Common dynamics in sibling conflict

It happens! Siblings fight with one another, goad each other, and yell and scream until they’re blue in the face. Until of course, one of them finally loses their temper, and gives the other one a giant smack in the chops.

The above is a perfect example of a common scenario in my household between my school aged children aged 6 and 7. I don’t take my responsibility as a role-model and a mediator lightly. The thought of having adult children  who cannot look deeply within at their own behaviour is absolutely unthinkable.

How does a parent handle this situation?

I dissect the argument between my children, as much as time allows- and I explain exactly what just transpired between them. First I ask them what happened? Than I hold them accountable (if they both participated).

How the argument begins:

  • One child usually provokes the other one by handing them the metaphorical ‘golden plated invitation’ to become a participant in their argument.
  • The child drawn into the argument doesn’t understand that this is a trick to entertain boredom, irritation, or another emotion. This child takes it personally, reacts by losing their temper, and finally gives the child who drew them into an argument, a giant wack.


  • The argument is dissected by the parent if possible, as much as time will allow. Than it is explained to both children the role they played within the argument.
  • Each child is asked if they can see where they made some mistakes within the argument – which of course, lead to the escalation of the conflict.
  • The conflict initiator is asked if they can see how they provoked the argument, and the other child is asked if they can see that they reacted to the bullying type behaviour.
  • Than, the risks of both behaviours are explained in child like terms.

What to do?

I always explain to my children that feelings and emotions are normal and acceptable. However, the behaviour is the problem.

I recently sat both of my children down to have a detailed chat about the dynamics of their arguments. I explained to my son that by deliberately creating an argument he is causing trouble – and stroking someone’s emotions in the hope that they fly into a rage – which again, entails consequences.

Than, I explained to my daughter exactly what her brother is up to. I informed her that he is dragging her into a dispute due to boredom, annoyance, a hard day, or another emotion.

It is important to explain to children that it is a choice to take the ‘golden plated invitation.’ If the invitation is taken, they will be tricked into an argument. They do have options.  They can walk away, discuss the situation with mum, work on communication strategies with mum, find a compromise, or, they can  go to their happy place.

I empathise with the child who hits back. The reason why I empathise with them? Because they have been picked at, called names, attacked for no reason, and have had their buttons pressed. Now they look like the perpetrator, the naughty child – the one who often gets sent to their bedroom.

Lastly: The apology

Once I’ve explained the actions of both children to each of my children, they are usually quite happy to apologise, and they are surprisingly ready to forgive one another.

Finally my children are learning to look within, to accept when they are wrong, and to take responsibility for their part in the argument. Skills which they will forever be grateful for, and the skills which will allow them to shine in adult hood. Such a gift!







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