A recent Time Magazine article reports that siblings between the ages of
        3 to 7 years old fight an average of once every 17 minutes,
        2 to 4 year olds it’s more like once every 9.5 minutes.
That’s over 6 fights every hour!

My Embarrassment

Initially, I want to be shocked by these statistics. Instead, I just feel relief . . .

            Relief because my kids aren’t the only ones
            Relief because it’s not my parenting style.
            Relief at the fact that conflict amongst siblings is normal.  

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m delighted that all of your kids fight, too. Except that, I sort of am.  

As a young mom, I was so embarrassed when my boys fought in public. In fact, I cared very little what the fight was actually about or whether there was a true injustice on the line, what I cared most about was me.

              What will people think?
              What will other moms whisper to each other about my parenting skills?
              How will this affect my reputation as mother extraordinaire?

All of this was going on in my self-centered mind while someone was getting clobbered with a sand toy or being forced to eat a bug.  

These statistics are reassuring though, aren’t they? We aren’t alone. Our kids aren’t the only ones on the block who fight.  

Conflict and Human Nature

It really only takes a second of looking at our human nature to understand conflict. When we’re by ourselves, it’s all about me, and we sort of like it this way. We get to choose whether it’s quiet or loud. I can decide exactly what temperature makes me most comfortable. We generally agree with ourself on all of the decisions required to make us happy. But suddenly, when another person is in our space or sitting at our table or communicating their feelings, we realize it’s not all about me anymore, and realize we really don’t appreciate that.

As adults, we’ve learned that leaning across the table and punching someone for taking the last piece of garlic bread isn’t an appropriate behaviour. But, let’s be honest, we kind of feel like it, don’t we? I mean, c’mon – garlic bread!

Our kids, when fighting, are just acting on the feelings that we all have inside. They simply lack the control necessary to stop the hitting, or the biting, or the teasing that erupts when they don’t get their way.

Time and Grace

As parents, this is where our role in the sibling conflict enters. We don’t need to spend our energy trying to hide the fact that our kids fight (The cat is out of the bag! They all do!!) or agonize over how to keep them conflict free – at all times and in all situations. Rather, we need to spend our time equipping our children with how to deal with conflict when it arises. We need to disciple them into a place of understanding how to control both their emotions and their body when they disagree with others.  

Bill Farrel discusses discipline as a process of teaching children to discipline themselves: their own actions, their own emotions.

He says,

[as a parent] I’m going to discipline your life until you learn self-discipline. When you have self-discipline, you have the ability to make healthy decisions in your life.”

This is an important perspective to consider when our children enter conflict. Teaching them and giving them tools that enable making healthy and wise decisions in the moment.

In the meantime, remember that this is a process and certainly isn’t going to happen over night. We know by now that if our kids listened the first time, they certainly wouldn’t need us parents.  

We need to give ourselves grace for this journey. We can find comfort in the fact that we aren’t alone. We will also, hide all sharp objects from our children’s hands. The bottom line: teach our children that conflict is okay – it’s how we handle it that makes all of the difference!  


Source: Time Magazine, The Science of Siblings, The Outbreak of Hostilities: Why Siblings Fight and What to Do About It, By Jeffrey Kluger (study by Laurie Kramer, University of Illinois)


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Written by Rhonda Fast

Rhonda Fast

Rhonda is a wife + mama, minimalist + adventurer, writer + dreamer,
broken + redeemed.
She works both for FamilyLife Canada as online content manager and at home to keep her marriage thriving, her three teenage boys fed, and her floors kept crumb-free. You can learn more about her spirited life by checking out her blog or visiting her social media sites.