When Siblings Fight, Teach Healthy Ways to Handle Conflict

With good parent modeling, ground rules and a little help, children can learn to deal with conflict in healthy ways, said Lori Hayungs a family life program specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.


Hayungs suggests parents use the following tips to cope with sibling conflict:

·         Work with children to establish some family rules for safety, such as, hitting and name-calling are not acceptable.

·         Let children settle their own differences when possible. When children need guidance or the situation is at a stalemate, offer some suggestions or choices for compromise.

·         Set a good example. If parents model good ways to deal with conflict, children will use the same skills. If parents do lose their cool, admit it and talk about what could have been done differently.

·         Individual attention can reduce sibling rivalries. Let the children know how they are special to you as a parent.

·         Children can learn empathy. Teach children to listen to the thoughts and feeling of others and repeat them so others know they heard correctly. This way they learn to appreciate someone else’s point of view.

·         Change the mood. Stop what you are doing and spend some time with the children to assess their needs. Playing some soothing music or reading a story may help young children get past the angry feelings.


“It is normal to disagree with someone when there are strong feelings, and children are no exception,” Hayungs said. “Parents can help children learn about wants and needs of others, how to talk calmly through a disagreement and how to compromise. These skills will benefit your children for their lifetime.”


For more information on how to deal with sibling fights, look for these ISU Extension and Outreach publications from the online store, https://store.extension.iastate.edu/:

·         Sibling Fights – Getting Along, PM 1651 (free download)

·         Things to Do When I Am Angry, PM 2075 ($3.25)

·         When I’m Angry, PM 1653 (free download)

·         Sibling Rivalry, PM 1529I (free download)

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