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  1. I have three boys, ages 23 months, 4 years, and 7 years. For sibling squabbles, we’ve tried making the older two run laps around the backyard, do jumping, do an extra chore. Most of the time they flat out refuse to do whatever assignment they have been given. What do you do when they refuse the consequence?

    1. Sounds like you’re doing some really good stuff! If they refuse…make the consequences worse, haha. 🙂 Truly, Cloud and Townsend, in their book Boundaries for kids, say: “We change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. Consequences give us the pain that motivates us to change.” Hang in there. Big hugs 🙂

  2. Thanks so much for this advice! I have a 1 1/2 yr old boy with my husband and a 10 yr old step-daughter from his previous marriage, and he of course wants to emulate her and do what she’s doing, but she is completely unwilling to share or take any time out to be with him — which of course leads to a cranky baby who wants to then stop her from doing that thing that she doesn’t want to stop doing to spend time with him, and a downward spiral until I intercede and remove my son from the situation. I haven’t wanted to discipline her because I can imagine how difficult it must be to adjust to life as a sibling, but these creative ways of turning disagreements into bonding moments are the food-for-thought that I needed! I never gave any thought to the gratification they must feel from fighting before reading this (and the gratification she probably gets from “winning,” as I always just start playing with my son and let her keep doing whatever it is that she’s doing), but now that I realize that that ultimately is what their interactions devolve into, I think I know exactly how to nip it in the bud!

    This is my first visit to your website but I love your style and wisdoms, and am so impressed by your wonderful family! Will definitely be subscribing. 🙂

  3. Beth Bronsil says:

    I raised two boys. When they started fighting in the back seat of the car I would pull over to the side of the street, park, and say nothing. Questions would come from the boys, “Why did you stop? I remained quiet. Soon, and very soon I heard these words, “We will stop fighting,” The rest of the trip was peaceful!

    1. I like that Beth!! Thanks for sharing. It requires patience and self control on your part (something I’m working on, haha!) but I do see how effective that would be! Well done, Momma!

  4. Great article! Just in time for summer when my boys spend “too much” time together (and the fighting increases!) One thing I’ve done if they start “name-calling” (which I won’t tolerate), I make them say 5 nice things about each other!

    1. Perfect. Easy and so do-able!! Thanks for commenting! aloha! 🙂

  5. Once I made my children write each other a love letter. It had to include three things they admired about the other one and an apology for their behavior. They were informed that if they did not write a sincere letter, and I was the judge of that, then they would write another one. That was about 15 years ago, and we still have those letters. This was following a particularly explosive conflict. It worked to diffuse the situation, but I can’t say that the conflicts lessoned. Their opposite personalities can still flare up even as young adults.

    1. That’s awesome, Bonnie. Even if it didn’t solve the problem, I love that you still have the letters today. Something good came out of it! 🙂 Thanks for sharing. Aloha-

  6. I have three boys, so fighting is a daily struggle for us. I love the idea of having them sit on their hands in the car. Going to try that one this weekend as we take off for our 4th of July vacation.
    Some tactics that have worked for us are:
    -have them run around the block, side by side, not one way ahead of the other. our block is 1/2 mile.
    -give them a trash bag and make the two fighting work together and pick up trash alongside a road/pond. They can’t come back until it is filled.
    -throw football back and forth, or shooting basketball, saying a kind word about each other every throw/shot.
    – drive 20 nails in a 2×4 and then pull each one out. This is a great one for them to do together.
    Raising boys is so much fun! We tend to make a lot of their consequences physical. Jumping jacks, burpees, etc…

    1. You are a smart parent!!! 🙂 Love all of your ideas and yes, with boys using physical consequences is especially helpful! Thanks for sharing! Aloha-

  7. Great article!!! I was just complaining to my mom yesterday about how much these boys (ages 5 and 7) whine and fuss with each other. I remember what she did when my sisters and I fought…. each one of us, on opposite sides of the glass door or any other low window, with a cloth and a bottle of Windex!!!!! That usually worked AND got the door clean!!!

    1. Thanks Amy! I’m absolutely gonna try the windex solution! Love it. (smart mama!) Aloha~~

  8. I teach and coach on leadership and communication. As parents we have to become leaders. Study leadership and grow your influence! It’s not only for business.

    Best tip? Kids often argue to establish pecking order. Take it away. I had 2 girls and we used odd days/even days. Wanna sit in the front seat? Go first? Have the bigger piece? One girl was odd days, one was even. Much less fighting!

  9. An addition that I use when making them do chores together is the Getalong shirt. I read about it somewhere a while back. I get one of my husbands shirts and make them wear it ( they each put an arm in, and I button up the front) while doing a chore together. It makes them figure out how to complete a chore together and do it without fighting. If they decide to fight, they get another chore!

  10. When our children fought we were concerned. The youngest (by 7 years) would come in and whallop the oldest as he laid on the couch watching tv. Huh? Are you serious? Trey would get up angry. I told him “Trey, he just wants your attention”. I saw the look transpire, he understood. Trey went after him but soon I heard Nathan Laughing “No, Trey no” but still laughing. They are great friends today.

    Our middle child, Rachel was not as nice to Nathan, they are about 4 years apart. For awhile it really bothered me. Not anymore. I did talk with her and Nathan and that worked, somewhat. It was just to much, I couldn’t stand it. Today they are good friends.

