It has been winter forever. Parts of the country are buried under so much snow, they’re not expected to thaw out until sometime in June. School has been cancelled, children have been cooped up with other children (all of them sharing the same cold back and forth for the past three months), and the mothers, who have long since exhausted the activities on their Snow Day Pinterest boards, have Had Enough.
One such mother posted a desperate plea to Facebook. “Help!” she cried. “My children have not seen the light of day since October and now all they do is fight! I don’t think we’ll make it to spring!”
All of her friends nodded in cyber-understanding. We get it. But we’re also in the same position ourselves and none of us had any ideas. “Let me know when you figure it out!” one of her friends wrote.
That’s code for “Girl, you haven’t seen fighting until you’ve been to my house.”
I decided it was time to call in the big guns to get some answers to how to stop siblings from fighting. I happen to know a few experts on children so I called them up and we had a conference. “Kids,” I said, “I have a friend whose kids are fighting. What should she do?”
My children exchanged glances. I knew they knew, but for a minute, I wasn’t sure if they were going to divulge any information that might be useful to me in the future. I was beginning to think they liked to bicker on occasion.
“There’s ice cream in it for you,” I said because I am a mother. I am not above bribery.
Just like that, the ideas came tumbling out. I grabbed a piece of paper and wrote them down, smug in my brilliance. Sometimes, the best way to figure out this parenting thing is to ask your kids.
So here it is, straight from my kids to you:
Ten Ways to Stop Your Kids from Fighting
(Before You Lose Your Mind)
1) Send them to Separate Corners
It works for boxers and it works for children. All the togetherness of winter and family life can leave people a bit cranky. “Sometimes, kids just need some time alone,” Faith suggests.
She’s my introvert, and I know how she recharges when she gets a break from her siblings. Mandatory rest periods on busy or dreary days help to save her sanity. And mine. It’s brilliant.
2) Play a Game or Build Something Together
This sounds counter-intuitive, especially since I have a distinct memory of slapping my brother over a game of Checkers on a snow day from ages past. And let’s not even talk about the fights we got into over Monopoly.
So. There’s the possibility that my kids are way off on this.
“Won’t playing a game cause more fighting?” I ask.
“Not if the mom plays too,” Jonathan says.
“Mom has to play too?”
“Yep. And Dad, if he’s home.” Then he sighs a long sigh and says, “It’s just better when the whole family is together.”
It’s true. My kids do not fight when I play a game with them. It’s just, I’m busy while they’re playing and I don’t take the time to join in the fun. It’s amazing how cheerful they become when I stop and play with them.
3) Divide and Conquer
Split families are a good thing if it means some kids go with one parent or adult and the other kids go with another. Everyone gets to have fun and a little extra attention while getting a break from each other.
Even if you have a lot of kids like we do, Kya suggests it’s sometimes fun to do girl stuff with me and her sister while the boys go do “boy stuff” with Dad. We also divide them up into “older” and “younger” groups so that we can choose activities that are more appropriate for each.
Splitting up the kids changes the family dynamic, and that little break can infuse some new life into worn relationships. When the siblings are back together again, they are generally very happy to see each other. Believe it or not, they can actually miss each other!
4) Get Physical
It’s amazing how therapeutic a wrestling match can be, or a family game of soccer or even a thumb wrestling competition. There’s something bonding about pinning your brother to the floor and making him beg for mercy.
At least, that’s what my kids tell me. They need positive physical contact, especially in the winter when they’re stuck inside together for days on end. Here are some ways my kids like to get physical:
- Stuff the kids’ jammies full of pillows and let them belly bounce
- Play Twister
- Create a relay race or obstacle course in the house
- If you have carpeted stairs, make the kids go up and down the stairs in as many ways as they can think of
- Turn up the stereo and dance
- Do a workout video together
- Arm wrestle
- Purchase a mini trampoline for the house and take turns jumping
- Blow up a balloon and see how long the kids can keep it off the ground with no child touching it more than once in a row
- Have a Nerf war!
You get the idea. Anything goes! Just make sure it is loud and sweaty and full-contact, and you’ll be good to go.
5) Turn Crafty
I know, I know. Some of you loathe crafting with your kids.
However, even a very simple craft project like learning to make paper airplanes and seeing how far they can fly can get kids working together and enjoying each other again. Put your crafting phobia aside, head out for some supplies, and get creative with your kids!
6) Find an Adventure
Want to stop your kids from fighting? Get out of the house. Sometimes, all it takes to hit the reset button is a change of scenery. Even in the winter, finding something new to DO is important.
Pile in the car and let the kids give you directions. See where you end up!
Be a tourist in your own town. Visit a place you’ve never been, even if it’s that tiny local restaurant with the flashing EAT sign and a disconcerting amount of bikes in the parking lot. Go explore!
If you’re snowed in, bake cookies and bring them to the neighbors. Or make tiny snowmen on top of parked cars, paint snow murals, or leave crumbs out in the yard and see what kind of animals come and find you! Just make sure you actually leave the house. Go. Go now! Okay, you can finish reading this post first.
7) Plan Something
My kids tell me that they really, really, really love to have something to look forward to. Everyone gets along better when excitement taints the air. That’s why everything after Christmas is kinda…blah. All the anticipation evaporated with the eggnog and now every day is exactly like the one before.
The solution? Plan something. Anything! Just get something on the calendar and talk it up. It can be something as simple as a movie night or something big like a sleepover at Grandma’s. When the kids get to bickering, interrupt them and say, “Hey, guys! What movie should we watch this weekend? Should I make popcorn or brownies?
Remind them that something good is coming up, and let the anticipation work its magic on their behavior.
8) Catch Them Being Good
It’s hard not fighting, especially because brothers and sisters can be so infuriating sometimes. Our kids don’t fight quite a lot, if you think about it. Praise them for the times they get it right.
My kids think a reward system is just the ticket. Focus on the good behaviors you see in your kids. Make a chart! When your kids have gone a certain amount of time without arguing, let them pick a reward.
Paul tells that when kids have been good all day, they should get ice cream, period. Don’t forget the sprinkles!
9) Speak Life
When my kids fight, they know one of their punishments will be to replace every negative thing they said about their sibling with three good things. If punishments are supposed to be painful, it’s not a very good one because it’s actually very fun. In fact, my little darlings mentioned it as a great tool to stop fighting.
If you catch your children being mean-mouthed to each other, stop them and make them spout off three things they love about their sibling. If they have trouble thinking of things, offer some suggestions. “Micah has the best-smelling toes on the planet” or “You have the cutest kissy-face.”
The result is (usually) a fit of giggles.
10) Make the Children Clean the House
This is not one of my kids’ suggestions. They tanked out at #9. However, I figure if your kids won’t stop fighting, you may as well put them to work. They might moan and complain and bicker the whole time, but at least the house will be clean.
Let’s just call it a consolation prize.
*Now you’ve read all the inspiration my kid-experts had to offer. How about you? Do you have any tried-and-true methods for keeping your kids from fighting? Share them in the comments below!