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How Do We Deal With Our Children’s Constant Fighting?

Vincent Powell asks:

Mother Wit we need your help! Me and my wife have two children and they are always fighting over their toys. The younger one always starts trouble with the older child. Sometimes their fights get out of control. They bite, wrestle and hit each other with objects. I’m afraid they are going to seriously hurt each other one day. I know that sibling rivalry is normal but this has gotten out of hand. We take things away from them and we separate them when they fight but neither tactic has worked. How do we get them to stop fighting?

Mother Wit says:

Sibling rivalry is definitely a normal part of growing up. It’s as old as the Bible story of Cain and Abel. It’s only natural for them to compete for attention, toys and other resources. But it’s your job to protect your children, even from one another. How they behave toward each another is their first social lesson in how to behave in a group and in public.

When my kids had their little squabbles over toys I taught them to handle it themselves. I would tell them, “I’ll be back in one minute. If neither of you can figure out how to share the toy then it will be locked away where neither of you can get to it. Try this technique and what you’ll be doing is giving your children two choices – work it out themselves or face the consequences if you have to work it out for them.

2 comments on How Do We Deal With Our Children’s Constant Fighting?

  1. Quinton Davis says:

    This is great for an initial response, but most behavioral issues in children are more complex. Both my sons attend public school and have attempted to guard themselves from incessant bullying by fitting in the wrong crowds and being cunning and sneaky. One can say they are now then doing the majority of the bullying, and won’t keep their hands to themselves. Their mother and I, while not together, don’t believe in hitting them as a source of punishment. We both yell and may even be over emotional in our attempts to reason with them. They are now totally out of control, and we are left wondering what to do. I am very strict when the boys are with me. Often times, I don’t ever see and have never saw the behaviors they are exuding at school. Their mother says these behaviors are common place. What advice do you have for us?

    1. Shelly Quiles, MA says:

      I think the greatest challenge in parenting is developing the relationship. The real work is in spending one on one time, dinners/meals, talking and fleshing out discussions during times of low stress or times when children and parents have relative peace, and modeling conversations and conflict resolution for children. Often “out of control” is a signal for dysregulation and down regulating a child requires strong communication, play, structure, routine, love, nurturing, adequate sleep, healthy nutrition, regular exercise or activity and supportive spiritual and motivational education. Also limiting exposure to arguments, violence and fighting can reduce the trigger of feeling like every interaction is brewing with hostility and a fight to the death. Teaching someone they are valuable, to value others, and to positively reinforce that their respect and dignity for others will always return 100 fold is key to modeling and building strong young people. I have seen my children bicker and argue and I have sourced much their frustration often back to feeling unappreciated, unattended to and not feeling like their voice is being heard. Source where their anger and hostility is originating, attempt a stab at understanding what they are really fighting for. Attention? Love? Support? Positive affirmation? To win? To feel like they have conquered something? Sometimes people need time away from their “competition” or other sibling to be reminded that they are valued and deserve to be protected.

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