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How to Handle Sibling Fights

David Frost said, “Having one child makes you a parent; having two you are a referee.”  Although this quote may elicit a few understanding chuckles, followed by visions of wearing a striped uniform handing out judgments in the form of red cards or penalty yards, in the world of sibling fights, this does not mean your job is to figure out right from wrong.  As stated by, the definition of “referee” is “one to whom something is referred, especially for decision or settlement; arbitrator.”  In the blog post “How to Intervene in a Sibling Fight” on Dr. Laura Markham teaches us some tips about how to best referee sibling fights.

In Dr. Markham’s post, she outlines a sibling fight, as well as runs us through the process and responses the mother gives to navigate and help her children settle the disagreement.  According to research, “one of the most important things parents can do to help kids learn to manage their emotions is to stay calm themselves.”  Dr. Markham says kids need to experience their parents as a “holding environment,” and if we as parents can stay calm while soothing our children, they will learn these skills for themselves.

One of the primary key steps to intervening in a sibling argument is to not try to figure out who started it, since it rarely works, and also sets kids up in roles as victims and bullies.  Instead, treat both children the same when intervening.  Empathizing and helping each child to reflect on how the other child felt, and how each child contributed to the problem is also integral to this process.  After reading through the scenario in Dr. Markham’s post, it is evident that this type of process may be time- and energy-consuming.  Dr. Markham gives four reasons why taking the time and energy to go through this process is worth it:

  • Each child will feel heard.
  • Each child will get a chance to reflect and see how acting on their anger got them into this situation.  Experience + reflection = good judgment.
  • Each child will hear each other’s side of the story, developing empathy and social intelligence about the motivation of others.
  • Each child will develop impulse control by building neural circuits to regulate their anger in the future.

Dr. Markham also acknowledges that you can’t do this entire process every time your children get into a fight.  However, you won’t need to!  If you commit to doing this for a while, your children will begin to learn the skills you are teaching, and will begin to work things out without your intervention.

I can certainly see how Dr. Markham’s tips can lead to a calmer household, with better listening by and for all members of the family!  For more ideas about how to help your children relate to others and learn other valuable skills, check out Kidtelligent!  The Kidtelligent Assessment can help by giving you additional tools to help teach your children based on their own unique personality types and interests.   To learn more about Kidtelligent, go to, and follow us on Facebook at

Sarah is a guest blogger for Kidtelligent.  She is a soccer-playing, travel-loving, poetry-writing wife to a “go-getter” husband and mother to two high-spirited, sweet, and enthusiastic boys.