Researchers report that families with young children are rife with sibling rivalry. Some studies report that conflicts can occur as frequently as every 10 minutes. That’s a lot of refereeing from parents every day.

Why do siblings fight? Possible reasons include:

  • Jealousy
  • Desire for control and power
  • Feeling that things are unfair
  • Being tired or hungry
  • Feeling left out
  • Boredom
  • Impulsiveness
  • Competitiveness
  • Frustration, anxiety, stress, sadness, or other difficult‐to‐manage emotions

It’s not always just one reason. There can be many combinations and possibilities at play when your children choose to argue with one another. But just like they can engage in conflict, they can also participate in the solution. Helping our children walk through and resolve conflict is a great way to help them build a sense of Personal Power (Asset #37). Your child needs to feel that he or she has growing control over things that happen to them.

What happens when your children have conflict in your home? Do you scream? Do you ignore it and then explode? Or do you just plain ignore it? Some parents just let their kids hash it out in the hopes that “they’ll figure it out.” Without maturity, though, this leaves one child in power and the others powerless. This can set up a feeling of insecurity and lack of safety for the child on the receiving end. A power and control structure naturally develops, especially if you have a peacemaker in your home. Parents must be intentional about making the environment a safe (Asset #10) for all involved.

Your children need your guidance when it comes to resolving conflict and exhibiting empathy and caring (Asset #26) as they navigate relationships. Living with siblings is a great training ground for managing future relationships and learning all about Caring, Equality, Integrity, Honesty, Responsibility, Restraint (Assets #26‐31) and Peaceful Conflict Resolution (Asset #36). There are four key traits kids need to learn as they figure out how to manage sibling disagreements and conflict:

  • Flexibility of mind – Help your children learn to first consider the other person’s point of view and ask the question, “Is there another way to look at this?” Flexibility of mind allows for compromise and understanding.
  • Humility. This means your children learn to consider the other person as having worth and importance, including their interests, thoughts, and opinions. It also means they must learn to listen to others attentively and genuinely – showing genuine Care (Asset #26) for their siblings.
  • Restraint (Asset #31). Make sure your child knows what this looks like and help him or her see the benefits of restraint in relationships. This type of patience requires self‐control.
  • Interpersonal Competence (Asset #33). Your children need to learn to own their contribution to the problem. Powerful and critical personalities have difficulty owning their own faults. How well do you model this?

One tool that many parents find helpful in dealing with sibling fights is the “$1 per minute” technique. Imagine if your children had to hire you for $1 per minute if, after five minutes go by, they are unable to resolve the conflict. This could help fund your next date night or family night out! (I would recommend having the most inflexible child in the conflict foot more of the bill.) Once the five minutes is up and penalties start piling up, make sure you follow through in collecting the money. The $1 per minute is a reminder that conflict has a cost. Of course, your kids get to decide whether they want to spend their money that way again in the future – giving them greater investment in owning their Personal Power (Asset #37). It won’t take too many times before your kids will do their very best to resolve conflict within the five minute let’s‐resolve‐things window.