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How to stop sibling fights before they start

Parents Can Have Peace this Summer. Summer brings all of the joys of spending time with your team — your family — traveling to visit relatives and taking vacation. But before summer ends, most parents are ready for school and the “normal” schedule to begin, mostly due to the conflicts that come with boredom and familiarity among siblings. It seems kids find a way to fight over just about everything. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can take positive steps to peacefully address sibling conflict — before it even starts.


The usual ways of dealing with these struggles involve time-outs, separation and removing the object of contention. While these steps can be helpful, consider new, approaches to work through issues that are more positive, but also require some work before they are needed, before you get in the car for summer vacation.

Teach Conflict Resolution Skills in Calm Times

I figured this out over the issue of driving. When my kids were growing up, I started telling them the family rules for driving long before it was time for them to get their licenses: no one in the car for a year, what time to be home, the consequences for a ticket, who paid for what, etc. By age 12 they were already setting their own rules: who would ride with them, where they would go, what they would do.
Discussing the rules in advance did not stop the refrain, “That’s not fair!” but the pre-discussions gave me the opportunity to say, “Remember, we already had this discussion, and in our family these are the rules.”
Teaching difficult lessons, setting expectations and consequences in calm times, relieves some of the stress of “in the moment” reactions by parents and children.

Follow these four steps for a positive approach:

1. Set up a family meeting. Have the meeting around an enjoyable time. It could be a special meal, treat, picnic or car ride.

2. Tell the kids what your vision is for the summer and/or family. This could be to have fun, learn something new as a family or whatever fits your particular vision. Ask your kids what fun looks like to them. Are arguing and fighting fun? If not, say, “Let’s talk about how we could have a peaceful summer. What would a peaceful summer look like and sound like to you?”

Once your family agrees on a vision:

3. Together establish a set of guidelines (rules). Be positive with character skills; eliminate the negative (i.e., Do not hit). After each skill, describe the behavior that looks like the skill. Decide ahead of time the consequence for not practicing the character skill. Your rules should be personal for your family and may be different than the following examples.

  • Show RESPECT for each other.
  • Use KIND words and GENTLE actions.
  • Practice PEACEFULNESS.
  • Be RESPONSIBLE for personal actions.

4. Plan in advance for when there is a disagreement. Everyone can agree to follow the 6 steps to cool off.

  • Stop, breath and chill. Take 20 minutes to relax and think about what you want to say and still be respectful, kind, gentle, peaceful and responsible.
  • Use “I” messages. Talk about how you feel, without accusing others.
  • Listen closely to the other side.
  • Take responsibility.
  • Brainstorm solutions. Consider how can we compromise?
  • Forgive, apologize as needed and affirm your appreciation for the other person. Use words like, “I appreciate your FAIRNESS.”

Other conflict resolution strategies

Many factors may contribute to conflict between siblings. Parents can do something about some of them. Factors for sibling conflict may include:

1. Physical – Hungry, tired or bored
2. Developmental – Age and emotional stage of life
3. Family Dynamics – How Mom and Dad deal with conflict. If you are angry most of the time, your children will be also.
4. Stress – Parental or what the children are feeling

When there is conflict, give your children a chance to express their feelings. Help your children find words for their feelings. Do not talk for them or try to talk them out of their feelings. Model for them how to talk about feelings, without yelling, name-calling, or violence.

This summer strengthen the team called THE (your last name) TEAM and grow your children’s character skills. Plan fun activities for the week and give kids time to be with friends. Help them learn how to be by themselves, reading, creating art projects, learning new skills. Enjoy a PEACEFUL Summer.

If you would like a list of character skills that you might want to use, contact me for the Gifts Within, a list of character skills for consideration.

Written by: Joe Van Deuren, Founder of Balanced Life Skills, in Annapolis, MD.

Joe Van Deuren is passionate about developing peaceful teams in families and the classroom. He is available as a keynote speaker and for private consultation with parents, teachers or children.
Contact Balanced Life Skills for information about summer camps and classes:   
410-263-0050 or email Joe at this link.

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