Thursday, April 16, 2015

My Favorite Tip to Stop Sibling Fighting

This post contains Amazon Affiliate links.

David Frost said, "When you have one child you are a parent. When you have two, you're a referee."

Do you ever feel like a referee in your home? 

Here on the blog I've shared how to teach siblings to be kind and how to encourage turn taking, but now I am really excited to have a comprehensive parenting guide to tell you about! The topic we're discussing today is sibling fighting and I am introducing the awesome new book by Dr. Laura Markham from Aha! Parenting called Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings. We also have a giveaway of her new book so make sure to scroll to the bottom.

Today I'm going to share one of my favorite tips to stop sibling fighting from Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings.

Fighting happens at our house for a number of reasons. Some of the following things get argued about quite often between my 4 & 7 year-old... and even the 2 year old joins in sometimes...

Reasons my kids fight...

  • who gets to use the bathroom first 
  • who opens the car first 
  • who can say the prayer 
  • who gets put to bed first 
  • who said an inappropriate word
  • who gets to sit by mom or dad at dinner
  • who gets to set the table
  • who gets to pick the TV show, etc. 

Fighting also happens when kids are having a hard time taking turns or when one of the kids is feeling big emotions and hits or kicks or throws something at someone else.  

When fighting starts in our house my brain typically feels like it has turned off and I can't think clearly at all. My heart starts to race and I get a rush of adrenaline and feel really angry and frustrated. I hate fighting... especially over toys! Fighting also sometimes gets paired with running around the house which drives me bonkers! I feel like the world is spinning out of control.

My response to sibling fighting often involves raising my voice and sending kids off into their own little areas of the house by themselves so that they won't bother one another any more. I usually wind up feeling frustrated and sad that I didn't help the kids communicate or resolve anything better... and then the moment passes... and we cycle through the same process again later in the day.

In Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings Dr. Markham explains that re-centering ourselves and making sure we are calm BEFORE we intervene in any sibling fighting is essential. 

When we are calm and manage even really strong emotions appropriately, children learn more productive ways of managing their own emotions when when they're upset. 

When we are upset and respond to a sibling conflict like it is a big emergency it just makes the kids more worried and stressed out which makes them unable to think clearly or learn anything. This also causes the kids to get upset more quickly because they feel threatened... which then causes them to fight with one another more often. It is a vicious cycle... that starts with us!

In fact, Dr. Markham indicated that "The more we 'fly off the handle' the more our children get the message that life is often an emergency. They build a brain that is geared for self-protection, which makes the child more aggressive."

Based on this information, my favorite tip to stop sibling fighting is to regulate myself as a parent! I need to be less reactive and more peaceful!

This is easier said than done! Although I already knew that self- regulation was important for me as a parent, the information on brain development and how my negative emotions can impact how my kids manage their own emotions and interact with one another was new to me. 

Once parents have their own emotions under control then it is time to do some connecting with the kids followed by coaching to help each child learn how to foster successful relationships.

After reading about self-regulation I have been trying out some of the tips in the book like meeting my basic needs better (which is hard as a parent) and training myself to notice when I am starting to slip into a negative unproductive stage. I love getting outside, getting some exercise, taking some deep breaths, turning on music, dancing. and even just finding a quiet spot to sit for a minute all by myself before I get involved with conflict or overly emotional kids. 

Sometimes it is tough to regulate myself when my kids won't leave me alone, but I am trying hard! I love having a book to reference and use as a resource when I need help.

Dr. Markham's book is a guide to help transform the relationships in families. It isn't possible to make big emotions go away or make conflict completely disappear but it is possible to give kids healthy tools to work through any disagreements or challenges.

Here are some of the sections in the Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings book that I have enjoyed reading so far...

  • Why Punishment and Permissiveness Cause More Sibling Fighting
  • How to Help Each Child with Big Emotions When You Have More Than One Upset Child
  • What Causes Sibling Rivalry- And How Parents Can Make It Better
  • Factors That Can Exacerbate Rivalry
  • Coaching Essential Emotional Intelligence Skills
  • Coaching Kids to Listen to Each Other
  • Coaching Kids to Problem-Solve
  • Basic Negotiation Tools to Teach Kids
  • Teaching Conflict Resolution
  • Ten Reasons Children Bicker and How to Resolve Them
  • When Your Child Says He Hates His Sibling
  • Intervening in a Sibling Fight: The Basics
  • When Your Toddler Is The Aggressor Against Your Older Child
  • Coaching Kids to Handle Aggression From Younger Siblings
  • Why Kids Fight Over Possessions
  • Coaching Kids As They wait for Their Turn
  • Family Routines That Foster Sibling Bonding
  • When Kids Share a Room
  • When One Child Has a Friend Over
  • What To Do About Toy Grabbing
There are tons and tons of other sections that I haven't even had a second to look at yet. 

One of the things I gleaned from Dr. Markham's book is that creating a family culture of kindness and sibling closeness takes a lot of work! Teaching kids to negotiate and resolve conflict in a way that will help them have successful relationships throughout their lives is not easy, but it will be so rewarding!!

I LOVE LOVE LOVE the strategies she shares for creating a family culture that values a close sibling relationship. The examples of traditions, routines, rules, mottos and team building activities that foster sibling bonding were great!

How do you stop sibling fighting in your house? Do you have any family traditions or routines that help foster sibling bonding?

Here's another key reminder that I loved from the book... 

"The truth is we can't make another human being do what we want. We can only help them want to."

