Depending on what ages and stages your little ones are, know that we’re in the same boat. Siblings fighting can be stressful, sad, and even overstimulating! I have four girls – my oldest is ten and my youngest is 3. And for some reason, the last few months have just felt like CONSTANT fighting and bickering. While I totally get it now, it used to really bother me at first!
In this blog post, I’m going to talk about
Let’s get straight to it.
Why do my kids fight so much?
As I mentioned earlier, I used to get really upset when my girls would fight. I was so sad and concerned…it felt like I just NEEDED them to get along. But then I realized…it is totally in nature to squabble.
I mean, look at dogs. If you have two or more dogs, you’ll totally understand this. Dogs wrestle, play bite, and often just fight for fun. It’s just a part of how they interact with each other.
What really made me feel better about my girls fighting is the fact that, just like in nature, siblings fighting is actually a healthy developmental part of growing up together and can even sometimes be a good thing.
Siblings fighting can look different for different kids and different situations. There are a few situations that might require a “hard stop” and some intervention from mom and/or dad, but we’ll talk some more about that in the next section.
If your little ones are fighting or bickering about who left a mess or who didn’t do enough chores, that can actually be really helpful in social shaping behavior. This is because siblings have this special ability to call each other out in the context of a very secure attachment relationship.
Think about it. You know that if your sibling calls you out for something or is super annoyed with another thing, you’re getting their feedback but you also know that they love you unconditionally.
In scenarios like this, it’s also good for the other sibling to be able to practice using their voice, setting a boundary, advocating for themselves, and standing up for themselves. So, instead of just shutting off the fight, we want to help our kids navigate through it because this is a fantastic teaching opportunity.
In a Psychology Today article written by Avadian Milevsky Ph.D. titled “When Siblings Attack”, we learn that “The majority of the time, [siblings] fights are an attempt to understand and navigate social relationships. Studies show how these interactions between siblings help create the foundation for future friendships.”
Small sibling fights help our children access new and different social situations in a safe, secure environment. They are learning about a variety of social difficulties and what they need to do to work through them.
What can I do to handle all of it?
When your kids start bickering, assess the situation and, if appropriate, let them figure it out/try working it out on their own. When trying to understand their siblings’ different perspectives, our little ones might need some coaching from you. Get on their level (even literally!) and teach them more about those crucial social skills they’re starting to develop (different perspectives, apologies, forgiveness, etc.).
Now, let’s get into some of those hard-stop moments. The truth is, not all sibling fights are as harmless as we might hope. You do have to have some basic ground rules set. Here are two scenarios that I believe would require a hard-stop and some intervention from mom and/or dad:
1. Physical Aggression
When I was growing up, my mom would say, “Hands are for helping, not for hurting.” This means a hard stop on hitting, kicking, biting, or any physical aggression when fighting. That’s not how we deal with things.
In another Psychology Today article titled “When Does Sibling Fighting Become Harmful?”, “Aggressive behaviors can leave a sibling feeling mistreated and should be stopped immediately. If parents or caregivers do not intervene to stop sibling aggression, it may escalate and become more severe over time.”
2. Personal Digs
Another hard-stop moment is when the fighting involves any personalized digs. Kids shouldn’t be making each other feel bad. Help your little ones understand that their words carry a lot of weight. I’ll tell my girls, “You are never to be the one that makes your sister self-conscious about something. You are always her cheerleader.”
How do I NOT stress about all the fighting?
The goal? Try to let go of this pressure of not wanting your kids to fight. Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean throwing them in the ring to totally go after each other. I just mean do what you can to help yourself not feel the weight of it all.
Siblings will fight at some point…it’s only natural! And I get it. I can be SO overstimulating. If you find yourself plastering on the smile, holding onto every last shred of patience, trying your best to not lose it because your kids are just kids with normal kid behaviors…I see you. Keep trying. Make it to bedtime. You’ve got this!
And you already know how I feel about a good reset. I 10/10 recommend burning your face into the bed and listening to meditation songs for 10 minutes to go ground and reset. We aren’t perfect, but we’re all trying to model self-awareness when we get overstimulated and need a reset well before we feel like we’re going to snap.
*This is also when parents can make an incredible team in the sh*tshow moments. I LOVE my husband, Tom, for being there to ever so politely invite me to take my own time out, and in the most loving way possible. Mamas need time out too!
Recap of Why You Shouldn’t Stress About Siblings Fighting & How To Handle It
Giving your child siblings and watching them group up together is one of the most BEAUTIFUL things in the world! I truly believe that siblings provide something that parents just can’t quite. Not to mention, they are some of the longest-lasting relationships our little ones will have!
Siblings shape the way we relate to other people, how we learn to manage our emotions, and what conflict resolution looks like. As a mom, all of the fighting can be scary, overwhelming, and overstimulating at times. Do what you need to do for YOUR mental health in these situations, and be prepared to step in when you need to.
One thing I can guarantee is that we are our best selves (and our little ones can be their best selves!) when we all are getting the sleep we need and are well-rested! Whether your little one is a newborn (0-4 Months Content Library), 4-24 months (4-24 Months Content Library), or a toddler (2-5 Years Content Library), we have the resources you need to get your family the sleep you all deserve!
Milevsky, Avadian, Ph.D.. “When Siblings Attack.” Psychology Today, January 22, 2012, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/band-brothers-and-sisters/201201/when-siblings-attack.
Tucker, Corinna Jenkins, Ph.D., Whitworth, Tanya Rouleau, Ph.D.. “When Does Sibling Fighting Become Harmful.” Psychology Today, September 11, 2023, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-science-of-siblings/202309/when-does-sibling-fighting-become-harmful.