How to Handle Kids Fighting

Mar 14, 2021

How to Handle Kids Fighting


“Hey, give that back, NOW!!”


“NO! I had it first.”


“No you didn’t!! It’s mine. Give it to me!”


Have you heard arguments like this in your house? Do you feel like they’re becoming more common, and you don’t know how to stop them? Are you tired of battling the, well, battles in your home? Kids whining can be an unpleasant sound for parents, and I’d say kids fighting is pretty high up there, too. 


So, what can you do about kids fighting? In this post, I’ll delve into why kids fight and give you some tips on how you as a parent can handle it. Let’s get started!


Why do kids fight?

Now, you may have some ideas already about why your children always seem to be at odds with each other, but it’s beneficial to really think about the source of the fighting and the many factors involved.

1. Kids fight because they think something’s unfair

One cause of children fighting is that they see things as unfair, and they’re trying to express that and level the playing field. For example, there’s a household with two siblings aged nine and four. The nine-year-old sibling wants to play a joke on his younger sister. He’s just having fun and thinks she might even laugh about it with him. However, the joke does NOT bring out laughter; instead, she gets upset and starts yelling at him. She probably felt he was being too mean…she didn’t find his joke funny at all. Sound familiar?

2. Kids fight because of personality and temperament

Another reason for children fighting is temperament differences AND similarities. Everyone comes into life with their own personality and temperament (maybe you realized this after having multiple children…I know I did!), and some children simply get upset more quickly than others, which can lead to disagreements and fighting. I have a child who is pretty laid back and doesn’t let things get to her very much while her sibling seems to get upset at the drop of a hat! These differences can sometimes quell the fighting, but they can also intensify it at times. I included the word “similarities” with temperament because children with similar temperaments can fight just as much or maybe even more. For example, perhaps there are two preschool children who love to play together and are best friends. However, because they are both headstrong and stubborn, they fight almost every time they play.

3. Kids fight because of age similarities 

Finally, kids’ ages can be the basis of the fighting. One source suggests that siblings who are closer in age tend to fight more. While this may or may not be true for your situation (it’s not for mine!), it’s important to consider age as a factor to help you understand why your kids are fighting. 


Is siblings fighting normal?

The short answer is yes. Fighting happens in every home, even if parents don’t see it. But don’t worry too much because it would be abnormal for kids not to ever fight, at least a little.


So, I’m going to propose an idea…kids fighting can be positive. I know…it sounds far-fetched, but bear with me. Disagreements that siblings, and really all children, have give them the opportunities they need to stand up for themselves, compromise, and learn to get along with others. These disagreements and fights are part of learning how to get along. 


Let’s look at an example. I have a friend who breeds dogs, so she has puppies at her house roughly once a year, and she lets us go over to help socialize them before they go to their permanent homes. My children asked her one day why they fight and why she lets them. She told them that it’s important for them to learn what’s okay, what hurts, and how much they’re willing to take. She only intervenes if it gets too physical (more on this in a moment). 


Now, I know that raising children is very different from raising dogs, but the fighting principle is the same. Kids need to learn social skills and conflict resolution, and sometimes that happens through fighting. The lesson to take from all of this is that kids fighting is normal and can be a learning experience.


How do I deal with my kids fighting?

Ok, so after reading all that, maybe you’re thinking, “yeah…okay. That makes sense. But what do I do about my kids fighting?” Here are 5 tips that can help you handle the situations when fighting comes up.

Tip #1: Be proactive

One of the best ways to deal with kids fighting is to teach them before a problem comes up. You can give them scenarios and help them work through what they would do if they found themselves in such a situation. Also, YOU can anticipate sources of contention. Maybe you’re going somewhere in the car, and you know your kids tend to fight when they’re riding in the car for a certain amount of time. Maybe a friend is coming over to play, and your preschooler is still pretty protective of his toys. Maybe your elementary-aged children both want to watch TV, but they have a hard time agreeing on a show. Think ahead of time, prepare yourself, and prepare your kids.

Tip #2: Stay out of it as much as you can

I know that this one sounds a little counterintuitive, but parental intervention can actually complicate the situation. Let them find a solution to their disagreement on their own. This is a great time to allow them to practice their conflict resolution and social skills. Also, giving too much attention to the fighting may add to it, so sometimes it’s best to step away.


Now, I say “as much as you can” because there will be times when you’ll need to intervene. If the fighting becomes physically or verbally unsafe, you’ll want to get involved. When you do need to step in, be objective. Be calm and notice how your energy can help to diffuse or escalate the situation. 


If you do need to step in to ensure safety, simply make sure everyone is physically and emotionally safe and then leave it alone for now.. If you feel like it definitely needs to be addressed, wait several hours, or until the next day, so that tensions are diffused. When your children are in their emotional brain, they are low on logic, so trying to talk it out in the moment is counter-intuitive and unhelpful. 

Tip #3: Set a positive example

Children learn a lot from their environment, so they’ll pick up on the way that you deal with conflicts as well. Show them positive behavior when a disagreement arises between you and your spouse. You can do this in a few different ways:

  • Don’t yell at your spouse in front of your kids. Instead, show them how to calmly discuss compromises. 
  • Listen to your spouse’s point of view and show your kids that open communication goes a long way in conflict resolution.
  • Stay calm even when you’re angry. It’s okay to show your kids your many emotions, but also make sure you’re showing them how to appropriately deal with those emotions.


You can also set a positive example by not yelling when you hear your kids fighting. Sometimes it feels like it’s the only way to get them to hear you, but even here you can show a better way. If it gets to the point when you need to intervene, go to them and help de-escalate the situation calmly.

Tip #4: Find the underlying source of the problem

We talked earlier about why children fight. Now’s a good time to look at the particular situation and find out why YOUR children are fighting. Is it because they’re bored? Maybe they need some positive attention? Are they tired or hungry? Identify the source of the problem WITH your fighting kids, and they’ll have more awareness when it happens again, which will help them handle it better in the future. 

Tip #5: Praise positive behavior

Do you like being told all the time that you’re not doing things right? Of course not! Guess what…children don’t like that either!! Sometimes it feels like parenting lends itself to lots of correction, but you can break that cycle by finding opportunities to praise your kids’ positive behavior. Point out to them when they’re working together, when they’re sharing, and when they’re playing peacefully. This helps reinforce their positive behavior, and reminds them that you also notice the good things they’re doing. It’s a great way to prevent your kids’ fighting!

Closing thoughts on how to handle kids fighting

Don’t get discouraged! Whether it’s preschoolers fighting or pre-teens, fighting is a part of growing up. Do keep in mind that helping your children learn the skills they’ll need to positively handle conflicts will take some time. Remember, you’re probably not always in control of your emotions, so don’t expect more of them. Remember that they’re just kids, fighting is part of being a kid, and they’re still learning. You’ve got this!

If you’re still not sure you can handle the fighting, you can always count on me! A great place to start is by checking out my Freedom Moms podcast for some helpful tips. You can also find out your parenting superpowers through taking my free quiz.


Crystal The Parenting Coach


Cover image for the parenting personality quiz, 4 sketches of a mom doing a different activity with her child
Cover image for the parenting personality quiz, 4 sketches of a mom doing a different activity with her child

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