Child Development

Preventing Sibling Fights: Eight Tips

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Minimize sibling rivalry with eight practical tips for preventing fights and fostering healthy, harmonious family relationships.


1. Look after each child’s needs

  • spending special time with each child regularly
  • giving plenty of hugs and smiles to everyone
  • trying not to compare children with each other.

2. Set clear family rules

  • Involve children in setting up rules.
  • Write rules that include positive statements about how you want to treat each other.
  • Put a copy of your house rules on the fridge or somewhere everyone can see them.
  • Follow through every time children bend or break the rules.


3. Set up routines

  • Television: Samantha chooses the program from 6.30-7 pm. Jake chooses from 7.30-8 pm
  • Games: Jake chooses on Saturdays, Samantha chooses on Sundays.
  • Bathroom: Jake uses the bathroom first in the morning, then Samantha.
  • Chores: Samantha and Jake take it in turns to do the chores


4. Catch them being good

  • ‘I really like the way you’re both taking turns on the trampoline.’
  • ‘You’re all sharing and playing really nicely together.’
  • ‘Hey, you worked out that problem really well. How about we celebrate with a movie tonight?’


5. Coach your children

  • Step in with ideas as soon as you see that children are finding it hard to work things out.
  • Talk things over later. With older children, working out a blame-free solution afterwards will make the fight less likely to happen again.
  • Help children find ways to express upset or angry feelings through calm words or positive activities.
  • Teach and model the social skill of ‘respectful disagreeing’. This involves saying something that you can both agree on, then saying what you don’t agree on.

6. Cool down fighting hot spots

At home

  • Make sure there are enough toys for everyone, so children can play together without always having to take turns.
  • Distract children or change the environment if you sense a fight coming.
  • If you need to make a phone call, set children up with an activity that will keep them interested.

At the supermarket

  • Create a special rule. For example, ‘No fights at the supermarket means we’ll go to the park after we get home’.
  • Ask children to hold onto opposite sides of the shopping trolley.
  • If supermarket fights are very bad, see whether you can leave one of the children with a friend or family member while you shop.

Out and about

  • Distract children if you sense a fight coming.
  • On public transport, park yourself or a pram between children.

In the car

  • If there’s a spare seat in the back, sit children on either side of it. Or put a grown-up or older child between the children most likely to fight.
  • If your oldest child is old enough, put them in the front seat.

7. Let children work it out sometimes

  • Let children go if they’re trying to work things out. Talking, debating and even arguing are all signs that children are trying to work things out.
  • Give some tips. A few well-placed suggestions might be all children need. For example, ‘Do you think that’s the best tone of voice right now?’
  • Give friendly reminders about house rules, what you expect and what will happen if a fight breaks out. For example, ‘Remember we all speak nicely’.


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