What to do when your home has become Fight Club

Hi Chris,

With three boys, I pick my battles. One thing that
has been becoming more troublesome with me is their
arguing. Sometimes the arguing is accompanied with
wrestling and/or hitting on the floor. No matter what
I do, they seem not to stop.

I don’t expect us to be the Cleavers, but I have a
hard time with this sibling squabbles. My husband
said this is typical, especially with boys. I never
fought with my brother and sister, but they were 15
years older than me. I admit, they spoiled me.

So, how do you handle arguing or fighting in your
home? Is it a problem for you also?

Oh this is such a good question.

I am an only child and my visions of what siblings would be like is not grounded at all in reality. I honestly never thought people could fight so much over nothing.

And I will readily admit that it drives me CRAZY. The screaming, the yelling, the grabbing all make me want to tear my hair out, or theirs….either one.

Having said that, my husband assures me that their level of fighting is normal and that I am not raising sociopaths. I see it as an opportunity to help them learn how to use their negotiating skills. How to remain calm when you are angry. And how to seek alternative means of letting off steam other than pummeling your brother.

Because let’s be honest, there are times when we all wish we could just punch someone in face. But that little trigger inside of us that makes us pause and not do it… that is precisely what we need to teach our children to develop.

I have a zero tolerance policy for hitting. I don’t discuss it. I don’t want to hear what led up to it. I do not care. You are never ever to lay your hands on another person in this house, period. If you can not handle the situation with your words, come and get me to handle it. Are my children perfect? Do they always obey this rule? No, of course not. Do they ever always obey any other rule we have? No.

Certain children of mine seem to have a harder time with this lesson this others. I can not tell you how many times I have stood in front of a particular irate child screaming about why he was justified in hitting his brother while I calmly asked, “But did you lay your hands on him at all?” until finally the child says, “Yes I did” and says it without a “but” at the end.

And then it is off to a timeout, after which we will discuss whatever incident led up to hitting and I will deal with that if there is a need. I do not want the other children to think that you can get your way by provoking another person to lash out. If I find that someone was deliberatly provoking their sibling, they too will have a time out or consequence of some sort.

I find that the grey areas of roughhousing are more difficult to deal with. When they all start joking around and rolling on the floor. Generally I will let this go on for a couple of minutes while I supervise before I make them stop. Because even thought they really enjoy this type of playing it is inevitable that someone will get hurt.

The verbal arguing is worse, I think, in some ways than the physical arguing simply because it is more difficult to deal with. You can’t just say, “You are never permitted to talk to your sibling, ever.” Though there are days when this seems like it might be the best rule of all.

We have had to have discussion after discussion about speaking kindly.

1) The Golden Rule: Don’t say anything to anyone that you wouldn’t want them to say to you.
2) Not Funny: It isn’t a joke if the other person isn’t laughing or it hurts their feelings.
3) Say you are sorry: Apologize if someone tells you you hurt their feelings. Do not say no I didn’t. Just because you didn’t intend to hurt someone’s feelings doesn’t mean you didn’t.
4) Chose your words carefully: Do not say anything in anger that you really don’t mean. Words are powerful and you can’t take them back once they are out there.

Most of all, model appropriate behavior. Children are much better imitators than they are listeners.

10 Responses to “What to do when your home has become Fight Club”

  1. Christina Says:

    As my children get older I’m discovering sibling squabbles to be my most challenging part so far, two girls and a boy, and they have really been going at it this summer as the youngest is now walking and joining in on the “fun”. We also have a no tolerance policy on hitting, but that was as far as I had gotten so far. Thanks for the ideas, as it’s raining today and we’re all inside together all day I bet they’ll be used after naps!

  2. The Lazy Organizer Says:

    I tell my son, “If I hit you every time you bothered me, you’d get beat up about 50 times a day.” It doesn’t help. It’s just fun to say!

  3. Erin Says:

    I only have one kid, so sibling battles are a ways off for me, but I really appreciate the info - always good to have some thoughts laid out before the issue comes up. I especially like the rules regarding speaking to other people.

  4. rachel Says:

    thank you for this. yesterday was a Bad Day ™, and this helps. I really like your method of dealing with hitting.

    I try not to get in the middle of squabbles/arguements, as I think it is important for them to learn to settle things themselves. But it’s a fine line to walk. I really like the 4 rules. We’re going to have a talk today.

  5. T in HD Says:

    My first two get along fantastically, in spite of a 3+ year age gap and the gender difference. I wanted to think I’d done something “right” but I knew darn well it was just luck of the draw. And I was right. Add a younger sister a few years later and the fighting really began. While my older daughter and my son are best buds (most of the time–they too, have their bad days) my son and younger daughter squabble and fight until I could pull my hair out in great clumps. And while my older two have rarely resorted to hitting, my youngest *bites*. She also hits and kicks. My cherubic little angel-faced toddler is a little terror. And she’s now got my son hitting back. ARRGH!

    Do you find that your children have different relationships amongst themselves–some more amiable, some more aggressive? Do the more aggressive children influence the easier-going ones?

  6. Melanie Says:

    I Know how you feel, I have 6, (3boys,3girls) I swear to you all the fighting that goes on in here,I could put it on pay-per-view and have college paid for. It drives me to the brink of insanity, but when they are all getting along(and I am checking out the window to see if pigs are flying) I totally wanna just smother them with smootches.

  7. jennifer g. Says:

    I find that I spend much of my day separating everyone. The source of most of the conflict seems to be my middle son (poor middle child!), so I often lure him to another room for an activity that doesn’t involve the other two.

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