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5 Ways to Get Your Kids to Argue Less

Siblings argue for many different reasons depending on their personality and their age.

If I had a dollar for every time my son yells, “She’s making a mean face at me” or my daughter says, “He’s touching me,” I would be a rich woman. If you have more than one child in your house, odds are that your children are best friends one minute and then arguing with each other 87 seconds later.

When children are young, they often argue with their siblings over toys and their parent’s attention. As they turn into teenagers, the arguments are often over sharing things like the family car, telephone and computer. Teens also become jealous of their siblings over accomplishments such as academics, sports or popularity issues.

“When children are given the opportunity to work out problems with their siblings, they learn lifelong negotiation skills and how to get along with others, which requires consideration, compromise and reconciliation,” says Susan Tordella, founder of Although there is no magic cure to make your children stop arguing with each other or being jealous of each other, here are some ways you can reduce sibling rivalry in your house:

Hold regular family meetings. Family meetings can be a great place for siblings to discuss issues that have been bothering them and reduce arguments on a topic. Tordella suggests having a family meeting two to four times a month. “Every family member takes a turn running the family meetings and taking notes,” says Tordella. She also recommends keeping an open family meeting agenda on the refrigerator so that everyone can add items to the agenda as they think of them.

Be a coach, not a referee. When possible, encourage your children to work out the problem themselves. Tordella recommends that parents tell their kids, “I know that you can come up with a solution” and walk away from the arguing kids. “It’s amazing how conflicts dissipate when there’s no audience,” says Tordella. It also teaches them problem-resolution skills and hopefully they will be able to eventually resolve the arguments without your assistance. The exception is when there is a physical argument or if one child is being consistently picked on by the other one.

Separate your kids. The best way to ensure that your children want to be near each other is to suggest that they stay away from each other, but oftentimes some space from each other can end an argument. If your kids are having a tough time getting along, help them become engaged in separate activities. You may have to find activities for each child that the other child is not interested in or send one child to a friend’s house to play.

Talk about respect. If your preschooler grabs his sister’s book out of her hands or your teenager bad-mouths her brother to her friends, they are not respecting their sibling. Make respect a family value and talk about how you should respect yourself, other people, animals and your belongings. By creating this emphasis in your family, it makes it easier to apply the concept to many different sibling rivalry issues.

Put the toy in timeout. When your child cannot figure out a way to share a toy or other item, such as a video game or computer, remove the item and neither child can use it. Explain to your kids that the toy is in timeout until they can figure out a way to share it. “If they can’t agree on what TV program to watch, turn off the TV. If they fight over which car they get to use on Friday night, don’t let them use either car,” says Tordella. “This takes parents out of the role of judge/jury/executioner and taking sides.”

Whenever my kids’ bickering has reached new heights, I remind myself of the afternoon of the infamous argument with my sister. I don’t remember what it was about, but my parents enjoy reminding us of the argument that ended with us rolling around the front yard. 25 years later, I talk to my sister most days on the phone and can honestly say she is my best friend. I can only hope that one day my son and daughter will feel the same way about each other.

Jennifer is mom of two kids and three dogs.

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