Written by Doctor G

Sibling Bickering Instead of Doing What You Asked

Dr. G, I have a question.  My kids are always fighting about who gets to sit where in the car.  It’s driving me bonkers. Help!

David, in Faribault, MN

I talked about the uselessness of getting too wrapped up in the bickering last week.

However, what if the bickering is preventing something from happening that the parent requires?  Taking David’s example, the boys are bickering about seats in the car.  I can hear it in my head “It’s my turn to sit there!  No, you sat there last time.”

  1. Let the boys know that they have 20 seconds to sort it out and all be buckled in, or you will assign seats.  Ideally, explain this to them when they are not all getting in the car – like at breakfast.
  2. When the bickering starts you’ll call out “Twenty seconds” and just watch your second hand.  If you’re kind, give a “5 seconds!” warning.
  3. Any of them can call for a referee, but then they all need to abide by the rule you set at the time and any penalty you choose to impose (push-ups anyone?).  No TV instant replay (meaning they don’t get to each tell you their side and why everyone else is wrong).

This may motivate them to work it out in a fair way, it may not.  In reality though, it will solve your problem.  They will get in the car safely and if you need to step in it will be final.  Bring a whistle.  Let me know how it goes.

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7 thoughts on “Sibling Bickering Instead of Doing What You Asked”

  1. My kids are ages 12 (almost 13) and 15 years old and they STILL do this. I can’t wait for my oldest to learn to drive just to end the stupid bickering. Was I like this as a child? Did I fight for the front seat? I don’t remember…probably. I usually just assign if they can’t figure it out. I can tell you that the “dibs” thing doesn’t work :/

    1. “Dibs” is just short-hand bickering. They do it with their friends when you are not around too! You’re right, taking yourself out of the mix is a great solution.

  2. My sister and I always used to fight about who got to sit behind my dad. When they asked why I didn’t want to sit behind my mom, I said, “I don’t like Mommy.” Only now do I understand how hurtful I’m sure that was. But I’m going to try this when my kids get older!

  3. Leigh Ann,
    And you probably didn’t mean it either. Kids will come up with off the cuff reasons when what they often mean is “Cause I want to.” So remember not to be hurt (too much) when your kids say stuff like this now. They count on you to know it’s not true!

  4. Dr. G

    First, I am glad to see that for the last posts you have been getting a little more comments. This is great. It also makes it much easier to add your own.

    David, you do not have a question. You were making a statement, one that we all can relate too. Kids=bickering. Fight for attention (as if they are not getting it). I wrote in a different post, and I think it fits here as well: I learned from a friend of mine that every time his oldest son picked on his youngest one, he would make him drop for 10 pushups. For all those that jump – don’t worry, the youngest one got the same treatment. The result was not only does he have two athletes at home, he kids know there is a consequence for their action. Now if you do not like pushups, you can go for running around the block. Lastly if you do not think physical activity is the right way to go, how about sending them to make dinner for you – or was that a different post?

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