A very upset child.
Image by kheinz

A very upset child.

When Kids Fight

Parents often feel frustrated, angry and helpless when kids fight. Most parents want siblings to get along with each other and do not want them using violence of any kind against each other. While they don't want their children to hurt each other, they also don't want to solve their conflicts all the time. Here are some guidelines for when kids fight.

  1. Do not allow children to hurt each other with words, deeds or hands. Be firm about the "no hurting" rule.
  2. Don't compare kids. Comparisons make kids feel as if they are competing for your approval and attention, and competition can lead to more fights.
  3. Ignore arguments and verbal conflicts. If you interfere in children's conflicts too quickly and too often, kids never learn to solve their own problems.
  4. Don't try to find out how a fight started or who started it. This usually forces them to blame each other or lie, and really doesn't help to solve the problem.
  5. Don't take sides -- you are likely to increase jealousy and hostility. Stay neutral and help them talk to each other.
  6. Let combatants cool down before trying to solve the problem. If necessary, separate them for a few minutes.
  7. Let kids express their feelings ("I hate my brother," "I feel like bashing him, " "I wish he was never born.") These feelings are normal and won't go away simply because you say you don't want to hear them. Let kids know their feelings are OK ("I can tell you are really angry with him") but hitting someone is not OK.
  8. Give kids permission to do something to get their angry feelings out in ways that will not harm anyone, like hitting a pillow, swinging a stick at an old tire in the yard, etc. Many parents may not want their children to express angry feelings in any violent way. Their children can draw a picture or write a letter to express their anger.
  9. When kids are hitting each other, you can say, "We do not hit. I will give you one minute to solve the problem without hitting," or "You have a choice. You can stop fighting and keep playing the game or you can put the game away until you are ready to play without fighting." If this does not work, or if the fighting starts again, say "I can see you're still not ready." Take the game away saying, "Perhaps you will be ready later." When they ask for the game back you may say, "I am glad you are ready to play together now."
  10. Set a good example. Don't hit your children or anyone else when you are angry.
  11. Praise kids and hug them when they cooperate with each other. Show appreciation when they solve their own problems.

Source: National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse. Parent Pages was developed by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County. HD 69


Anna Steinkraus
Family & Community Development Program Coordinator
(607) 272-2292 ext. 145

Last updated October 16, 2015