It is all well and good for my kids to act appropriate when I am around, but I want them to become the sort of kids that want to be good even when I am not there! I think Dr. Markham's guide will be a great addition in our home to help us on this path!

Dr. Laura Markham's new book Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings is available NOW!! 

You can get the details here:

Disclaimer: Dr. Laura Markham provided me with a free copy of Peaceful Parents, Happy Siblings to review and share with you.


  1. I have 2 girls (ages 2 and 5) and one boy right smack dab between them (3.5). My son is highly reactive and both of my girls take great enjoyment in making him react (not hard to do at all). So my oldest will call him baby and he'll start screaming or my youngest will stick her tongue out at him and he'll scream. Drives me BONKERS! I have tried talking to my oldest about her "heart attitude" and it has helped some, but the temptation to set him off is big. Very hard on mama (and brother)!

  2. This looks like a very useful book. The quotes in this post are pretty inspirational too.

  3. My kids fight over toys the most.

  4. I need to read this book. I have three little boys, and the 4 year old and 2 year old are constantly fighting! I love reading books that help me have the tools to handle my boys and help them become mature peaceful adults!

  5. Everything mentioned above; who is going to the bathroom first, who is going to say the prayer first, who is going to get to the front door first, who ate the most (best), etc.

  6. Thank you for posting this. My kids are 3.5 yrs old and 10 months old and I already feel like a referee. I can't sustain this and need tools!! On to knowing better and doing better.

  7. The kids fight about everything! They're 3 & 4 and it's always a battle about who's bigger, who's faster who gets to go first. And sharing - ack!

  8. This would be such a helpful book for me. I am definitely in the midst of sibling fighting every day with my 7 and 4 year old. I would love for them to get along more and be better friends!

  9. Being an only child I was just wondering this morning if what my kids do is normal sibling behavior. This morning they were arguing over the comics, who has to set the breakfast table, who gets to use the sink first to brush their teeth, and then arguing about who gets to read what book in the car. All before 8 am. I am exhausted!

  10. I love this post. I have noticed the same about myself and my response to the bickering and chaos. It make sense to regulate my own emotion before I expect the kids to regulate theirs.

  11. (please excuse any mistake, I'm french) I have 2 boys, almost 4 and almost 8. Most often they just want to bother the other one, playing with his toys, entering his room... Probably because it's hard for them to stay by themselves. This book will really help me to understand what is really hapening behind these sibling fights, and how to cope with it in a "positive parenting" way. Thank you for this giveaway !

  12. Could always use more ideas!

  13. Right now, my kids (6 and 3) fight most over toys and personal space.

  14. I loved Dr. Markham's previous book and am like you explained your wonderful and hilarious response in the earlier paragraphs... I have this rising anger and frustration and they start hitting each other and can feel my blood pressure rising. :-) My girls are 9 and 12. I would love to read this book. Her first book really helped me with my sanity and I often use some of her techniques to anchor myself.

  15. This book looks really interesting! My 3 yr old and 1yr old are starting to have more and more conflict and I feel like I need to add some more strategies to my "parenting toolbox."

  16. Thanks for sharing. This is definitely the next struggle for our family. Just having loaded up with our third.

  17. I need to find ideas to help my oldest and second child get along better. They love to play together, but they also love to irritate each other at times.

  18. They don't yet.. Second daughter is only 4 weeks old

  19. I could use many more strategies to help my 3 fighting kiddos!

  20. My 7 year old and 5 year old are in constant competition with each other. Thanks for this great giveaway!

  21. My 7 year old and 5 year old are in constant competition with each other. This is a great giveaway! Thanks!

  22. I have two boys who are 4.5 and almost 3. They fight over toys the most. This looks like a great book!

  23. I'm having a huuuge problem staying calm with my 4 yr old and 3 yr old fighting CONSTANTLY. It's exhausting. These are good things to remember.

  24. My kids usually fight over who is the fastest/tallest/best handstander/etc, or who had what first. So excited for potential resources!

  25. My boys are fighting the same way yours do -- wanting to be the first at anything and everything and then complaining/fighting when it doesn't happen. Its gotten out of control lately.

  26. My kids can fight over anything. My dad always said that he could tolerate most parenting situations. I understand now why sibling fighting stressed him out the most!

  27. I have 2 boys who are 2 yrs apart. One minute you can see them sitting peacefully and laughing their eyes out and the next minute they are pulling each other's hair, kicking, screaming, crying and running wild. Being an SLP I try to use my knowledge on how to manage them,but at that time my mind just stops working and I become this helpless angry and frustrated parent. This book will provide the necessary intervention that I need as the parent.

  28. My girls aged 5 and 7 fight over who gets to be first for anything!

  29. Wow - my family could really use some help with this right now!!!

  30. i have a 1.5 and 2.5 year old,currently the older one takes everything off the younger one and can be very aggressive with her, hitting, kicking standing on etc. I struggle to stay calm sometimes as feel bad for my younger child. This book could really help me to make things harmonious and helpfully ease them into getting a long as they grow up. This method is new to me and am hoping that this will work.

  31. This definitely looks like a book I need in my collection. I struggle with how best to parent through a younger sibling being aggressive towards an older sibling.

  32. My oldest two boys fight over what game they are going to play!

  33. My three boys seem to fight over everything!

  34. My kids fight about specific toys, about who yelled or "used a mean voice," and who gets to do things first.

  35. This book sounds very helpful

  36. My daughters, 3 and 1.5, fight about everything and seem to despise each other. I spend my days angry and frustrated and normally the house is full of yelling from all three of us. With another baby girl on the way, I really want to change things, starting with myself!


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