How to Stop Kids from Fighting

Tired of your children squabbling, from arguments to hitting each other? Apply these tips on how to stop kids from fighting once and for all.

How to Stop Kids from FightingHands down, hearing my kids fight is one of my biggest triggers. You know, the kind that makes you snap, yell “Just stop it already!” or hide in your room.

And it’s always for the weirdest reasons, too. For instance, here are some of the things my kids have fought about:

  • When one copied another’s drawing
  • Whether a banana and an apple do (or do not) make the number “10”
  • Whose turn it was to read from the trivia cards
  • Because two of them crashed into each other during a game of chase
  • One said the other’s shirt was too long
  • When one wanted to build a fort but the other wanted to play alphabet robots

It’s amusing to think about it in hindsight, but at that moment, you just wish they’d agree to disagree and move on. No parent wants to be a referee in their home 24/7.

How to stop kids from fighting

If you’re tired of your kids fighting, rest assured, you’re not alone.

Maybe all your kids do is fight, blame, and scream at each other. You’ve confiscated privileges, but they continue to rage on. Making them do “nice” things for each other feels disingenuous (not to mention ineffective at getting them to stop fighting).

Thankfully, you have solutions. You see, even though my kids still fight now and then, I’ve found that we can improve the way our kids interact with one another other.

A lot of it starts with preventing the fighting in the first place and correcting the factors that cause excessive fighting. Then, when they kids do fight, you can get them to stop without feeling just as frustrated. Even better: you can nurture a loving, healthy relationship between them.

Let’s lay the groundwork on how to do just that:

1. Give your kids a chance to work it out

I notice that the reason I tend to intervene when my kids fight is that I can’t stand the idea of them being “mean” to one another. My defenses go up and I feel compelled to “protect” the one who’s being hurt.

But doing this only denies them the chance to resolve their own conflicts. After all, childhood is the perfect time to learn these social skills, so that by adulthood, they’re better equipped to handle them well. By letting them work it out on their own, they learn valuable skills like:

Jumping in too soon—or at all—also sends the message that they need a third party to find common ground. If arguments don’t end unless a parent gets involved, they won’t feel equipped to handle disagreements on their own.

And finally, you’re not able to draw the line between their problems and yours. Save your involvement when their fighting actually affects you. Arguing about a jacket before heading out the door might make you late for an appointment, but whose turn it is to throw the ball doesn’t affect you.

Yes, it’s uncomfortable, heartbreaking, and not to mention grating, to hear them fight. And when all you want is some peace and quiet, getting involved seems like a quick solution. But the next time they fight, give them a chance to work it out on their own before jumping in right away.

Children's Social Conflicts

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2. Calm everyone down

Not only do we tend to jump in needlessly, but we also feel compelled to “get to the bottom of things.”

We ask what happened, punish the wrongdoer, force them to apologize, or try to piece together the sequence of events that led to the feud. Except that only leads to finger-pointing and a lot of “I didn’t do anything!” all while the kids are crying at the top of their lungs.

Except I’ve found that it’s much more effective to focus on calming everyone down first. Your kids are emotional and in no state to listen to what you’re saying, much less apply any of the lessons you’re hoping they learn.

They’re also more defensive, unable to see the other’s point of view. Plus, this kind of energy only puts you in a bad mood and more likely to snap, yell, or discipline in ways you’d rather not if you were calm.

Put all your energy into calming everyone down. Forget about who did what, or what consequence you need to give. Simply be the calm parent everyone needs to lower their intense and angry feelings and behave more rationally.

3. Allow each child to speak

Now that your kids are calmer, give each one a chance to speak and explain what happened. The key is to guide them to describe their point of view without accusing the other. You’re helping them communicate how they feel while encouraging the other to listen and develop empathy.

Describe and repeat what happened, filling in “holes” when needed. This validates the child talking and also allows the other to see a different point of view.

For instance, if one said, “I was still playing with the ball when he took it,” you might say, “You left the ball on the coffee table to go to the bathroom. You were going to play with it again when you came back. But then your brother saw it and thought you were done playing with it.”

4. Acknowledge what each child feels

Besides giving each child a chance to speak and repeating their stories, label how they feel as well. It feels good for others to describe your point of view, and they can identify and put words to their emotions.

You might say to one child, “I’d feel mad too if I thought someone took the toy I was playing with while I was in the bathroom. You weren’t done playing with it yet, and it feels like he just took it away from you.”

Then to the other child, you could say, “You didn’t like it when your brother got mad at you about the ball. You thought he was done playing and didn’t know why he asked for it back.”

As I say in my book, Parenting with Purpose:

“Even if one child seems to have done a worse offense, empathize with both kids—they each have their reasons for why they did what they did. Acknowledge this reason without putting judgment on either child. One child’s actions may have been wrong (pushing, let’s say), but the emotions that led him to do so are still valid (feeling like his little brother was invading his space).”

