Bickering and conflict between siblings can be exhausting for parents. When you're children are at loggerheads, it may be mildly reassuring to know it's completely normal for siblings to fight. It's also not always a bad thing; it's a useful way to develop social skills such as sharing and compromising.
However, sibling fighting can also be a good way to get parental attention so the best way to respond is to stay out of it! Ignoring fighting shows your children that bickering and shouting is not an effective way to get you attention.
If you have two toddlers, remember that developmentally they are just not able to share and compromise. During this stage you may regularly have to intervene with diversion strategies to stop them from thwacking each other!
In general, however, let your children learn to resolve things for themselves. Adult involvement in the form of 'telling off', trying to establish who's at fault, and mediation, generally leads to more frustration and increased resentment between siblings.
Acknowledge negative feelings between your children
Wow you two sound angry!
Listen to Each Party & Reflect Back Both Positions
So Katie, you were playing with the blocks and Danny sat down and took one? Danny, you took a block and Katie took it off you?
Show Appreciation of the Difficulty
Hum, tricky. One set of blocks but two children who want to use them at the same time
Express Faith That Your Children Will Work Out a Solution
I'm confident you'll sort out a solution which you're both happy with
Once you have said that, leave the room
When fighting is getting intense and you're worried one child may get hurt, you will need to intervene.
- . Describe what you see. "Katie's holding her brother by the arms to stop him reaching the blocks and Danny is about to bite her hand".
- . Set limits "One or both of you is going to get hurt. You both need some time to cool down"
- . Separate your children and use time-out.
You may also be interested in our article Sibling Rivalry
Some techniques described in this article draw on strategies outlined in the useful book: Siblings without Rivalry by Faber & Mazlish (2004)