Sibling rivalries: 9 ways to cope with the squabbling

One frazzled Mumsnetter asked for help with her warring children - this is how Mumsnetters responded 

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"My older daughter is seven and my younger one is four. At home, they argue nonstop and hit each other. It's not how I imagined family life. Is this normal? 

1.  Establish your own line in the sand


"My two do argue from time to time but hitting, kicking, pinching or the like is not allowed. I have pointed out to them that they argue in school with their friends without hitting them, and therefore are perfectly capable of arguing with their siblings without resorting to violence."

2. Think twice before you take sides

"I remember well the day I heard my youngest son howling with pain, saying his older brother had just hit him. The thing was the brother in question was sitting peacefully beside me in another room at the time. When challenged, my youngest's answer was, 'Well, I just said it in case he hit me.'"

3. Remove the source of conflict

"I remove whatever is prompting the fighting, but generally don't get involved. Fighting over the Wii? Then I turn it off. I don't care who did what to whom but if they can't play together, they don't play at all."

4. Do follow through


"Mine are not allowed to fight in the front room or kitchen - they get sent outside or upstairs. At one point, I'd put the two of them outside as soon as they started, no matter the weather or clothing. The fighting calmed down a lot after I put them outside in a snowstorm with their pyjamas on!"

5.  Or try cruel and unusual punishments

"My mother only used to intervene when someone was getting hurt or she was reaching her limit. Then we had to hug each other for the minutes of our age, in silence. It used to bring her a bit of peace and calm us down until something else would set us off."

6. Do some background reading


"You need this book: Siblings Without Rivalry. It has really helped us have a more harmonious family life. Not a cure-all, and you do have to work at it, but there are some useful strategies. I reread when things get bad and always find something to try that works."

7. Remember, there are upsides

"When I was a lonely only, I fantasised about having fights with a sibling..."

a) They're building fond memories (maybe)


"There's two years between me and my sister. My fondest memory is of us sitting in the backseat of my dad's car, pulling each other's hair and yelling at each other. Mum, of course, was yelling at us as well. Good times."

b) They're learning while, um, fighting...


"They are in the fortunate position of being able to learn assertiveness and conflict resolution with a sparring partner who will always be on their side when they are out in the big wide world."

8.  So help them form alliances


"I never took sides. I'd usually punish them both so that they both were muttering about me, and they formed a united front."

9.  While knowing that this period won't last forever


"My brother and I used to fight constantly. We were never allowed to sit next to each other. Love him to bits now!"

"My sister and I were in our twenties before we started to get along!" 

"The good news is, they seem to like each other once they leave home." 

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Last updated: almost 2 years ago