Question of the Day: Bickering Siblings–How Do I Get Them to Stop?


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She’s back! Breezy Mama‘s Go-To parenting expert, Dr. Fran Walfish, who is an Expert in Parents Magazine’s “Ask Our Experts” column, is here to answer our daily parenting questions. Make sure to send us yours ( and Dr. Walfish will answer it in a future Breezy post.

Now on to today’s question. . .

My kids are constantly bickering with one another. I’ve tried to get them to stop and talk nicely with one another by giving examples of how I talk to my husband and friends, but they continue to push each others buttons and argue. It is so unpleasant to be around! How can I get them to stop?

First, it is important for you to understand that a certain amount of sibling bickering, rivalry, and fighting is natural between brothers and sisters. In general, kids appear to be arguing over a material thing or power. Their true underlying objective is to gain Mom’s or Dad’s approval (love). It is each child’s attempt to be the favorite. When you really understand this it is easier for parents to give each individual child a full tablespoon of Mom’s attention. Implement Special Time individually with each child into your daily routine. Make a big hoopla about how Mommy wants Special Time with each one. Set your other child(ren) up with a video or toys while you take each one separately into the kitchen to scoop ice-cream and enjoy eating while you gaze adoringly into his eyes. This goes in like penicillin! Talk with your children as a group about powerful feelings including jealousy, anger, worries, and sadness. When the heat goes up between the kids separate them. Try not to make it a punishment like Time Out. This usually is ineffective and only negatively impacts your child’s self-esteem. Rather, call it a cool down or chill. The natural consequence for revving up to high is that Mom will help them settle. If you observe a particular anger or hostility from one sibling to another that just won’t quit, you may need to consult a child psychologist or development specialist to help that child accept the other as a full member within your family.

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Frances Walfish, Psy.D. is the foremost Beverly Hills child and family psychotherapist. Her caring approach, exuberant style, humor, and astute insights have earned her a sterling reputation among colleagues and national media alike. A frequent guest on top-­tier TV programs, including NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams and KABC-­TV in Los Angeles, The Doctors, CBS and often appearing in major publications such as Parents Magazine, Family Circle and Woman’s Day, Dr. Fran continues to lead the field with her expert insights and innovative strategies for parents, children and couples.

Her current book, The Self-­Aware Parent: Resolving Conflict and Building a Better Bond with Your Child from Palgrave Macmillan’s/St. Martin’s Press, December 7, 2010, is receiving acclaimed reviews. William Morris Endeavor and Lake Paradise Entertainment are presently collaborating with Dr. Fran to produce a television series offering therapeutic guidance and help to families in America. More information on Dr. Fran can be found online at

To order Dr. Walfish’s book ($11.56 on Amazon), click here.

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