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Why Kids Fight and What You Can Do About It

Kids fighting? Get to the bottom of sibling conflict with these helpful tips.

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To get your kids to stop fighting you will first need to uncover the underlying reason for the fighting and the arguing. There are several different reasons kids fight. The following questions and responses will help you formulate a plan to reduce the frequency and intensity of the sibling conflict in your home.

Do your kids argue when you are not available to them?

If so, the underlying fuel for their fights may be attention (too much or not enough). You can address this underlying reason with the following tips:

  • Talk to them before you will be unavailable for a period of time. Ask them to anticipate and problem solve about how they will resolve arguments in your absence.
  • Make sure you are really with your kids when you are with them. Put the phone down. Keep your mind from wandering to “more pressing things.” The deposits you make into their attention bank need to be genuine and in their currency for it to count.
  • Conversely, consider if you are too involved. If you hover, micromanage and intervene excessively, you may have made yourself indispensible. As a result, they may be unable to manage without you. Teach them conflict resolution skills; then have faith that they will use them when necessary.
  • Also, if you are their only source of entertainment, you may have made yourself essential to ward off boredom. Encourage your kids to use their imaginations and creativity to play on their own.

Do your kids use arguing as an opportunity to tear each other down with their words?

Kids who use their words to wound and hurt others are usually hurting themselves. Here’s what you can do:

  • Look for and address underlying feelings of self-loathing in the offending child. If this is at work you will likely see symptoms of depression and anger in other areas of his or her life as well. Talk to your child about his or her feelings and if you find that his behavior is affecting his functioning or your family unit, find a trusted counselor who you and your child can talk to together.
  • Be aware of what your children are seeing. This means on TV and in real life. If your children are repeatedly exposed to people who are tearing each other down, they will model what they see. Honestly consider how you speak to other people (including your kids) when you are upset or angry.

Do your kids argue at certain times of the day?

If you notice that your children have difficulties at certain times of the day, do some investigating to address the underlying cause. Here’s what you can do:

  • Ask yourself if they are hungry or tired. If they are, adjust your schedule. Provide snacks to ward off hunger, cut out some extracurricular activities, make sure that your children have daily wind-down time, and get them to bed on time.
  • Have a predictable routine. It doesn’t have to be rigid or strictly followed, but children do best in structured environments.
  • Tempers may flare when your children are anxious about transitions in their day. If you notice that arguments happen before certain events (being dropped off at the babysitter’s, for example), talk to your children about how they are feeling. Let them know that you want to help them with any concerns or worries they may have.

Do your kids seem to argue for no apparent reason?

If so, you may have over-stimulated kids on your hands. Kids who are inundated with screen time and other passive forms of entertainment quickly lose any communication and interpersonal skills they may have had. Use these tips to correct this reason for fighting:

  • Limit screen time.
  • Encourage your kids to engage in co-operative games such as board games, card games and puzzles.
  • Encourage your kids to build things together. The benefits of building include creativity and pushing through failure. Kids who can learn to deal with frustration during the creative process will be better able to manage any interpersonal frustrations successfully.

Sibling squabbles will not go away altogether. Brothers and sisters who argue and fight are much more common than those who do not. Your goal is not to eliminate, but to investigate. Once you have uncovered the underlying fuel for the conflict, you can intervene, teach problem solving skills and reduce the fights between the children in your home.

[Photo credit: phaewilk from]


This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for treatment from a qualified mental health professional. Cornerstones for Parents is not liable for any advice, tips, techniques, and recommendations the reader chooses to implement.

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About Laura

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura is a licensed clinical social worker who offers individual therapy to women and moms in Connecticut. She is the author of More Than a Conqueror, A Christian Kid's Guide to Winning the War on Worry. Cornerstones for Parents is the place she combines some of the things she is most passionate about: God's word, parenting and mental health.

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