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  • Writer's pictureDr. Luisa Bryce

Squash summer sibling rivalry today

It’s summer, it’s hot, and the kids are bored. And when kids are bored, they squabble. Like chickens. About anything and everything… from whose turn it is to sit in the front seat of the car to who ate the last popsicle. If you’re like the majority of parents, you’re sick and tired of the senseless arguments. You may even be beyond yelling at this point, because nothing seems to quiet the masses that are your bickering children.

Instead of giving up and pounding your head against a wall, hoping it’ll drone out the constant conflict, give these strategies a try:


When your kids first start fighting, take a passive role. Stand back from the fighting, but close enough so that your kids can see you’re paying attention. Put your hands on your hips and loudly but calmly say, “Huh. You guys seem like you’re having a very difficult time working this out.” Challenge your kids to a little experiment by saying, “I bet you can’t work this out yourselves. In fact, if you do, I’ll be so amazed and astonished that I’ll let you both stay up 15 minutes later tonight.” Make sure to say this with a huge amount of doubt in your voice so that your kids actually believe you think it’s utterly impossible they work out the conflict amongst themselves. Offer a small incentive with the challenge (15 minutes extended bedtime, screen time, time outside, etc.) and make sure it’s something you’re willing to follow through with.


Let’s say your boys are arguing over who gets to play with the new lego set. Each child clearly thinks it’s his turn to play, and it looks like they might start getting physical with each other. Step in and say in a very firm, but calm voice, “Boys, you have a choice. You can either choose to take turns with the legos OR you can choose to have me take them away while you both clean the basement… which option do you choose?” If your children can’t make a choice and continue to argue, say (again in a calm, firm tone), “Oh how sad… Looks like you chose the basement.” Immediately take the legos away, put them up out of reach, and delegate your children to a cleaning chore or other unpleasant task.


The separation is kind of a no-brainer. If your children absolutely will not stop fighting, separate them. Have both children go to different rooms of the house and take a time out for 15-20 minutes, depending on the age of the child. If your children resume fighting after the separation, separate them again. Repeat for as many times as it takes for the fighting to extinguish. Again, try to remain calm and matter-of-fact during the conflict. You can use the same phrase as in “The Choice,” (“Oh how sad… looks like you girls chose another time out.”). I like to use this technique sparingly as it provides little opportunity to allow siblings to work on conflict resolution and compromise, but sometimes a little down time is imperative for all involved.

Remember, sibling rivalry is normal; however, if it feels constant, out-of-control, or results in physical injuries requiring medical attention, it may be time to seek professional guidance. Please don’t hesitate to contact Harmony At Home for further clarification or assistance.

How do YOU handle it when your kids fight? We want to know! Feel free to leave a comment.



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