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Fighting Siblings

Question:

I am beginning to think that my children are never going to get along. Although most people say that a three-year age gap between children is perfect, I am starting to strongly disagree. They fight over everything, all day long. They are not nice to each other and are constantly hitting or biting. Sometimes my 6-year-old gets so mad that she screams in his face. I have tried time-outs and taking away special toys. I have even tried a behavior chart; however, nothing is working for me. It has come down to avoiding parties or social events because it is so embarrassing. What can I do to prevent this behavior? I know sibling rivalry is common, but this is not what I expected.

Answer:

We are glad that you are reaching out for support today. Dealing with sibling rivalry can be frustrating for parents, especially because it is interfering with social events for the family. Good for you, though, for implementing consequences for your children’s behaviors. Continue to do so, and remember that consistency is key.

It sounds like the consequences you are currently using aren’t working. In order for consequences to be effective, they must be important and carry weight. It might be time to reevaluate what is meaningful to your kids.

If taking things they like away from isn’t working, then maybe try adding things they don’t like. Right now, it sounds like the No. 1 thing they don’t like is being around each other. So, use that to your advantage. For example, if they argue, assign them one chore that they have to complete together. If during that chore, they argue, then add another task.

Explain to your children that they don’t have to be best friends, but the expectation is for them to be civil to each other. This is a request you would expect out of them toward anyone, not just a sibling. Hopefully, if spending all the extra time together doesn’t teach them to enjoy each other’s company, it at least will teach them to avoid openly fighting about it.

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