Do Your Kids Fight? Trick Question?

Remember daydreaming about your future kids. They would play so nicely together. No one would ever fight or tease, bicker, tattle, name call or argue?
Then you had kids and you realized that was all a nice dream. :) Me too.

Kids are not always going to get along. There are going to be times when all heck breaks loose. But, there are some things we as parents can do to help realize those pre-child dreams. (This is going to take a post or two.)

Siblings who are closer in age and the same gender are more likely to argue and fight. That said, every age is different. Understanding the tendencies of different ages can really help us deal with our children.

Young Children are impulsive and don't have the maturity to solve problems.
-Two-to-Four year olds have a conflict every ten minutes.
-Three-to-Seven year olds, about 3-4 times as hour.

The "high time" for sibling fights is between the ages of five-to-eleven.
-Five year olds are more likely to care for and tend to younger siblings.
-Six year olds have a hard time compromising and tend to be overbearing. They are competitive and don't like to lose. They are good at yelling "it's not fair." (Yep, that was our son at 6.)
-Seven year olds are less competitive and usually less aggressive. They tend to be protective of younger siblings.
-Eight year olds tend to argue, they struggle to forgive. They don't like younger siblings to tag along and often comment that they "need private time." Funny, they don't want younger siblings with them, but they want to go everywhere their older siblings go.

It is very normal around Nine or so for kids to start seeking acceptance from their friends and wanting some space. Give it to them. They need to have time with their friends, without their younger siblings. Space granted will help sibling relationships improve. Regardless, nine year olds love to tell you "who started it."
-Ten year olds really start to get along better with their siblings.
-Eleven year olds can be high strung and like to tease.
-Twelve year olds start to mature and you see huge improvements in the arguing and fighting.
-Thirteen year olds want to be friends with their siblings. Especially the ones closest to their age. Arguments are usually over "things" borrowed or ruined.

It seems that just when you hit a good age, it is followed by a challenging one. Children are so wonderful. They are in a constant state of learning and figuring out. They are trying to navigate the unknown. It takes time, experiences, maturity and patience. When our son was 6, oh baby. He was so competitive it started to cause a lot of struggles. Understanding that that was part of his development and that it would pass was very helpful.  We dealt with it, and waited it out. Sure enough, it took care of itself.

For starters, try to figure out why your kids are fighting.

  • Do their personalities or priorities clash? Differing priorities is often the cause of arguments between siblings that are different genders. Our son thinks army men, mystery books, and light sabers are priorities. Our daughter things princesses, playing house, and anything pink are priorities. Most of their arguments are because they disagree on what they should do together.
  • You and your spouse fight, so your children are just "copying" what they see. 
  • Your kids don't have time to be alone. This is very important. Have your children take time everyday to be alone. It has made a big difference in the number of arguments in our home. 
  • Your kids don't have the opportunity to express their feelings. They don't feel like anyone listens to them so they let the frustration build up and then explode, taking it out on whoever is around. That is usually a sibling. 
  • There are stresses at home. Money problems, marriage problems, sickness. Children will respond to the stress by loosing patience and fighting. They don't know how else to deal with it.. 
  • Your children are too young to express how they feel. They are not old enough to solve the problems. 
Next, catch them in the act. See if you can watch your children argue. Observe why it started? Could you see it coming? What goes on during the argument? How did your kids respond and how did you respond? Do they always fight over the same things? 
Look for solutions that you can implement to help prevent the contention.

Evaluate your behavior.
Do you play favorites? Do you take sides? Expect more from one child than another? Listen to one child more than the others? Compare children and their accomplishments? Give one child more responsibility? Show equal interest in what each child is doing and saying? Could the fuel behind the arguing fire be your actions? I have to be careful with this one. I find myself naturally asking our son who is the oldest, to do more than our daughter. I expect him to keep the peace, fulfill not only his responsibilities, but sometimes our daughters also. If I am not careful, he gets hit with more than his fair share. 

Don't promote competition amongst siblings. 
-Never compare your kids. 
-Don't label your children. You gave them names when they were born. Don't replace their names with the smart one, the athletic one, the nice one, the slow one. The labels will stick, good and bad. There can be detrimental consequences. 
-Have your children work together. Don't make everything a race to beat each other. We have experienced this one first hand also. We try to never say, "who can get in bed the fastest?" Instead, if they want to race, it is against themselves, or how fast they did it last time. We also have our children work together to accomplish jobs. Our daughter who is younger holds the trash bag while our son dumps the trash in the bag. Our daughter puts the clean silverware away, while our son puts the plates and bowls away. After an argument I always have our kids hug also. They can't be mad when they have to hug. The hard feelings fall away as the two of them start laughing. Tonight we had a little "spat". Once we worked it out I said "give each other a hug." Our daughter stood like a limp fish. So I said "give each other a kiss." Our kids are only 7 and 5 so this is still okay. I said it and they looked at each other and immediately started laughing. It was great. 
-Schedule alone time when your kids can be by themselves.
-Praise your children when they get along.
-Acknowledge each child's special talents. Kids are different. That is good. Recognize what each of your children are good at and help them cultivate that talent. It will make them feel special.

Tomorrow, what to do with all the arguing and fighting. As well as some good rules to help your kids solve their own problems. Really.


Family Volley


  1. My kids are still too little, but I KNOW it is coming. Asher is possesive, and Abbie is a spitfire so... ya this post is definitely for preventative maintenance:)

  2. The time always comes. It makes it so much easier when you can identify their personalities though. That is often half the battle. Hope all is going well.

  3. Is there a good/better/best timeline for spacing kids? 5 or 7 years seem so far apart! Loved the post, thanks Heather!

  4. Great Question. Wish there was a perfect answer.
    There is no "safe" spacing for kids. And there are lots of "other" struggles that arise when your children are spaced far apart.
    One thing to think about when spacing, can you as the mom and dad handle it. There is great discipline and patience that are needed when kids are really close. Less than two years. I personally like 2-3 years. The older child can be toilet trained, handle a "big bed", communicate their wants and needs, etc. From all I have studied and experienced, there are lots of benefits to this spacing. That said. Take them when you can get them. Kids are such a blessing, and even if they are close, it will pass, they will grow. You will sleep again.
    If they are far apart, work very hard to help them develop relationships while they are young so they will have a relationship when they are older. One of the best ways to facilitate this, have the older sibling serve the younger. Involve them in caring and playing with the younger sibling.

  5. I have two boys and a new baby girl. The boys (age 3 and 6) had to move in together to make room for the baby girl and ever since then my six-year-old has struggled. They fight constantly, and the 6-year-old is constantly asking for private time. I can't kick my 3-year-old out of his room, so I let him go in my room and lock the door for a while. It seems to help...but them I'M locked out of my room!! I guess that's what motherhood is about (sacrifice), right?

  6. Heather, you mention age appropriateness/developmental stages. I was just talking with a mommy friend the other day and we were talking about our utter lack of knowing what is age appropriate behavior/parental response. Is the knowledge you share cumulative from your studies or do you have a decent "go to" source?

  7. Hi Nichole,
    Good question. Most is from reading lots of studies, thanks graduate school. :)
    I can try to help with specific questions if you have them though.


Hi Hi! It always makes my day to hear what you have to say. Let's keep this conversation going. Thank you for your comments. Don't want to leave a comment here, email me at blog.familyvolley@gmail.com.

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