    For discipline we used a chart. Chores, misbehavior all had consequence. If you did this or did not do that, here is your result. And we stuck to it. Very soon they asked “How many warnings do we get?” So we told them. It was not long before they saw the structure and worked with in it. The best part? It removed most emotion for the parents.

    Today 2 are in college, one in high school. Now that is an entirely different story. As parents we really need to enjoy the time with them, it just goes to fast.

    1. Such a good reminder…Perspective is everything and sometimes it is so hard when you’re in the thick of it! 🙂 Thank you. aloha

  11. Love, love, love your ideas! One thing that works well for me is an idea i stole from a speaker I heard once. He suggested ‘family court’ for sibling arguments. All those involved in the argument “take it to the bench” (in my house, that’s the couch). They sit there until they can tell me what they-themselves did wrong…not what anyone else did, but only themselves. They take responsibility for that action, apologize (a full 4 part apology) to the other sibling and ask for forgiveness. Anyone not feeling particularly forgiving yet, may need another minute or two on the bench. I like that they have to accept responsibility for their own part of the argument, even if “she/he started it”.

    1. Wow Erin, that is classic! I love the “family court” idea! Brilliant! Thanks for sharing! Aloha

  12. Love this Monica! I’m type A and so I enjoy having things laid out in a practical way! I’ll be adding these tips to my training repertoire! I’m also trying to challenge myself to bring more of the Word of God into our training. As a Christian mom, it’s my desire to apply the Word to daily life. This of course includes sibling squabbles! I’ve been through seasons of having them write a verse or sharing a bible story but now that their getting older I want to actually take them to the Word and dig in deeper together! Sooooo…we have a 3×5 card box with tabs from A-Z. When a squabble comes up, or even a character issue one of the boys is working on (ie. self-control of his anger) we’ll go to the Word and see what it has to say about that specific issue. Then we write the verse on a 3×5 card and file it under the appropriate letter (P=peace “blessed are the peacemakers” Matt 5:9). Eventually, we’ll have a treasure box full of God’s truth that will not return void in my boys hearts! We can keep adding to it and refer to it whenever something comes up!
    (I have the box, tabs and cards ready! I’m anxiously awaiting the first squabble… ; > )

  13. I think this is the best post I’ve seen in a long time about sibling fighting and parenting in general. It has some very simple and effective solutions. I covered this topic on my own blog a while back where I did a comparison of it to bullying and how tough it would be to have to live with your bullier. I have two Scout brothers where I suspect the parents have allowed this to be true and as a Scout leader it makes me sick. I’m not sure how to help, but I may forward this article on to the parents as a start.

    1. Wow, Adrian–Such an interesting observation. We know a surf family like that as well, and it breaks my heart too.
      I hope the post might give some subtle hints. 😉 Much Aloha and thanks for commenting!

  14. great advice! Thanks a lot Monica!! Will try it out next time.. and next time will come for sure.. especially the one with ‘sit on their hands while being in the car’… had to send this immediately to my husband.. and had to smile.. and I am sure he will too :-)..
    Again I have to say that I am so glad that I found your page and that we are now connected. So good to share with someone who has boys too. It is different to have boys and that really helps and gives a great support and always anyway great to hear from you from so far away … hugs, sandra

    1. Thank you Sandra! What encouraging words…I appreciate it. Hope it helps and definitely keep in touch! aloha-

  15. Wise advice, Monica! I guess I am lucky because most of our squabbles are at home. My kiddos are usually picture perfect in the public eye. But at home, my guys can be so physical when they fight. My husband asserts that boys wrestle, kick, slap,etc. I am just not comfortable with that. I’m still learning how to end that. My little guy just seems to need so much physical contact- hugs and scuffles. I will certainly try your suggestions. I especially like the partnership chore and making them hug and kiss!

  16. Antoinette says:

    Perfect timing for your blog on sibling rivalry. I will use most all of the ideas. I have a 6 yr. old boy, 12 yr old girl & almost 16 yr old boy. My oldest enjoys messing with his sister. Sometimes he goes too far with insulting comments/jokes. We had him write a long list of everything he loves & appreciates about her. It helped heal on both sides & set a beautiful perspective for both of them to realize how much words can hurt or heal. I think this has helped us in many different ways. I try to make the consequence relative to the dirty deed in hopes it can shed light at the same time & offer empathy.
    Thank you for your words…

  17. One thing I have found works pretty good along with staying right on top of any issues and consistency is positive reinforcement. We have a jar that my kids can earn beans by doing nice things throughout the day. At the end of our day we sit down together as a family and point out anything nice that each person has done. Then they get a bean for each. I have told them once the jar is full we will have a special party for them choosing to be nice. Even my almost 2 year old understands if she is nice then she gets beans. Thank you for this article. You definitely have some great ideas on difusing the situation and realistic ideas on how to help them decide to be less combative with their siblings. I have passed this on to my sisters. I love your blog!

    1. Chantel–I love your bean system! Brilliant! Thanks for sharing. 🙂
      And nice of you to pass this on–much Aloha!

  18. Greg Lake says:

    Me and my three siblings never fought. *lies*

    Some really good advice here. We all get on really well now, probably because my folks were good at doing this stuff exactly how you describe it. 🙂

    Also, Josiah is a legend. That is all.


    1. Thank you Greg. Same w/ me and my bro’s–although it was all their fault for sure–I was a pretty perfect child. 🙂 haha Now we are super close though, so that is super special.

      Yes, Josiah is, I have to agree. 🙂 I’d love for you to spend time w/ him now, he’s grown up so much since you were here, and only better with time!
      aloha friend!