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10 Handy Tricks to Stop Sibling Fights

Sibling fights can range from “Mom, he’s touching me!” to “I hate you!”, and all of them are hard to listen to and even harder to end. When it’s time for you to step in, use these handy tricks to stop sibling fights.

According to Nemours KidsHealth, “Many kids are lucky enough to become the best of friends with their siblings, but it’s common for brothers and sisters to fight. Often, sibling rivalry starts even before the second child joins the family, and continues as the kids grow and compete for everything from toys to attention.” Dara Lovitz, author of the blog “Some Twinsight” and the book Twinsight, agrees. She says that “siblings, whether the same age or not, sometimes get along really well and sometimes fight. . . . You have not failed as a parent and they have not failed as siblings.”

The experts at Child Mind Institute believe that “having siblings gives kids good practice for social skills that they need in the real world. If parents see these things as opportunities to teach, that can be really positive.” Healthy sibling fights can “teach kids about things like taking turns, sharing, body autonomy, when to turn to an adult, and using words rather than physical force to solve a problem.”

But what do you do when your kids are fighting constantly and your home feels like a war zone? Do you step in? And how do you do that without making the situation worse?

The answer is simple: Don’t take it so seriously. Be the calm, playful voice in the storm that leads everyone out of rough waters.

When the fighting drags on for so long and escalates to the point you think your kids will be harmed physically or mentally, use these lighthearted tricks to stop your kids from fighting.

(And don’t forget, kids are gonna fight, Mom!)

1. Unite Them Against a Common Enemy . . . You!

When they’re fighting each other, your kids will feel like mortal enemies. But throw a third villain into the mix—you—and suddenly their sibling is the best ally.

As Hand in Hand Parenting says, you can “disrupt a sibling altercation and bring healing and bonding laughter by allowing yourself to be the butt of the joke.” Keeping things lighthearted and interrupting their argument in a funny way that turns the insults against yourself will defuse the entire situation. Your kids will be united in laughter and will release their tense emotions. Even if you have to fake cry, whine, and behave just like a two-year-old.

It’s a small price to pay for the peace of siblingkind.

2. Remove the Toy That Started the Fight

Sometimes it’s not the siblings who started the fight—it’s the toy! With the ensuing tug-of-war and screaming, the only way to end the sibling fight might be to remove the source of conflict. Once the toy is gone and your kids have cooled off, you can give the toy back and give them a chance to use it appropriately.

But if the fight was particularly hairy, you might just want to say “Find something else to do.” (And that’s okay too.)

3. Get in between Them Playfully

When the sibling fight looks like it’s getting a little too personal, you might want to jump in between the kids playfully. And I mean physically jump in between them.

Like the red cape between a matador and a bull, you want to be the distraction that spares your kids from bumping heads. By pulling their attention away from the fight—literally—you’re resetting their thoughts and giving them a chance to turn their anger your way.

If you do it playfully with a “Pick on someone your own size!” or an “I’m gonna tell my mom!”, the red cape you’re waving will get rid of some of their angry steam.

4. Have Them Hold Hands

Sometimes, when the sibling fight was huge, talking isn’t the way to go. But you also don’t want your kids to walk away angry. So how can you convince them to spend time together without more arguing? Thumper said it best: “If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”

Have your kids sit together and hold hands, even if it’s without talking. Not only will this remind them that they love their sibling, but it will also deter them from fighting again. (Because who wants to be caught holding hands with their sibling? Ick.) All you have to do is ask, “Do you need to hold hands?”

5. Have Them Hug It Out

Similar to holding hands, you can instead have your kids “hug it out” to stop a sibling fight. The kids will have to stay locked together until they’re not angry anymore.

This method often leads to laughter and sweet apologies. But even if it doesn’t, hugs can soothe emotions and make you feel connected with your sibling. (Whether you want it or not.) At the very least, the words “hug it out” will become a great tool in your stop-sibling-fights-before-they-start toolbox.

6. Sit Them Nose to Nose

If any sort of physical contact is out of the question because you’re afraid your kids will start getting pushy, you can have them sit nose to nose. And they can only leave when they’re not angry anymore. This will force them to look at each other and remind themselves who they were fighting with. This, too, often results in uncontrollable giggles. And when they’re laughing, all those negative emotions will go poof!

Why were they fighting again?

7. Separate Them

If you don’t think your kids can be around each other without biting each other’s heads off, send them their separate ways. Give them a chance to cool off, and when the time feels right, bring them back together to resolve their fight. (Apologies are a must for learning how to resolve conflicts.)

Hopefully by then, they won’t even remember why they were mad in the first place.

8. Make a Fight Jar

There are all kinds of jars: swear jars, warm-fuzzy jars, reward jars. I’m going to propose two more jars that can stop sibling fights: the fight jar and the chore jar.

With fight jars, every person in the family has their own. You start out with a certain amount of money in each of the jars, and when someone starts a fight with another, they have to transfer that money into the jar of the person they hurt. When the kids do something good, that money comes out of Mom’s or Dad’s jar and goes back into their jar. Once they earn a certain amount of money, they can buy a treat.

With chore jars, you include about a dozen chores on small strips of paper. Every time there’s a fight, every kid has to pick a chore out of the jar.

These jars will be a good incentive for siblings to stop fighting.

9. Give Them a Problem to Solve Together

Solving problems is not only good for the mind but good for stopping sibling fights. By giving your kids something to do together—a puzzle, a fun worksheet, a mystery game—you are encouraging them to get along, rely on each other, and help each other.

They’ll be learning problem-solving skills, doing something productive, and building a better relationship with their siblings. (But don’t tell them that.)

10. Give Each Child Special One-on-One Time with You

If siblings aren’t fighting over toys, then they might be fighting over you. Kids always want attention. In fact, they need it. So if you dedicate one-on-one time for each child, you might be able to soothe some sibling fights before they even begin.

But if the fights are still happening, take time after the fight to sit with each sibling one-on-one and discuss their emotions. This will be a great learning moment in conflict resolution for them and for you. And you’ll get to understand a little more about each child without the pressure of the other being in the room.

And when it’s all done, don’t forget to take some one-on-one time for yourself.

For more handy ways to stop sibling fights, read the article “15 Playful Ways to Solve Sibling Rivalry” by Hand in Hand Parenting.

To learn more about why your kids fight and how to prevent it, check out “Sibling Rivalry” from Nemours KidsHealth and “When Siblings Won’t Stop Fighting” from Child Mind Institute.

Read our articles “How to Snuffle” and “Bridging the Gap Between Siblings” to learn how to build strong relationships with your siblings.

Books That Help Resolve Conflict

Shaelyn Topolovec earned a BA in editing and publishing from BYU, worked on several online publications, and joined the Familius family. Shae is currently an editor and copywriter who lives in California’s Central Valley.

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