Sibling Bickering, Nit-Picking, Fighting

Mar 24, 2020

Week 2 of quarantine is upon us and cabin fever has set in, am I right?

The kids are turning on each other and the house is flooded with bickering, nagging, fighting, picking and general nastiness. Aside from creating housebound schedules, this is the number one problem my clients are asking about right now. It's happening in my house too - 6 of us under one roof with no reprieve is not pretty!


If you managed to figure out a plan last week but sibling antics are sabotaging you now, you're not alone. Unfortunately, our plans are useless without effective enforcement skills and a calm disciplinarian. When we're wound so tight that bickering triggers an explosive reaction, or when we simply don't know the right response to deal with sibling dynamics, it's really unfair to expect ourselves to stick to any routine or plan.

 So how can we nix the sibling nonsense?

The biggest missteps we make in dealing with sibling problems are:

  1. Getting all tied in knots emotionally about their relationship with each other. It's awful to watch the people we love most, and who "should" love each other, purposely hurt each other. We want them to have a good relationship. Plus, it's super annoying! But, thinking things like, "How could they be so mean?!? They're supposed to be there for each other," leads to our next 2 bonehead moves:

  2. Intervening. Bickering and fighting is a part of sorting out and settling a relationship. Intervention only interrupts and prolongs this process. Imagine if every time you had a disagreement with your partner, friend or coworker, someone else stepped in and told you who was wrong and punished you! It would take a long time (or never!) for you to get your relationship on track! 99.9% of the time, kids sort out their crap if we just stay out of it. They do it in ways we never would, and it's incredibly annoying and nearly impossible to observe without stepping in, but ultimately they do have what they need to resolve their problems.

  3. Trying to figure out who started it. Digging into the backstory makes things worse every time because it validates the fight for both kids and rewards nonsense with attention and energy.


The good news is that sibling dynamics can improve with a few tweaks to our reactions. Imagine calmly reacting to your kids' attempts to start WWIII by simply saying, "Fighting happens away from my ears," while either walking out of the room or separating the kids. Or the next time one of them runs to you because someone is being mean, try saying, "I'm sorry that happened. It sounds like you're having a tough time but I know you guys can sort it out. Love you!"


Shifting our responses to sibling bickering does more than just lessen the problem. It sends the message to our kids: "This is your challenge. You've got what it takes to solve it yourself. I believe in you." Conversely, intervening (especially losing our temper) says, "this is a huge problem and you are either a victim or a naughty perpetrator and you need me to sort it out for you." Our reactions to our children literally give us the opportunity to perpetuate or minimize a problem, to contribute to our kids' self image in supportive or destructive ways.


I know how hard it is to stay calm and remember these simple responses in the moment. If it were easy, I wouldn't have a job! We all need someone on the outside who can teach us the skills we lack AND can untangle the emotional knots that get in the way of actually using those skills. Are you ready to make this stuff work for real? Then we should talk.


The first step in getting the support and guidance you need is a free discovery call. Whether we decide to keep working together or not, you will end our call with a clear path forward for you and your kids, powerful tools to immediately improve behavior, confidence in yourself as a mom, and the ability to imbue that confidence in your child. When you're ready to receive this support, book your call here.