Kids Fighting All The Time? Here's What Not To Do (According To An Expert)

We'll be the first to admit this is sometimes easier said than done.
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An expert who has advised parents on everything from what to say to toddlers to stop them hitting you to how to react if your child smiles when you’re telling them off has shared another pearl of wisdom to the TikTok masses.

This time, it’s about how to react when kids are fighting – which, let’s face it, will impact any parent or caregiver looking after more than one child.

Parenting coach and social worker Gen Muir (@connectedparentingau) suggests her advice will “absolutely lower the amount of sibling conflict” in your household. A bold claim. So what’s her secret?

First up, she acknowledges that sibling fighting is totally normal. “It’s how kids learn about power and negotiation – in a sense, we have to let them work some of this stuff out,” she says in a TikTok video which has been viewed more than 250,000 times.

That said, you need some rules in play to ensure things don’t get totally out of hand – boundaries like no hitting, no hurting, no name-calling.

“If a child breaks one of the core rules, you are stepping into a system,” she explains.

If your children have been fighting, and one of them has hit the other, or they’ve thrown a toy at them, it can be all too easy to barge into the room, guns blazing and shout at them.

You might tell them to go to their rooms or blame one of them for aggravating the other, without having got to the bottom of what actually happened. (We’ve all been there.)

But Muir advises heavily against this type of reaction because if you send the kids to their rooms, you’re isolating them. “They don’t learn what emotion led to the behaviour that caused them to hit,” she explains.

In short: they need you to help do that for them.

Her advice here is to offer compassion and empathy, set the limit (“I’m not going to let you hit”) and help your child ultimately stop hitting (or whatever other behaviour was inappropriate) by discussing what led to them behaving that way.

Then “they learn, in a calm and regulated state, ‘oh I was frustrated, that led to the hit. What can I do differently next time?’,” Muir explains.

Priority 1: Check on the child who’s upset or hurt

In this situation, she recommends saying something along the lines of: “Whoa guys, looks like something’s gone really wrong here. I’m here. I’m here to help, OK?

“You look worried and you are upset. I’m going to check on your brother because he’s crying. Do you want to help me check on him?

“We check on someone whether we’re in the wrong or not.”

Priority 2: Asking the other child if they’re OK and finding out what happened

She then suggests turning back to the child who did the hitting (or other unacceptable behaviour) and asking if they’re OK, saying something like: “Gosh, something must have gone really wrong. What happened?”

Basically you need to talk your child through what led to them hitting, she suggests, and then you can say: “So it’s not OK to hit and I’m going to stop you hitting, but I understand you must’ve felt really frustrated. What can we do differently the next time we feel frustrated?”

Of course, it’s not a foolproof strategy. Other parents commented that these situations don’t always unfold in such a calm manner.

“In reality though it can be tricky to play it out like this,” said one. “Kids don’t instantly pay attention to the caregiver and keep smacking each other/screaming.

Another simply wrote: “What if there’s a child who has a story that’s three hours long on what happened?”

“Trying to get my two-year-old to focus enough to do this doesn’t seem possible,” said another mum.

But plenty of other parents were grateful for the advice. “I’m at my wits end and I’m so glad to have found this for me to try, thank you,” said one mum.

Another simply said: “You just saved my summer.”