Having teens in the home is an adventure. There are certainly varying points of view and plenty of opportunities for disagreements and for siblings fighting. In fact, being a parent navigating personality and opinion differences within the family is a transforming and oftentimes exhausting adventure, especially when your kids start fighting.
Recently, my son and daughter were mowing lawns together, and my son came up to me and said, “Man, dad, it’s been so hard to deal with Lexi today!”
Then Lexi said to me, “Dad, Alex wasn’t nice to me!”
Both gave me their point of view from very different angles. I’m sure you’ve never been in that position as a parent. I picture God listening to our sides of the story when we’re upset at each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.
There are so many things that can blind us, and kids lack the overall life experiences and tools to effectively handle the many things leading to their frustrations and disagreements.
How many times have you heard an argument break out and, moments later, your kids are fighting? More often than not, it’s one of many disputes between them that you’ve had to referee during the day. As a parent, I’m sure you are asking how to calm down the sibling rivalry and get your kids to stop fighting.
Researchers report there is at least one sibling conflict in families with young children every ten minutes. That’s a lot of refereeing from parents every day! Conflicts between siblings can be biting, impassioned, and difficult to navigate because of many complexities.
Sibling Fights are Nothing New
Sibling fights are nothing new, but God calls us into a different story. The story of Cain and Abel in Genesis is the earliest account we have of a sibling conflict. We read their story, which takes place when they are adults. I wonder what their relationship was like as children and how their conflicts at a young age impacted their interactions as grownups.
God calls us to have a different relationship with our siblings than Cain and Abel’s relationship. Jesus calls us to be imitators of Him and to seek unity with those around us. As a parent, you have the privilege of teaching this in your home to your children. Teaching our kids how to imitate Christ in loving others in our family will help them in relationships for the rest of their lives.
Reasons Why Siblings Fight
Why do siblings fight with each other? Possible reasons include:
- A desire for power and control
- Feeling that things are unfair
- Being tired or hungry
- Feeling left out
- Difficult-to-manage emotions such as frustration, anxiety, stress, or sadness
Sometimes it’s not just one reason that causes kids to fight. There can be many combinations and possibilities at play when your children choose to argue with one another. But just as they engage in conflict, they can also participate in the solution.
What happens when your children have a conflict in your home? Do you scream? Do you ignore it and then explode? Or do you ignore it and let your kids hash it out in the hopes that they’ll “figure it out?” Without maturity, this last tactic leaves one child in power and the others powerless. A power and control structure naturally develops, especially if one or more of your children have a peacemaker personality.
4 Keys to Stopping Kids From Fighting
Your children need your guidance in resolving conflict and exhibiting empathy and patience as they navigate relationships. Living with siblings is a great training ground for managing future relationships and learning all about patience, compromise, empathy, humility, and other important character qualities.
There are four key traits that kids need to learn as they figure out how to manage sibling conflicts:
1. Flexibility of Mind
Help your children learn first to consider the other person’s point of view and ask the question, “Is there another way to look at this?” The flexibility of the mind allows for compromise and understanding.
Humility means your children learn to consider other people as important and worth including their interests, thoughts, and opinions. It also means they must learn to listen to others attentively and genuinely. David tells us in Psalm 25:9, “He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.” Ask the Holy Spirit to help guide you as you teach your kids humility, and He will help you.
Ensure that your child knows what patience looks like and help them see the benefits of patience in relationships. Patience requires self-control. Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:1-3, “I therefore, a prisoner of the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Your children need to learn to own their contribution to the problem. Powerful and critical personalities have difficulty owning their faults. How well do you model this for your children?
Are you establishing a culture of respect in your home? Is constructive criticism accepted in your home? Do you take time-outs when emotions are bubbling up? If not, put a sheet of paper and give yourself permission to take up five timeouts throughout the day when communication is not going well in order to model how to do relationships well.
The $1 Per Minute Technique
One tool that many parents find helpful when dealing with sibling fights is the “$1 per minute” technique. Imagine if your children had to hire you for $1 per minute if they cannot resolve the conflict after five minutes. This technique could help fund your next date night or family night out! I recommend having the most inflexible child in the conflict foot more of the bill.
Once the five minutes are up, and penalties start piling up, make sure you follow through in collecting the money. The $1 per minute is a reminder that conflict has a cost. Of course, your kids get to decide whether they want to spend their money that way again in the future. It won’t take too many times before your kids will do their very best to resolve conflict within the first five-minute window.
These traits and techniques will help you develop maturity and growth in your kids and help manage sibling rivalry and conflicts and help manage your kids’ arguing and fighting. Remember, though, that the passion behind some of the sibling conflicts is also an indication of how deeply they do love each other and want to be heard and understood.
For more practical tools and tips, or to take the FREE parenting assessment, go to focusonthefamily.com/7traits.