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When Siblings Fight

As Adam and Tyler play together, Tyler grabs the toy out of his brother's hand. Adam reaches over and punches Tyler in the stomach. Both boys start screaming for the nearest parent to solve their problem.

Nearly every family experiences arguments and fights among siblings. While parents may become tired of listening to the endless arguments, most would agree that they would not trade their children in for peace and quiet. When parents find themselves in the middle of their children's spats, it helps to remember the following tips:

  • When possible, allow siblings to settle their own arguments. Children can often reach the best solution and longest lasting peace if left to their own devices. This allows children to learn valuable skills in conflict resolution.
  • Make sure that each child receives individual attention. You might use this time to work on a favorite hobby or homework.
  • Give each child possessions and space they can call their own. Doing this should reduce conflict among children and help children feel important.
  • Establish simple and clear family rules. This does not mean you should outlaw disagreements. It does mean, however, there is a set way to settle any disagreements that might come up.
  • Encourage positive interactions by helping siblings show kindness and affection to one another. Allow children times to work together on tasks they enjoy. Ask children to talk about good feelings that result when a child is helpful to a sibling. Let siblings select holiday and birthday presents for one another.
  • Provide each child with an equal share of sincere compliments. Every child needs the reassurance they are valued and loved by a parent.
Most importantly, remember that there are many benefits to sibling relationships. Young children learn to consider the wants and needs of others. Siblings learn to share objects and provide help, comfort and physical affection towards others. They also learn to communicate even through arguments.

Books for children:

Hoban, Russell. Harvey's Hideout. Parent's Magazine Press. 1969.

Wells, Rosemary. Don't Spill It Again, James. The Dial Press. 1977.

Sources:

Vandell, Deborah Lowe. "Baby Sister/Baby Brother: Reactions to the Birth of a Sibling and Patterns of Early Sibling Relations," Journal of Children in Contemporary Society.

"Once Upon A Mind Quarterly" newsletter. Spring 1983. Manhattan: Cooperative Extension Service, Kansas Sate University.

Taylor, Judy. "Fostering Positive Relationships Among Siblings." Urbana: Cooperative Extension Service, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Prepared by Lisa McMurtry, Extension Educator, Family Life.