Sibling Rivalry Triage

Let’s say you’re having one of those June-Cleaver-would-croak-if-she-saw-you moments.

Your kids are rowdy, screeching and tearin’ the place apart. You look into the mirror and say, “If only they could get along, my life would be bliss!” (Yeah right ). Screaming and fighting happens. Sometimes it’s as simple as a child who is over tired or hungry. Maybe it’s the time of day that triggers a fisticuffs between siblings. And truth is, sometimes it’s something more.

With a little preemptive planning, you can cut off the small skirmishes that pop-up and drain your energy leaving you feeling more like the Cruella de Vil than Mrs. Cleaver.

Suggestions for Triage in the Sibling Battlezone

    • Stop and think: Is there a simple reason the kids are fighting? Do they just need food? Offer it without engaging. Do they need a break from each other? Redirect and find something to do together. Do they have cabin fever? Put the music on and dance or go out and play in the leaves. Creativity and a willingness to do the unexpected are simple strategies that work.


    • Notice the rhythm of your children’s behaviors. They don’t call it the bewitching hour for nothing. Maybe your kids need quiet time after school and maybe they need to run around – figure out what works for them. Maybe you have a night owl who struggles in the morning and lashes out to anyone crossing their path and if that’s the case, spend some time connecting with this rascal before they bring down the whole family. The point is to redirect the energy BEFORE the “He hit me, no I didn’t!” song starts to play on full blast (on repeat).


    • Zip your mouth, Mom. The “telling them” and trying to “get them” to get along doesn’t work. Might be time for some darned duct tape. If you haven’t heard me talk about the miracle uses of Duct Tape, it’s time for a look at this.


    • After the fires have quelled, ask yourself what you are doing to foster the relationship between the kids and if you have given them ample time to develop conflict resolution skills. Hint: it’s never a good idea to try to help them solve their own problems when they’re fueled for blood. A family meeting or another time of calmness would be a better choice.


    • If you suspect that the kids are fighting in order to get your attention (ALERT – this is the case in at least 85% of the skirmishes between kids – don’t believe me? Walk to the bathroom and watch them follow you:) Stay Out Of It. It’s that simple. Don’t get annoyed. Don’t listen to the tattles. Don’t correct the kids. (Of course, if they are in harm’s way, do what you have to.) My go-to strategy was to put my headphones on, crank up the music to Talking Heads and sing at the top of my lungs. My kids were so pissed I wasn’t getting involved that within a few minutes they asked what I was listening too and we avoided a potential brawl.


  • Focus on the times when they are getting along and bring their attention to it. Over time, the kids will begin to see themselves as siblings who get along rather than on siblings who battle daily. Often, during a bedtime visit I would say things like “You were so patient with your sister today playing cards and I could see how excited she was that her big sis was making time for her.” WOW. My daughter’s eyes would light up and it wasn’t unusual to see her more patient the following day.

Fighting can be avoided with a little investigation, a bit of redirecting and a willingness not to make things worse.

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