Resolving Sibling Conflict

Meeting Kids March 24

“My children are constantly fighting, and I am losing my mind!” All parents with more than one child have expressed this frustration at least once. Just know sibling conflict is a normal and valuable part of family life. These fights can be beneficial because they can teach interpersonal skills that will last a lifetime. These skills include listening to others, cooperating in tense situations, appreciating a different person’s point of view, and managing emotions.

When your children are around four to five years old, you should begin teaching them how to mediate conflict. Successful mediation is a skill that must be taught and practiced. This means you will be helping them mediate hundreds of conflicts before they know how to do it independently.

What not to do…

Do not ignore the fighting or rush in and take control. When you do this, the sibling conflicts will only increase because you are not teaching the skills they need to manage the conflict on their own.

What to do…

1. Be quiet, observe your children fighting, and do not allow yourself to make assumptions. You might be surprised by what you learn.

2. You must stay calm. Do not add to the chaos by being overly emotional.

3. If a child is physically or verbally aggressive, stop the behavior and remove the child from the situation. You do not want your children to believe aggression is an appropriate way to get what they want.

4. Give everyone some time to become calm. Make it clear that no one will talk about the problem until everyone is calm.

5. When everyone is ready to communicate, make the rules for the conversation clear. For example, everyone must listen, everyone is responsible for helping solve the problem, etc.

6. Clarify what argument will be discussed. Force your children to work through the most recent conflict and prevent them from bringing in past experiences.

7. To build empathy and understanding, allow each child to share their perspective.

8. Encourage the children to explain possible solutions. Have them act out what they will do the next time this conflict arises.

Things to remember…

1. Treat all children fairly, but not the same. Every child has different strengths and weaknesses. Help them learn what to do in areas where they are weak and encourage them to continue developing in their areas of strength.

2. Use encouraging speech. Avoid saying things like, “You are older; you should know better.” Instead, point out what should have happened and have the child practice.

3. Be prepared. Your children will fight; have a plan for how you will respond when this happens.

Dr. Beth Long received her education in Counseling Psychology from Chapman University. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Beth has worked in six unique clinical environments across the country and currently owns Works of Wonder Therapy in Montgomery. Beth utilizes the knowledge from a variety of different disciplines to give her patients the best care possible. To learn more visit


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