Get more tips on how to explain emotions to your child.

How to Talk to Your Child about Feelings

5. Ask for or guide them through a resolution

As your kids get older, or as they go through these exercises more often, you can probably ask them what they think they should do next. Again, it can feel uncomfortable, especially when we have ideas of our own, or if sending them to their rooms seems like a quicker fix.

But the more they can resolve their own fights, the less likely they’ll need your help the next time.

After all, our job isn’t to stop fights whenever they happen. Our job is to equip them with the skills to handle them on their own. And the only way they can do that is if they’re engaged in finding their own solutions in the first place.

That said, sometimes kids truly have no idea how to move forward, they’re still too raw with emotions, or they’re too young. In that case, suggest a few ideas and ask them which ones they think could work.

For instance, they can try taking turns, especially by using a timer (ten minutes each with the ball) or a number of turns (each gets 20 pushes on the swing). They can also divide pieces among all siblings, like if they’re playing with building blocks.

And sometimes they can just agree to disagree. They learn that they don’t always have to change another person’s mind to move on to other things.

Overlooked mistakes to avoid

What mistakes might we be making that contribute to the kids fighting? Take a look at these mistakes we make that can make the fighting worse, and better ways to handle them:

1. Favoring one child over the other

During sibling squabbles, it’s tempting to take sides and favor the child who was hurt and upset. But both kids have valid reasons and genuine feelings that drove them to this outcome.

While hitting is never the answer, he may have felt compelled to do so because his sibling was being mean. The result? Kids vie for the favored spot to get your sympathy, which doesn’t address the deeper reasons beneath.

2. Getting in the middle of their fight

You’re probably thinking, But aren’t I SUPPOSED to stop them from fighting? Actually, no, at least not all the time.

Most of the time you interject might be about issues that don’t need your involvement. Even worse, getting in the middle of their fight prevents them from learning how to resolve it on their own. Then your kids can’t come to a conclusion without a parent helping.

3. Needing to make everything fair

In trying to keep everyone happy, you might be focusing too much on keeping things fair and equal. But fairness isn’t always the best goal with siblings. After all, older kids have more responsibilities and privileges, and each child has his or her own preferences.

How to prevent kids from fighting

While it’s important to know how to handle kids fighting, how can you prevent it from happening in the first place?

1. Be consistent with your expectations

Kids need to know how you expect them to behave and treat one another, as well as the consequences for not doing so. Don’t try too many consequences that leave them confused. Stick to set rules for a while and allow them to sink in.

2. Take a family day

This is especially useful if you’ve been housebound all day. Sometimes all you need is a fun outing to “reset” their moods, like going to the park, reading together, hiking, or playing games. A family day can keep everyone relaxed and refreshed.

3. Give your kids their own space

Kids can’t always identify, much less articulate, their need for personal space. Give each child their own space. Maybe it’s a desk or closet just for them, special stuffed animals only they can use, or even the right to decide who gets to go on their bed.

4. Praise your kids when they get along

Acknowledge the times they’re being kind and generous to each other, however infrequent it may seem. This can encourage more of the same behavior moving forward.


Learning how to stop your kids from fighting can be a challenge, but certainly not impossible. Start by giving them a chance to work it out on their own without you intervening. If you do need to get involved, focus on calming everyone down first before finding a resolution.

Then, give each child a chance to speak, all while repeating and acknowledging what they said and how they felt. And finally, ask them for ideas everyone can agree to, or if needed, suggest a few of your own.

All these steps have one goal: to teach your kids how to resolve their own sibling conflicts so that they don’t always have to get you involved.

After all, no parent wants to (nor should) keep intervening forever—especially about a copied drawing or whose turn it is to read from a trivia card.

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  1. My biggest challenge is when my two boys are arguing and I or my husband get triggered. We first try help them but end up so frustrated when they continue or don’t respond, I notice we end up losing our calm and one or both feels we’ve been unfair to them!

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      I’m the same and also get triggered when my boys fight. It’s so easy to lose it especially when they’re being mean to one another, because it makes you almost protective of the one who’s being picked on. And it’s annoyingly when they keep on fighting when you’ve just told them to stop.

      One thing I’ve had to do is to actually take a step back and see if they can resolve it on their own. I notice that when they get more practice with resolving their own issues, they don’t feel like they need an adult to step in to solve it for them. Of course I do interject when it’s not going anywhere, but even then I try to guide them to a resolution instead of telling them what to do so that they can get that practice again.

      If needed, I’ll separate them just to get everyone to calm down I’ve noticed that kids don’t really absorb any lessons we teach them when they’re riled up so I try to wait until after they’re calm to talk about it. And asking questions is really helpful, like asking them how they felt, what the other person could’ve done to help, and what they could do instead.

      I hope that helps Shannon! Either way, know that you’re not alone mama 🙂