How to Talk With Your Kids About Sibling Bickering
By Carol Hildebrand

It’s the witching hour before dinner, and the kids are hunkered down in front of the TV while you clatter pots and pans around in the kitchen. Pretty soon, raised voices drift in from the den: “Hey, I was watching that! No fair! Give me the clicker! Ow! I’m telling!”

A typical response: You are tired and would love some quiet time, so you head in to try to quell the masses. “Freddy, your sister was watching that show, let her finish.” Freddy tries to present his side of the story, to no avail. “I am sick and tired of listening to you kids fight,” you declare. “Can’t you figure out how to get along?” Freddy gets mad and stomps out.

A more helpful response: Remember that eradicating sibling bickering is a hopeless mission. Siblings fight! “Kids’ fighting is very often fueled by their desire to get the parent’s attention,” says Braun. “The bickering drives us nuts and we turn it into a bigger deal. The most important mistake parents make is getting involved.”

Difficult as it may be, don’t call out to see what’s going on, and don’t try to fix it. If the noise gets too extreme, tell the kids that it’s getting too noisy and shut the door. If they want it open, make sure they know that this is a quiet zone with no fighting.

Tattling is also not allowed. Let your kids know the difference between tattling and reporting a dangerous situation. If they try to tattle, respond with a flat, “Oh. In this family, I don’t want to hear tattling. If there’s an emergency or if you need help solving something, then I can help.”

This is not to say that there are no rules, but enforce them differently. For example, if Steven is crying because Isabelle hit him, enforce the “no hitting” rule without judgment. “I don’t want to know who did what, but you know that we have a rule of no hitting. You have broken the rule and have lost the privilege of being together. Isabelle, you need to go to that room, and Steven, you stay in this one.”

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