It’s summer vacation time – are your kids fighting yet?¬† ūüôā

Since we homeschool, we pretty much fight year round.

Seriously though, I think that sibling fighting is one of the most exhausting parts of motherhood. ¬†This is one of those areas where we are in it for the long haul. ¬†It helps me to think of character development as an ongoing, long-term pursuit. ¬†Motherhood involves the day-in-day-out modeling of what it’s like to live with other people. ¬†There is no replacement for speaking kind words ourselves, demonstrating patience and love and the other fruits of the Spirit¬†ourselves, and modeling how to humble ourselves and apologize when wrong. ¬†I do not say this because I have achieved perfection in this area but because I believe God wants us all to actively grow in our ability to love and shepherd little people who can sometimes be very difficult!

On the practical side, here are some tricks that have been helpful for me in facilitating sibling cooperation!

7 Practical Ways to Help Siblings Get Along

Keep them busy. ¬†I believe in “letting kids be bored” and not entertaining them every minute so that they will learn to be creative. ¬†I also believe that it’s important not to over schedule kids. ¬†But in a house with five kids, we also need a certain amount of structure. ¬†Too much down time = too many pillow fights and wrestling matches and a whole lot of bickering.

Ask the kids to think of a solution. ¬†This little trick has been helping us quite a bit. ¬†Instead of saying, “Please share!” or “Stop fighting!” I have been saying something like, ¬†“Boys, both of you are wanting to play with the Playmobil Jeep right now. What solution can you think of?” ¬†Then they say something like, “I could let him have it when I’m finished with it,” and I remind them to take a reasonable turn and then pass it on. ¬†I think this works because it’s so much more specific than “please share,” and it gives them something to act on.

Teach kids to apologize the right way. ¬†Relationships need reconciliation when something has gone wrong.¬†¬†A half-hearted “I’m sorry” in a monotone voice does nothing to resolve a conflict. ¬†Teach kids that their apology should include:

  • An apology for a specific action. ¬†Not just “I’m sorry for being rude.” ¬†Instead, “I’m sorry that I called you a dummy,” or “I’m sorry that I drew on your picture,” or “I’m sorry that I took your camera without asking.”
  • An explanation of why it was wrong. ¬†“You had worked hard on that picture, and I ruined it when I drew on it.”
  • An explanation of what you will do next time. ¬†“Next time I will get my own paper and not draw on yours.”
  • Use the words, “Will you forgive me?”

When we take the time to have our kids go through this process it really does help to restore relationships!

For more on effective apologies, check out this fantastic article on cuppacocoa.

House Rule: In our home, we include everyone who wants to be included.

We have so many fights that start with one child reading a favorite book and another child asking to look at the book too and the first child says no (or the LEGO catalog Рthat catalog brings out the worst in everybody!).  Or one child bringing down a tub of Playmobil and another child asking to join in, and the first child says no.

It’s just not worth it to fight over someone wanting to play with you, especially since they will most likely lose interest in 5 minutes anyway! We do have quiet time in the afternoon where the boys have the opportunity to play or read alone. But at other times, the boys need to include a brother who wants to play too.

I don’t always enforce the reverse of this (someone wants to play a game and wants me to make their brother play too). ¬†It’s pretty hard to make someone play something and actually do it right, if they don’t want to. ¬†But as they get older they can certainly learn this skill. ¬†I will sometimes ask my older two (age 8.5 and almost 12) to play soccer with their 6 year old brother so that he can practice for his game, for example.

Jump Ball:  For all the little decisions that have to be made (Which movie?  Which game?), try having a JUMP BALL!  I love this idea from I Can Teach My Child.  Having procedures in place goes a long way in preventing fighting.

Say five kind things about the person you hurt. ¬†We did this the other day. ¬†And I insisted that they be genuine, or as close to genuine as possible. ¬†Not, “I love brother because he has brown hair.” ¬†It had to be specific. ¬†For example, “I love the fact that my brother makes all of us laugh with his funny faces.” ¬†It’s really hard to stay mad at someone when you just spent several minutes thinking of all the positive things you can about a person!

Kindness Car. ¬†Here’s a fun way to jump start acts of kindness within your family! ¬†It can be a Kindness Car, or really any object.

Need More on Sibling Fighting?

7 Practical Ways to Help Siblings Get Along!


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  1. Michelle Jun 17, 2015

    Oh my gosh, I had to interrupt reading this to go referee a fight over a granola bar. I definitely could use some help. What do you recommend when little sister (3) wants everything exactly the same as big brother (5), but big brother refuses to be copied. For example, choosing a color straw/cup/anything becomes an endless loop of, "I want the red one." "Then I want the red one." "Then I want the blue one." "Then I want the blue one." I've tried to explain the relationship between imitation and flattery, but my 5 year old isn't buying it.

    1. Sarah Jun 17, 2015

      At our house, we fight over the red plate. The *one* red plate. It's not quite the same as imitation, but I totally hear ya! Hmm, that's a hard one. The good news is that it is very likely a passing stage, so my first reaction is to not make too much of a big deal out of it. I would probably let littles sister imitate since there is not a good reason to not let her. So tell brother he can make one choice. When sister copies it and he asks for another say, "You have already made your choice!" in a pleasant tone and move on. Not sure if that's helpful at all! But I bet he'll lose interest in this whole thing before long. Well, it may be a matter of months, but in the grand scheme of things it won't seem like *too* big of a deal!

      Another thought - what about letting sister pick first? And again, everyone gets just one choice.

      1. Michelle Jun 17, 2015

        That's a good idea. I should have them take turns picking first and then make them stick to their choice. The only problem is that the little one always says, "I want what he wants," and sometimes the big one lies about what he wants so she'll pick "wrong." But you're totally right. Like everything else, it's just a phase and before long she'll probably insist on the exact opposite of what her brother wants. I should be thankful that in this moment she admires him so much (even if it drives him crazy). Also, I hear you on the red plate. We've got several "red plates" in our house.

  2. Lisa @ This Pilgrim Life Jun 17, 2015

    I think that too much down time has been a problem for my kids recently. Often, I'm trying to finish up a few chores or we don't have much to do, and my kids get too crazy because it's been too long without direction or structure.

  3. Kristen Jun 19, 2015

    Great tips - summer seems long already and we're only a couple weeks into it! These tips will help my sanity!

  4. L. W. Jul 10, 2016

    Excellent article! A lot of your tips help some of the conflicts my kids have been having. I especially love that they are so specific , too.


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