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Handling Sibling Aggression

July 15, 1995

A reader asks, “How do you handle sibling aggression, fighting over toys, etc.? How do they learn to handle situations and not run to mama? How does mama learn not to intervene?”
Firstly, recognize the right of private property. If two families shared the same yard, they would soon fuss over how it is to be used. If six families had joint ownership in one car, how long would they go before fighting? Don’t expect your children to show a level of maturity and sacrifice that few adults ever display.
Where it becomes a problem, permit no joint ownership. Do not force a child to give over his rights. The owner has prior rights no matter who had it first. That settles 95% of the conflict before it arises. If there must be joint ownership, then it will have to be handled on a lease bases; it belongs to Jack in the morning and to Jill in the afternoon, or some other easily manageable plan. We want them to learn to give up their rights, but they can’t give up rights which they never have. Giving up is voluntary, which means they can not be pressured into compliance and still reap positive character development. If neither of them has a right to possess it, neither can give over. To give a child first come first serve right to everything in the house is to create a false world view. It makes whiners and breeds aggression and selfishness. It does more for character building to voluntarily recognize someone else’s right and give up the coveted object than it does to get to it first and selfishly possess it for no other reason than a timely possession. “How do we handle aggression, fighting over toys?” If it is a fussing, pulling match, establish ownership. If there is no owner, lease it out or throw it away. However, if a child resorts to actual violence, hitting, biting, kicking, shoving, etc., then the violence should be dealt with by rebuke, exhortation, and a thorough spanking. Children must be taught that violence is never an acceptable alternative in personal conflicts. The rod with rebuke is a most effective teacher.

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10 comments on “Handling Sibling Aggression”

  1. I really enjoyed this article. I always thought that if one kid has something then they get to play with it because they had it first. How do I deal with other kids coming over and take something from one of mine?
    What is the deal with "sharing"? do we make them share theire toys with others, or just let them be? Thanks

  2. My youngest two boys (out of 5 boys) ages 9 and 7 have at least 2 physical fights a day and I am trying to decrease their "Brotherly Love"
    I ended up reading the last portion to my nine year old son who interupted me and said "So to teach us not to use violence on each other, your supposed to use violence on us.That doesn't make sense." The logic of a 9 year old who has never nor ever will be "trained" is 1,000 better than most adults. Children should be nurtured and guided not trained. Siblings will have their squabble's (I had them with my sisters).
    I downgraded some of the fighting by not hitting or yelling but trying to prevent them. If the toy is the object of the arguement, then buy 1 for each of them and then they each have their own (write initials on the bottom in permanent marker).
    When a fight does occur, seperate them, kiss boo boo's, and call it a day. This all part of normal daily lifel.

  3. Not sure kissing the children for fighting will discourage their violent behavior. Also, what would you do if you didn't have the resources to just go out and "buy 1 for each of them"? Again, rewarding poor behavior. I appreciate your son's observant mind pointing out the irony of hitting to stop the hitting, however, there doesn't seem to be much logic in your methodology either. 2 fights a day?! Cause them some discomfort and you may see better results. Respectfully....

  4. Sorry, but unless it's a necessary item (such as 2 young children having their own sippy cup or toothbrush) then you are defeating the purpose by having one for each child.
    We have a small plastic bin for each child with their own personal property, then they learn to share with a shelf full of 'toys' in the basement.

    While my 3 children still occasionally have little 'squabbles' over toys, they have learned a lot about respecting personal things, and sometimes offering an item to a sibling to play with, since I bought the boxes. (Cheap, at the dollar store)

    I never consider it normal to fight, although I do anticipate some disagreement over toy rights. My boys are old enough to learn ( & I am training them to do so) that they can always talk together and work things out between them w/o fighting.

  5. I have a question similar to Vanessa's. How do you handle these situations with other children and your own? I watch a little boy 3 days a week from home. He is 20 months, while my daughter is 18 months. He has been fairly physical since he was 12 months old and now hits and bites my daughter when he doesn't like something. It has gotten to the point where he has made her bleed from biting. I have talked to his mom, but he does the same to her and she does not believe in spanking. I am at my wits end with him and unsure of what to do. Any suggestions??

    1. Yikes! Is the mother paying you to watch her son? I think that for your own daughter's safety, you have no choice but to tell the mother that if it happens again, you will no longer watch her son. This boy will only get bigger and meaner and teach your daughter to either cower under bullies or become a bully herself.

      When the mother is unable to find anyone to watch her out-of-control son, I bet she has a change of heart about the merits of spanking.

  6. What do you do with communal toys? Like blocks? Our boys have a few special toys(just stuffed animals really), but all other toys(not many) are communal. The toys we own are a handful of cars, blocks, a walker, and some music instruments. How do I prevent fighting over communal toys?

  7. Gracias hermanos Perl, son como unos padres para mí. Que Dios los bendiga grandemente. Mi hija mayor siempre recibe regalos de parientes y conocidos, pero mi hija pequeña no. A mí me duele y busco qué tengan por igual, y muchas veces presiono a la mayor para que comparta. Nunca funcionó y ahora sé porqué. Ojalá me puedan dar un consejo para guiar correctamente a mi hija menor ya que no puedo obligar a la gente a quererla, ni puedo hacer hacer yo diferencia entre mis hijas para equilibrar la balanza.