There are several reasons for children to fight, ranging from toys to preferential treatment of a child. It is challenging for parents and caregivers to solve such conflicts without being biased. You need to be very careful with your words and actions in such situations.
While some experts suggest that children should be left to solve their conflicts, some suggest that adults must intervene. If you decide to intervene, you need to do it subtly and without coming across as biased. So, when must you control the situation or how to do it?
This post helps you understand when to step-in to stop kids’ fights and how to solve a squabble.
When To Step Into Children’s Fights?
Parents or caregivers must take charge of the situation when disagreements turn into physical fights. If you sense your children’s verbal quarrel is bound to turn aggressive, you must get involved. You must intervene in any fights that are likely to lead to shouting, crying, hitting, scratching, and name-calling.
If you feel that children can resolve the disagreement, then avoid intervention (1). Sometimes, fighting could help children arrive at solutions and learn virtues, such as forgiveness, adjustments, compromises, sharing, and teamwork. Resolving their disagreements could also teach them to regulate their emotions and be considerate to others’ requirements.
How To Deal With Fighting Kids?
You may try one or more of these ways, depending on the situation and the nature of your kids’ fight.
- Be equitable: Do not fall into the trap of investigating the fight to find who is wrong and who is not. This will impose a feeling of picking a winner (2). This will leave a sense of inequality and resentment in the mind of a child, creating the foundation for subsequent fights. Instead, focus on resolving the matter at hand and awarding equal penalties or punishments. Your objective should be fair mediation (3). For example, take away the toy for which the kids started fighting and return it to them only when they have a mutual solution.
- Separate the kids: Separating the bickering children can give them time to calm down and control their anger. You can separate the children by sending each to a separate room or different corners of a room. Do not allow them to play together until they are ready to be friends again. Separation time can make kids mend their bond and learn to share things cordially (4).
- Praise positive behavior: Each time you see your kids playing together peacefully, praise them (5). You can place ‘good behavior piggy bank‘ and add a coin each time the kids play together in harmony. Once the piggy bank is full, the children can split the money equally and buy anything they desire. Remember, children repeat actions that get the most praise and rewards from their parents (6). Instead of money, tokens can also be used and then converted into rewards like favorite food of the child.
- Teach to respect others: Teach children to listen to others and understand their perspective. Ask them what they would do in the same situation; make them realize that the other child also has a valid point or choice. This does not mean to teach your kid to compromise each time. It is about teaching children to listen to and respect others’ opinions (4). Listening and understanding others’ perspectives could help the child arrive at a solution with common benefits (7).
- Be a positive role model: Children observe adults and try to imitate them. If your child notices that you always prefer polite discussions over aggressive arguments, they will emulate your behavior. Remember, you must also be careful about how you and your partner discuss differences in opinion in front of the children. Setting the right examples within the family is essential to discourage fighting among children (8).
- Minimize the reasons for fights: Identify and eliminate the probable reasons that often lead to a fight. For instance, children often become fussy and aggressive when bored, hungry, tired, or sleepy (9). Ensure that they get adequate rest and eat their meals at the right time. In some instances, children may fight over items that they share, such as a common toy. Put away the toy and buy a different one for each child. Praise a child if he/she gives up the toy or agrees to share with other children.
- Encourage games with active participation: Children can be taught qualities such as empathy and kindness through games and activities that involve teamwork (10). You can try several indoor or outdoor games that encourage cooperation. Active participation in team-building games can help siblings understand each other better and resolve differences amicably.
- Teach to be proactive: Older children and teens can be taught to be proactive rather than reactive. They can be encouraged to diffuse a tense situation before it takes an aggressive turn (11). Older teens could sense when their minor argument with a sibling is likely to turn violent. Encourage them to leave the matter right at that moment or come to a parent immediately if they are unable to resist name-calling or physically hurting each other.
- Monitor content: Monitor what content children are watching on TV. Programs with aggressive or violent scenes can prompt them to behave similarly.
How To Cope With Sibling Fights?
Sibling fights are the most annoying and challenging to resolve since each child must feel equal and loved. Here are ways to cope with sibling fights.
- Spend quality time with each child separately: Spending quality time with each child could prevent them from fighting to gain your attention (1). An older child could find it difficult to transition from being the only child to sharing the parents’ love with a sibling. Ensuring that you fulfill each child’s need for attention can prevent them from quarreling with each other out of frustration or jealousy.
- Be fair: Treat them equally in all situations. If you buy something for one child, do get it for another. If there is a situation where one needs to be treated differently, explain the reasons to the other child politely. For instance, if the elder kid needs to stay awake for homework and the younger sibling needs to sleep early, make them understand the reason behind this difference. Parents must strive to treat the children equally and patiently explain any exclusive privileges of a child to their sibling (12).
- Never assign tags: Tagging your kids with names, such as ‘the obedient one,’ ‘the smart one,’ ‘the trouble maker,’ and so on, will inadvertently give rise to sibling rivalry. Assigning such labels will set the ground for unfair comparison in the future, leading to unavoidable conflicts between the siblings. Therefore, avoid comparison and assigning tags. Appreciate each child the way they are and praise their respective talents (12).
- Set house rules: Be clear about certain things that won’t be tolerated in the house (12). Make sure it applies to all members of the family, including the adults. For instance, if empty plates are to be placed in the kitchen sink after a meal, each family member must observe the rule. You can also set rules for turns for playing with a toy, using an object, or any other privilege for the child. These rules must be observed with no exceptions.
- Let kids brainstorm together: Let children develop ideas to solve a situation (13). Encouraging children to think of solutions promotes responsible behavior. If they find it difficult or are stuck at some point, give them ideas and encourage them to discuss. This problem-solving attitude will help children a lot in the long run (14).
When To Seek Help From Others?
If the children often squabble, become aggressive almost every time, and your consistent efforts do not seem to cause any difference, you may seek help from others. You can speak to the children’s grandparents for assistance or solutions. You may also seek help from the children’s pediatrician, family friends, teachers, and other parents.
It is essential for parents to remain calm and keep their cool when dealing with their children’s fights. Remember to reinforce positive behavior through consistent efforts across all aspects of your children’s lives. The process will be gradual, and children learn from previous experiences. Persistence, encouragement, and praise are all children need to stop fighting and resolve conflict in courteous ways.
2. 10 Tips for Dealing With Sibling Rivalry; Cleveland Clinic
3. Julie Smith and Hildy Ross, Training parents to mediate; NCBI
4. Fights with Friends; PBS
5. Fighting for a Toy; American Psychological Association
6. Kids fighting nonstop?; Harvard Health Publishing
7. How to Teach Siblings to Resolve Their Own Arguments; University of California, Berkeley
8. What Happens to Kids When Parents Fight; University of California, Berkeley
9. Coping With Sibling Rivalry; The Center for Parenting Education
10. 15 Playful Ways To Solve Sibling Rival; Hand In Hand
11. What to Do When Children Fight; Children’s Hospital Of Pittsburgh
12. Sibling Rivalry; C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital
13. WE CAN WORK IT OUT! ; Center For Children And Youth
14. Problem Solving to Reduce Fighting and Aggression; Parenting Now