Written by Doctor G

Sibling Bickering

My kids bicker all the time. I think they enjoy it. Until, of course, they don’t. Then they tattle. Make them stop!

A Twitter Follower*

A: At my house too! The only foolproof solution I’ve heard is to only have one child (then they have to bring a friend over to compete in this event). Bickering is a major frustration for most parents. It is not actually damaging to children if it stays at the bickering level. In fact, like most competition among kids it can serve a purpose. Bickering can build emotional IQ and improve social awareness. When it escalates to bullying or antagonizing, it can create patterns that will repeat in their future relationships (that is if we don’t ground them so long they HAVE no future relationships!).
The trick here is balance. Find your line between creating a peaceful home and not micromanaging your children’s interactions.
What does “a peaceful home” mean in your family? No, not only when everyone is asleep. I mean, do the adults in the house bicker or tease or hassle each other as a part of daily life? These are real forms of communication that some people use. If the adults in your house do this, the kids will too. If the adults in your house don’t do this, the kids will anyway but it will be a little easier to stop.

If you now recognize that this is normal for “talking” at home and that is ok, great.

It may be that you like the casual communication at home but you don’t like the crying and hurt feelings that kids can get and express at the top of their lungs. If that is the case – you don’t mind the bickering but you do mind the emotional fallout – there is a solution.

1. Name the behavior with your kids. “THIS (that thing you just said and then you said back, etc) is bickering. You do this a lot.”

2. Ask them to decide if this type of communication is ok with them.

3. If it is NOT ok with either one, then it needs to happen less. Point out that it won’t stop all the way, but that it takes two people to get into this pattern. If one doesn’t like the tone of voice a sibling uses, he does not have to respond, and may walk away or talk to you about it. That’s not ignoring, that is silently requiring respect. By the way – this is a great lesson for kids to internalize before their friends start to treat each other badly.

4. If it IS ok with both kids that they bicker sometimes, make a rule: No tattling about bickering. This is like the wrestling rule at our house. You don’t have to wrestle but if you choose to, no one gets in trouble if you get hurt.

5. Now do your level best to stay out of it. Their relationships are theirs, and as long as they are safe in those relationships, micromanaging them will make you crazy but will not improve their interactions or adult connections. I recommend ear plugs, or frequent flyer miles.

If bickering is not acceptable to you at all, you may be able to remove it from your hearing. I doubt you’ll be able to remove it from your kids’ relationships entirely, but if you succeed you should quit your job and write a book!

Sit down as a family. Talk about the words you want to use to define your home and family, like peace and safety and respect. Ask them for some words. Then talk about changing the communication to get closer to those goals. Define bickering. This way they will understand why this is such a big deal to you. Set some guidelines (see #3 above) and some consequences for ignoring the guidelines. Tell them you’ll all try it for a week and meet again to see what’s working.

Please let me know how it goes for you and your family! Do you have any other suggestions for diminishing the bickering?

*You can also follow along on Twitter here, and I hope you will!

Stress to Resilience for Youth, Free Download Cover Mockup

Learn to Help Your Teen Build Resilience​

Help the teen in your life walk through adversity with strength. Download this free PDF to learn the three steps to go from stress to resilience for youth!

2 thoughts on “Sibling Bickering”

  1. I would just make them suffer. Bickering – no problem give me 10 pushups. Again – jog around the block. If this goes on, they will simply be too tired and fall asleep (or become Jockeys).

  2. Dr. A,
    We often use physical activity to moderate behavior in our house. We also use it to reward. A valuable tool!
    -Dr. G

Comments are closed.


How Can I Help?

A Little Bit About Dr. G

A widely recognized media personality, Dr. G is your go-to expert on resilience. Countless broadcast outlets rely on her contagious humor and illuminating stories to tackle tough topics. She is regularly seen on TV, as well as interviewed for print and digital outlets. Here, she’s answering your questions. Search for the answers you need, or ask her your question now!
Scroll to Top

A Newsletter All About Resilience

Sign up below to join Dr. G’s newsletter and discover how to ‘Do Stress Better’ and tap into the resilience that already exists inside of you.

Ask Dr. G Your Question

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Book Dr. G

Let Dr. G know you’re interested in having her speak. If you’d like to send her a message click here.

  • MM slash DD slash YYYY
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

After pressing submit your forms will be sent to Dr. G and her team. You can expect a response within 1 business day.

Media Inquiry Form

  • MM slash DD slash YYYY
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Insights to Transform Your Stress Into Your Resilience​

Please let us know where to send the Stress to Resilience guide and we’ll send it quick!