Pray for—and with—your children. Bringing sibling conflict before God can help kids make positive changes in their sibling relationships.

Conflict Resolution

Once you recognize what’s behind the fighting and how to stop it when it happens, you also should teach your children how to resolve sibling conflict in a positive way.

Respect for others. This encompasses respect for the person and her property. Make a house rule that no disrespectful verbal words or physical gestures will be tolerated. Yates recommends role playing to help children learn how to verbalize frustrations without attacking the other person. Also, stress the need to ask before taking another sibling’s property—and to return the possession in the condition it was received, such as washing a shirt after wearing it.

Emphasize servanthood. Being a servant is the perfect antidote for selfishness. “Teaching our kids how to be servants is a very proactive and Galatians 5:13,” says Turansky. 

Transfer responsibility. Instead of a parent stepping in to solve the problem, have the children come up with the solution. For instance, when kids are fighting over a toy, have them sit down and discuss how to share the toy without assistance from Mom or Dad. 

Treat children differently. Don’t get bogged down with being fair—treat your kids as God treats each of us, according to our own uniqueness. “When you try to treat children equally, you increase competition and comparison,” explains Turansky. “It’s better to deliberately treat children uniquely and not the same.”

Discipline children separately. Don’t punish in a group setting. “Each child needs a specific plan to deal with his own selfishness, and that plan is going to look different for child A than for child B,” he says.

Change strategies as your children age. Be firm in their early years, and then gradually loosen up as your children grow up. “It’s moving from intentional coach to referee to cheerleader as they get bigger,” says Yates.

Stay the Course

Remember that even if you follow this advice, sibling conflict will never go away completely. But that doesn’t have to be cause for alarm or despair. Fighting can provide an important way for children to learn to get along with others.

However, Yates cautions that most parents won’t see all the fruit of this training until the children reach their later high school years. “Parents often put in the input and don’t see the payback until the teen years,” she says. “It’s one step forward and two steps backward. … I would just encourage parents to keep on keeping on.”

Sarah Hamaker is a freelance writer and editor, and author of Hired @ Home: The Christian Mother's Guide to Working From Home. She lives in Fairfax, Va., with her husband and four children, who are learning how not to disturb the family peace. Visit her at www.sarahhamaker.com.

Publication date: August 17, 2012