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The Art of Intervening: What To Do When Siblings Fight

I just wrote a post about what kids are learning when siblings fight. Kids do need to work some things out on your own but they also rely on parents to intervene and facilitate when needed. Here are some tips to remember when you decide to step in:

Guide problem solving and resolution.

  • Stay calm when arguments escalate!
  • Avoid taking sides.
  • Listen to each child's perspective without interruption. Encourage them to name their feelings and speak only for themselves.
  • Ask your kids to brainstorm possible solutions.
  • Avoid solving the problem for them. Give them the structure, not the solution. The goal is to help them learn how to resolve the argument on their own.

Not every conflict needs a long mediation process. 

  • Make it clear that violence is never allowed and that everyone has the right to be safe in your house.
  • Communicate your expectations and consequences for out of bounds behavior  clearly and stick to them. Having clear house rules for particular "problem spots" that you can rely on helps you avoid constant negotiation.
  • Avoid long, drawn out lectures. Keep your explanation firm, short, and sweet.
  • For example, "We agreed that there would be no fighting over video games so now the video games need to go off for the rest of the day. I look forward to seeing you two play games together tomorrow without fighting."

Build a foundation for respectful, collaborative behavior.

  • Siblings often fight because they are competing with one another. Find ways to turn competition into cooperation. Try, "Do you think the two of you can rake the backyard in under twenty minutes? The leaves are waiting! Ready? Go team go!!"
  • Involve your kids in defining respectful behavior when everyone is cooled off and the situation isn't loaded. What does respect look like in your family? How do we show one another respect?
  • Teach your kids ways to cool off including deep breaths, run outside, time with music etc.. Practice these strategies for fun!
  • Affirm your kids when you see them working out conflict in effective ways.
  • Model good conflict resolution with your partner and other adults in the home.