Help me! My kids are fighting again!

Most parents in families of more than one child complain of their children’s fighting. While no one can tell you how to keep them from fighting, it is worthwhile to see what can make the fighting more tolerable within the family. It isn’t always easy to keep siblings from fighting. One way to help is to make positive comments when they are doing well together. Another is to use humor and try to find something funny to say about their spat. Smiles help stop the fighting.


Fights really don’t mean they dislike one another. Sometimes siblings simply enjoy fighting.


Louise Bates Ames in her book, “He Hit Me First — When Brothers and Sisters Fight,” gives some general information on behavior at different ages and for different kinds of children but also specific advice on what parents can do to make life more harmonious and comfortable.


Some of the suggestions included in this helpful book about fighting are as follows:

1. Remember that most siblings fight a good deal of the time and that for the most part they enjoy it.


2. If it really bothers you, try to stay in a part of the house where you can’t see or hear them.


3. If one or the other actually is getting physically harmed, separate them. In fact, you’d be wise to make a rule that no child is allowed to harm another physically. (You may not be able to enforce this rule all the time, but it is a good one to make.)


4. Do not allow yourself to be habitually dragged into things, as judge and jury.


5. If it seems to you that your children fight with each other “all the time,” try looking at the other side of the coin. Try focusing on the amount of time during which they play peacefully or even enjoy each other and do nice things to help, support or comfort each other.


6. Whenever you can, try to take a long-range view of things. Remember that sibling relationships in most families tend to get better as time (much time) goes on.


7. In the meantime, keep in mind that when you are called to step in, as often will happen, an overcharged situation sometimes may be defused by relatively simple techniques.


8. Remember that the more their fighting bugs you, the more attention it calls to themselves, the more they will fight.


9. Instead of asking yourself, “How can I keep my kids from fighting?” put your question positively: “How can I help my children get along better than they do now?”


10. You can handle sibling rivalry more effectively if you can bring yourself to think of it as a normal part of development and not as a total threat to family happiness.


11. Perhaps a parent’s best and surest recipe for peace of mind is to expect considerable conflict, appreciate its normality, do what you can to manage it. But keep in mind that fighting and squabbling are for many children a way of life. They enjoy it. Even the very young child tends to have a very strong sense of self-preservation. Most children could avoid fighting if they really wanted to.


12. Think back to your relationship with your own sibling or siblings. The chances are some fighting was a part of it. How do you get along with that sibling now?


This book is available in the First Teacher library.


Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and director of Parenting Matters Foundation. The foundation publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents. Reach Martin at or at 681-2250.



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