hope this helps a little.
C. G.

My parents had three girls in 3.5 years. There were a LOT of fights in my house growing up, especially because we are all tomboys!

My mom and dad had us go outside and fight in the back yard. My sisters and I would usually try and hurry the fight up so we could (build a snowman, jump off the deck, play catch/softball, etc). Just let them fight every now and again so they learn how to resolve things.

When we couldn't go outside because of weather, my mom would tell us that as soon as we were done fighting, we could (rent a movie, make cookies, go to a friend's house, etc). That helped us hurry up, too.

Again, my mom would let us figure out how to end the fights. That was very important. It was also important for us to know that she was right there if we needed her. (She and my dad both worked full-time; my mom usually had at least 2 jobs.)

Hope this helps! Good luck!

D., I love your info in 'a little about me'. I agree with you whole-heartedly. I am constantly challenged too-who knew I wasn't perfect?-and so constantly faced with my greatest weaknesses and for me my only option is to improve so I can be a better mom. And that's never easy. Yet when my kids make 'I love you, Mom' cards for no particular reason, well, it's all worth it for me. I'm on this huge learning curve all the time trying to raise decent people in a crazy world and I wonder if I'll ever feel like I'm getting it remotely right. I joke that my poor boys were compromised the day they were born to me because some days I'm sure we're all going to end up on the 5:00 news (LOL). But I will tell you what I've been told in my moments of 'how do I get through this?' - you're a good mom just by 'seeing' how hard it is and trying to do right. You care and do your best -just by asking for advice says a lot about you! I get SO stressed when my kids fight. Love and Logic is a good resource. And frankly, I ignore my boys now and typically their fight ends and they get back together playing. Sometimes it's more serious (like hitting) and I separate them and put them in timeout (we've implemented 123 timeout since they were little and they HATE it but will sit there willingly). The main thing is consistency and not getting emotional (the real challenge!) so they know what's going to happen. Also, I think Love & Logic is having a special on PBS about Sibling Rivalry and how to deal with it. Hang in there and you're SO not alone!

My best advice is to stay out of it. Only they know what they are really fighting about, so why get involved, they need to learn to compromise.
I have 3 kids, 26, 25 and 16, one time I got so tired of the two oldest fighting that I put them in the backyard and told them to fight it out in the backyard only one of them was coming back in to the house and they had to figure it out. Well they spent a while back there and probably apologized, of course they came in and settled down for a while. My now 25 year old horrified me when she came home from High School and had told her Psychology class what I had done, I held my breath as I asked her what the teacher thought about it, she thought it was great, it made the kids think for themselves and gave them a problem that they had to solve together, wow and I thought kicking them out of the house and telling them to fight to the end would have been the worst thing, but I guess I gave them a bigger problem.
By the way that daughter is getting her Masters in Psychology right now and the 26 year old just got her degree in Chemistry. I had to brag a little as I let you know that it will get better, they do become friends, they are just learning how to react to people and be socially correct, home is where to try these behaviors, if they aren't acting the same way at school, you're doing your job.

My mother-in-law told me what she used to do with her four boys when they would fight. She would make them stand and hug. And they would have to tell eachother something like "I love you. We are brothers and someday we will only have eachother." I'm pretty sure they had to keep hugging and repeating that. I've done it with my kids. They hug and tell eachother that they're supposed to be friends.

Hi D.,

Here's my input...I have a boy 12 and a daughter 11. They are 14 months to the day, apart. They fight like crazy! There are two things that have semi-worked for me. First of all, asking them if they really want me to resolve their issue or if they would like to resolve it themselves. What that means, of course, is..."you really dont want me to be the one that resolves this issue because you will not like the punishment I hand out". The best punishment I have found is a little like some of the others but with a little different flair. I make them do everything together. Sit on the couch holding hands, if one needs to go to the bathroom, the other one gets to sit outside the bathroom door, if one needs to clean their room, the other gets to help,if one has to work on homework, the other one has to either do homework or if they do not have homework, they get to sit and write sentences while the other one works....etc etc. This works almost everytime!! I, too, am a yeller and have found that over the years my children have learned to tune me out when I raise my voice so the other thing I have learned is to go in the opposite direction. I start speaking to them very quietly (usually through clenced teeth) and I say "I'm done". They know that usually means that mom is about to lose her temper so watch out!!!
The other thing that I have tried is the family meeting concept and it certainly works for a while as well. Quite honestly, its a combination of all things that tend to work best for us.

Good luck! Hope that helps!

hey D., i can't really give much advice because mine is two years old and an only child! BUT i come from a family of four, and we were actually really spaced out, which i think is as bad as being close in age, because we had NOTHING in common. my sister and i were 6 years apart and fought CONSTANTLY. of course as we got older i realized "I" was the big sister and had to act like it, but it caused a lot of resentment. we are of two completely opposite personalities, and we love each other, but we are still not close to this day. anyway. i always thought (because my sister and i shared a room till i was 16) that the key was a good balance between kids having their own SPACE, and having quality family time. i assume that they have their own separate rooms, there should be a discussion about using them to give each other space. then maybe you could plan some family activities together that everyone would enjoy. you don't mention a dad so it might be difficult, but maybe a vacation is in order? it seems to me like the more kids are busy, the more happy they are. just a thought. hope it gets better for you!

