How Much Do You Intervene in Sibling Squabbles?

Updated on August 11, 2013
J.C. asks from Blacksburg, VA
14 answers

My 2 1/2 YO and 5 YO sometimes play nicely, but sometimes not. They don't share well with each other. If they are coloring, they both want the same color and want to color the same page. They both want the same toy at the same time. When the little one tries to show the big one something, often the big sis refuses to look. I don't know when I should intervene and when I should let it go. When do you step in when your kids are squabbling?

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answers from Kansas City on

my kids are 4 & 6. A boy and a girl. As long as there is no name calling and no hitting, I usually let them sort it out. if one sibling makes another cry I intervene and say "oh that was not nice you made sissy/brother cry we need to say im sorry". As they get older I am finding it gets easier. they are siblings, they will not always get along. good luck!

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answers from Grand Forks on

Often if I hear squabbling I don't even find out what it is about. I will just send them away from me or send them both outside so I don't hear it. Mine are 8 and 11. When they were smaller I would step in and teach them how to resolve the dispute, like reminding them to take turns, or share or compromise. Now they should have these skills, so I let them practice. Or I just send them separate ways, because they usually only start squabbling when they have had enough of each other.

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answers from Norfolk on

When you have one child, you never get sibling bickering.

With me and my sister (she's 22 months younger than me), we fought constantly till we grew up and moved from our Mom's house.
We're in our 50's now and still can't be in a room together for more than 15 minutes before an argument breaks out.

The school of thought at the time was 'let them work out their own differences' - which was the biggest pile of manure that ever came out of a parenting book.
Sometimes the only way to make my sister stop kicking my bike was to knock her down and sit on her.
There were years when my sister said little else except 'I'm telling Mom!" and I'd tell her "Go ahead! Maybe you can tell her why you won't quit kicking my bike, too.".
Your kids do NOT have to be together all of the time - do not force them to be.
If they are playing nicely together - that's fine - but when the squabbling starts up send them to separate corners or different rooms.
Your kids do NOT have to love each other (or even like each other).
They might or they might not - it's not something you can force.
(Some sibling are never compatible throughout their whole lives.)
BUT they have to at least be as civil as they would be to any stranger.
The 5 yr old might have some toys that are not safe for a 2 1/2 yr old so those toys he/she has to keep out of the little brothers/sisters way (and they don't have to share that particular toy).
Keep in mind the age differences and don't let the little one be a whiny tag along to everything.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

I intervened more when they were little because I wanted to teach them how to interact appropriately or disagree without being rude, etc. I would have said something in the situation when the older one wouldn't look.
Now that our kids are 7 and 10, I usually intervene when they are blatantly disrespectful or when an argument begins to escalate.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

Well since I didn't want to hear it, I would tell them to figure something out or they both can stop coloring or whatever it is they are doing. I rarely took sides though.

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answers from Columbus on

They sound exactly like mine when they were that age - also the same age difference. I used to intervene all the time then my Mom told me to stop and watch what happens! And of course, she was right!

When I stopped intervening, my kids actually got along better and they learned to resolve their problems on their own. The ONLY time I would intervene after that was if it got too rough - I NEVER tolerated hitting of any kind. Plus, if one of them stormed off and went to their room, so be it. They eventually came back and everything was fine. Additionally, my stress level actually went down after that!!!

They're 15 and 18 now and have been the best of friends for many years!! Sure, they still have their little squabbles but I stay out of it and of course, they work it out on their own.

Good luck!!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

My girls are a little older now (8 and 11), and they have never really gotten along well (polar opposite personalities). Generally I don't intervene until the bickering starts to irritate me, at which point I tell them, "Work it out, or I'm going to work it out for you, and nobody's going to like the result." At that point they start negotiating with each other, and can generally resolve the issue. Sometimes they're too worked up to compromise, and I send everyone to their rooms until they're ready to be civil.

I don't tolerate (and never have, even when they were tiny) any kind of physical violence or bullying/name calling. Generally what we see around here is bickering and pushing each others' buttons.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

There is a huge age gap between my two, so squabbles are infrequent. I typically don't intervene unless there's "unfair fighting" going on. By that I mean, hurtful language or a tug-o-war over an object. My younger daughter sometimes gets flustered and stammers while arguing with her sister so I occasionally will separate them long enough for her to calm down and express herself more fluently.
My mom sucked at dealing with sibling rivalry between me and my middle brother. It's made me more conscious of what I perceive as a squabble vs a disagreement and how I approach it. My girls consider themselves to be friends as well as sisters. They have disagreements with their friends and I almost never have to intervene in those.

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answers from Baton Rouge on

As long as there was no blood being shed, my mom stayed out of our sibling squabbles.

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answers from Washington DC on

not much. for the most part i let them work things out unless they were screaming or crying or getting physical.
at least, that's my memory of it. i think i do a certain amount of rosy-colored glasses. my older son tells me i tended to intervene prophylactically on behalf of my younger too much of the time, and my younger smiles complacently when he says it.
so maybe i did more than i like to remember.
:) khairete

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I usually only intervene when it gets physical

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

I'd try to stay out of it unless someone was getting hurt of things were starting to escalate. On really bad days I'd punish both children by sitting them on the bottom step (which faced a wall). After a couple minutes they would usually forget their problems with each other and the conversation would turn to how mean their mommy was. I'd laugh knowing that they were now friends again.

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answers from Chicago on

I have a 3.5 and 5 year old that I a teaching how to resolve conflict. Thus, I step in whenever they don't agree and can't resolve is nicely. I then help them calm down, take the object away if they are pulling at it, etc.

Once they've both mastered negotiating with words, then I will stop stepping in, but as long as they are still learning,they need me to help.

I take this approach: what's the problem, empathy, ask if they can offer any solutions, figure out what's fair, and then step back.



answers from Phoenix on

And I love what wickerparkgirl said! We have 6 kids ages 4 - 12. We are full, step, and half brother/sisters in our house. Mostly everyone gets along for the most part, which I really appreciate. However, my 2 boys (full brothers from my previous marriage) fight the most. They are 6.5 & 9. I still try to help them through their issues. But usually the 6.5 is the instigator to the 9 year old and I feel bad for him. Then my stepdaughter 6.5 and my bio daughter 4, are practically inseparable when they are together. But the 6.5 year old bosses her around and it always has to be her way, or she threatens to not play. Lately they are starting to bicker more, and I do step in because in my opinion, the 6.5 year old needs to learn how to play a little nicer so my 4 year old doesn't repeat that behavior with her friends at school. At her mom's house, she's the youngest and probably gets her way all the time.

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