How to Gently Handle Your Kids Fighting

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When siblings argue or fight, it can take every ounce of self-control not to shout “why are you always fighting?!” or “can’t you just get along!”. After all, some of the squabbles can seem totally insignificant, especially the ‘he/she touched me’ type. However, in gently responding to your kids fighting, you can model patience, teach empathy, and demonstrate positive problem solving skills.

First things first, take a deep breath.

In gently responding to your kids fighting, you can model patience, teach empathy, and demonstrate positive problem solving skills.

How to Gently Handle Your Kids Fighting

This about the way you wish your kids were responding to one another, and model that behavior. So much of parenting really comes down to this. Often, we are frustrated with our child’s behavior, and we in turn express that frustration with often the type of behavior we are frustrated with. I can be the first to admit that I do this all too often, and have to stop myself and provide a gentle reminder that if I want them to act in a certain way, I need to model it. 

If every time your see your kids fighting, you swoop in and fix the situation, you have lost a teachable moment.

Sibling fighting, rivalry or arguments all require one thing for a peaceful resolution. Listening.

Who knew listening could really be so hard? 

But really listening requires that each participant take a step back and hear what the other is saying. This is where the role of the parent, or moderator, becomes vitally instrumental. Because let’s face it, listening is tough for kids, and really explaining emotions and feelings is even harder. This is where you can help.

Facilitate, don’t fix.

Think of the sibling arguing as small building blocks to a lifetime of learning how to communicate. Expressing feelings, stating dissatisfaction constructively, and sticking up for yourself are all positive. Learning how to do this without hurting one another while gaining problem solving skills is essential.

If every time your see your kids fighting, you swoop in and fix the situation, you have lost a teachable moment.

Re-think your role in all of this, rather than fixing the situation, facilitate it so that your kids can do the fixing.


Let’s take a common sibling squabble, the fight over a toy.

You hear your kids screaming in the playroom at one another, as you run upstairs you see Johnny on top of Bobby with the toy clutched tightly in their hands, neither one willing to give it up.

You walk over to separate the boys and ask what’s going on.

Here are the important things to remember.

Regardless of who is right or wrong, give each child the chance to tell their side of the story.

Ask how the situation made each of them feel and allow them to tell one another. Give them the words where needed. 

Model phrases they can use instead to discuss the situation with one another. “Why don’t we try saying, when you are done with the toy, can I have a turn?” or “This makes me really angry when you grab a toy out of my hand”.

Give them the tools. After doing this a couple of times, try to take a step back. Trust that you have given them the right tools to work it out themselves, and then let them try.

The next time you hear them screaming “mom, he took my toy!”, it’s ok to respond with “I want you to try to work it out yourselves, remember what we talked about last time? Try using your words.”

You will be amazed at how much they actually can work out themselves.

Prevention is key.

Identify triggers where you can. Often sibling rivalry or your kids fighting can stem from feelings of not being heard, of desiring more attention, or out of pure jealousy.

in gently responding to your kids fighting, you can model patience, teach empathy, and demonstrate positive problem solving skills.

Here are some simple ways you can try to alleviate some of these issues:

-carve out one-on-one time for each child (this can be going out for an ice cream, or just taking some time to read a book together)

encourage empathy and care between siblings throughout the day. If one of your children fall and scrape a knee, show their sibling and express concern, maybe a hug from the older sibling if he/she feels up to it

ask how they would feel? take a situation and flip the script, help them understand how their siblings might be feeling by acting out or discussing how they would feel if the situation happened to them

-take the time to really listen. If your child tries to express to you that they need more attention, listen to them, even if your perception is different

foster teamwork. Find opportunities in everyday activities such as setting the table or playing a game outside where siblings have to work together towards a common goal

praise. When your kids are playing together nicely, using their words to express themselves, or are sharing their toys, don’t just notice, say something.


Seeing our kids fighting can be tough to deal with. It requires a lot of patience. But, we have an opportunity to take them moments and really give our kids the tools that they need to become problem solvers and to effectively communicate with one another. By facilitating and teaching, we can help them learn how to solve these problems on their own, and become capable of taking these skills and applying them to situations throughout their lives.

Want more? Check out these popular parenting articles to help you become a gentler parent.

This printable poster is full of ways that kids can learn to calm down anywhere!

Photo Credit: kids fighting , sibling boys fighting

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