On a radio show I heard that fighting is a cooperative effort. If one person walks away there is no fight. Here's my solution, next time try grounding both of them when they fight. With my son, if I have an item with an automatic grounding policy, it tends to break the behavior. An example, if he is disrespectful to me, he is autmatically grounded for a week. The trick to this discipline thing, is the enforcing of it consistently. We get distracted and its sometimes hard to keep track. You might try a list of house rules and have an automatic grounding policy for each one, post it on the fridge after you call a family meeting to explain how it works. Don't wait for an argument to start, sit them down at a calm moment if you can find time. Then within the next hour or so you can plan on them "testing you" to see if you mean it. If you are vigilantly consistent it will work-don't make excuses, aplogize or cut the grounding period shorter. The tougher(meaning consistent with no variances) you are with them in the beginning the better it will be later on. Don't yell, just talk to them in a normal voice. They want you upset, when you aren't in control, they are. Do the best you can. I'll be praying for you!

I am a mother of two fighters, both girls and I fought with my sister who is two years older than me, growing up. So I am pretty experienced at this one. I hate to tell you but it is going to happen. It very well could be a competition for your attention. Being you are a working mother they want your attention any way they can get it. If you can find a positive way to give them attention I am sure that will help. Another thing is to make one on one time. For instance do something special with your son one day and the next make it a girls' day out with your daughter. This will lessen the time for battle. Another thing-just let them hash it out to the end once in awhile(as long as they don't go breaking things or each other). In the end they will be closer.

I used to tell my now 19 y/o son (A U.S. Marine) and 18 y/o daughter (working toward massage therapy) that I would TIE them together for an entire day if they did not stop!!!! Hang in there MOM :) It DOES get better. They may have "disagreed" on practically everything when they were younger, but push come to shove, they both (especially my son) EACH have the other's back and are there for one another!!!!!

If its REALLY bad, you could take away privledges like TV, video games, etc. for X amount of time until they learn to stop bickering/fighting? Remove all the toys and TV? out of their rooms and when they start in, make them go SIT in their room with nothing to do.

When my sister's kids bicker, she gives them a teamwork lesson. She hands out baby wipes and they have to clean all the baseboards, or she gives them some grocery sacks and they have to pick up all the dog poo in the yard, etc. When the chore is done, they have a talk about teamwork, family, etc. Plus, her baseboards are clean. Ha!

They may be wanting your attention. I agree with others who have posted to let them have it out. My mother did this with my oldest brother and sister when they were younger. She stayed nearby to make sure they did not seriously hurt each other and they would stop fighting, look at her, and continue several times. When they realized that she was not going to stop them they stopped, and have not fought since. They are 38 and 40 year old now!

I am a mother of 4 girls and one boy
I have three close in age, my girls were the worst. 15 months appart. The oldest Now 22, is married and has one little boy just over a year old. But as her and her younger sister, they fought like cats, the age of the other girl is now 21 and is in the Air Force and now her and her sister get alone great, Between the ages of 10 to 19 they were so jealous of each other, clawing each other pulling each others hair, and my son who is now 20 and a Marine in Iraq, he would hang with the middle girl, they seem to get along better. Now that my oldest Daughter's Husband is in the Army, all now have something in comon. My Husband was in the Navy for 20 years and for some silly reason I am in Missery, when I should be back in CA. Anyway, I have two more girls Abbey is 10 and a big show off where Hannah the baby of the family is very layed back. I have learned from the first experience that they are so different. Make each one find thier own hair style, clothes style, and have different. Abbey is in to singing and hannah loves sports.
the one thing I have figured out each girl or boy needs special time with mom and dad. I will read with Abbey where as Hannah loves to read to her dad. Just remember the more you keep them close the more fighting will go on,
it doesn't matter who is older, everyone has the same rulesand chores. dont always give the boy "boy duties
he can do dishes, and she can take out trash.
the best thing I do with the girls is ask them why are they fighting, and make them work it out.

mine were the same way. even the same difference in age. i would get sick of it and remove them from my space and from each other. i would send them to their rooms for the evening. if they wanted to be in my presence, the fighting would stop or they would reside elsewhere:)

they are 18 and 16 now, and i still use the same tactic.

My advice is to not do anything. Let them fight. They are the ones who have to figure out how to get along together. Part of the motivation of this fighting is to get your attention and get you take sides.

However, they don't have the right to disrupt the house. If they get loud, physical you need to lower the boom on both of them, whatever that means to them. Everytime.

You need to explain this to them at a time when they are not fighting and you're calm. Tell them they are two individuals, they are going to have their disagreements and they have that right. So, they can argue all they want. But, if they get loud, disrupt the house or get physical you will do....withhold allowance, ground, go to bed early whatever. It needs to be extreme and it needs to apply to both equally and it needs to happen everytime they cross that line. You are punishing the disruption of the family, not the fighting.

Good luck!

Let 'em fight it out. Tell them to go to a specific room of the house (or outside) where nothing can get broken and just let them go. When they come to you and say, "mom, he did this" or "she said this", just tell them that you are busy and are not interested in breaking up a fight at that moment. Come mealtime, make it clear to both of them that they will not be joining you to eat until they have resolved the problem on their own. If that starts another argument, and it likely will, be firm and tell them that when they have resolved all the issues then they can join you but that you would like to eat your meal in quiet. If they happen to have to skip a meal (or two), make it clear that there also will be no snacking.
Good luck!

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