How I Shut Down Sibling Fights Quickly and Effectively

I’ve seen all kinds of ideas out there about how to stop sibling fights and get your kids to get along with each other. My least favorite was the “get along” shirt. It’s a cute idea. You don’t want to get along? Fine. Both of you fit yourselves into this shirt until you can make yourselves get along. At first it seems like it would be effective. It fosters literal closeness and is probably so dang uncomfortable that they’d do anything (including swallowing their pride and getting along) to get out of there faster.

Except that I think my kids would kill each other to get out of the shirt and they’d both be dead, lying in the remains of a shredded and bloodied shirt. OK, not really. But it would definitely prolong the arguing, punching, insults and wrestling for much longer than is necessary. Not to mention, it seems demoralizing and humiliating to make people share a shirt who (for the moment, at least) can’t stand the sight of each other.

Shut Down Sibling Fights Quickly and Effectively

I’ve tried having them apologize, having them do nice things for each other, separating them, scolding them, and taking away privileges. Those things work for the occasional one-sided meanness or the common everyday argument. But when things get really heated, feelings are hurt, emotions are running high, and nothing you do or say can get them to stop going at each other’s throats, there’s one thing I do that stops it in it’s tracks.

How I stop the sibling fights:

I give them a job. A tedious, mind-numbing, boring, manual labor type job. Not as a consequence to be completed later on, but an immediate job. The go-to job in our house is scrubbing grout. It’s easy enough to take the brush and a tub of water and scrub lines of grout in between the tile on the kitchen floor. It’s not complicated or particularly difficult. But they hate it with a passion.

When the kids are fighting with each other and no matter what I  do they just won’t let up, I just say, “Go scrub 15 lines of grout.” They huff, puff and whine, but they also stomp off to the kitchen and get scrubbing.

Why it works:

First of all it separates them from each other. I don’t have them scrub grout next to each other, they scrub on opposite sides of the kitchen or they take turns scrubbing. Separating them interrupts the escalating of the insults and violence and puts an immediate stop to the fighting.

Separating them also gives them time to cool off. And unlike sending them to their rooms to stew about how mad they are, scrubbing lets them burn off a little energy. It also puts distance between the two of them, and time between them and the fight so they can calm down.

How to do it:

Implement this any way you want. You can have strips of paper with jobs written on them that they pull out of a jar when the need arises. You can have a standing job that they all know they’ll have to do if they get in trouble. Or if you’re really creative (unlike me), you can just come up with a job for them on the fly as the fight is happening. Adapt it to your needs. Sometimes we use the grout as a consequence for other behavior as well (like an incessantly repeated off-color phrase). And I’ll be honest, I don’t always remember to take advantage of this when the fighting is happening. But when I do, it works.

Yes, sometimes they kneel there, scrubbing grout and arguing with you about how unfair this is and how the other person is in the wrong and started it first. But we just keep adding lines of grout and that shuts that down real quick.

What works for you?

What ways have you tried to shut down the inevitable sibling fights in your house? I’m always up for new ideas in case this stops working. And let’s be honest, like most things I try with my kids, it’s effectiveness may be short lived because this parenting thing is complicated. Oh, and if you have any advice on how to stop fights in the CAR, I’d love to hear it.


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6 thoughts on “How I Shut Down Sibling Fights Quickly and Effectively

  1. This is so much better than sending them to their rooms! I have an 8 year old and a 3 year old that seem to be scratching each others eyes out more than they are getting along now a days and it is so exhausting to play referee all day. I have been dreading school letting out for this reason, but come to think of it, there are an awful lot of sticks in the yard and weeds in the garden! Thanks for the read!

      1. I have 3 older boys that we have had to get creative with. We have pulled over along the side of the road (in a safe area) and had them do jumping jacks and push-ups. We gave them warnings and when the arguing and hitting continued we told them they must have a lot of energy to burn off so we would help with that. It was a quite ride home after that.

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