When to Get Involved in Arguments Between Siblings?

While some of the arguments between siblings can be resolved on their own, others require adult intervention. Learn more.
When to Get Involved in Arguments Between Siblings?
Sharon Capeluto

Written and verified by the psychologist Sharon Capeluto.

Last update: 19 January, 2023

Sometimes, arguments between siblings aren’t very relevant and are resolved in a few minutes, without the need for adult intervention. Although it’s understandable for parents to feel anguish and nervousness when they hear their children arguing, it’s essential to understand that conflicts between them are natural.

However, other times, fights become more intense, complex, and even involve physical aggression. Considering the reason and the magnitude of the argument, caregivers will have to choose between two possible paths: Allowing their children to solve their problems on their own or getting involved to mediate the dispute.

The main reasons for arguments between siblings

There are homes where arguments between siblings are practically part of the routine. Every day, some conflict arises that makes parents lose their patience. Generally, the reason for the confrontation is minor, at least from an adult’s point of view: Who eats the biggest slice of pizza, who plays with the latest addition to the toy chest, or who has control of the television.

However, beneath these seemingly trivial and insignificant causes, a deeper problem is hiding. We’re talking about the typical sibling rivalry, which usually has as its main axis the need for attention or preference from their parents.

“Sibling rivalry is a constant in families, a natural consequence of the human aspiration for the exclusive and unconditional love of parents”.

– Jerónima García –

A mother looking overwhelmed as her children scream at eachother.
Envy, jealousy, and competition often lead children to confront each other over issues that seem trivial but are often aimed at getting attention or gaining parental preference.

Letting them work it out on their own is the first alternative

The truth is that there’s no reason to get involved in every argument our children have with each other. In fact, intervening every time they have a conflict is detrimental both to their sibling bond and to each child’s growth. For children to develop social skills and acquire tools to manage their own emotions, as well as to resolve conflicts with other people, it’s essential that they face challenges.

But there’s a point that you need to keep in mind. Most of the time, one or both of them will ask us to meddle in the problem. “Mom, Juan’s taking away my toys!”, “Dad, Mia hit me!”. In these cases, little ones are looking for you to take their side and punish their sibling, of course.

When is it necessary to intervene in arguments between siblings?

When arguments between siblings escalate to violent and aggressive levels, it’s essential that you intervene to put an end to the conflict. In addition, it must be made clear that violence isn’t a valid way to solve problems or to defend their rights. We must even see to it that they don’t harm themselves, either accidentally or intentionally.

In these cases, we must be firm and consistent so that our children understand that hitting, insults, and pushing and shoving aren’t acceptable.

Aspects to take into account when getting involved in arguments between siblings

Some of the aspects to take into account when we’re going to intervene in an argument between siblings are explained below.

Don’t lose your temper

The first recommendation is to try to remain calm and speak in a soft and slow tone of voice, even if the situation makes us lose our patience. If we want children not to resort to violence to solve problems, we should be able to transmit the importance of maintaining respect by example, even amidst feelings of anger and frustration.

Adapt the message

At the same time, whenever we instill values in our children through dialogue, it’s essential that we adapt our vocabulary to their ages, cognitive levels, and capacity for understanding. Otherwise, they won’t understand our message.

Promote dialogue and respect

Next, we need to ask them to tell us the reason for the argument so that we’re aware of what triggered the conflict and can help them. Active listening and mutual respect are issues that we can’t overlook.

Possibly, throughout the conversation, we’ll need to pause the dialogue several times to remind them to respect each other’s arguments and not to interrupt each other while the other is talking. Consequently, it’s important to emphasize that the objective isn’t to find someone to blame or decide who’s right but to resolve the conflict through dialogue and negotiation. It’s important to give room to each child so that they can express what they feel and think, without judging or minimizing their emotions.

A young boy holding his fist up to his older sister, who's looking at him defiantly.
It’s important that parents don’t get immediately involved in arguments between siblings. However, if the situation gets out of control, then it’s necessary for parents to stop the fight and mediate to find a solution to the conflict.

Intervene only when necessary

Although some circumstances warrant the intervention of an adult in an argument between siblings, it’s not always necessary. When children fight with each other, they learn their own boundaries, learn to defend their point of view, and define their identity. These situations can function as full learning scenarios, even if they often seem superficial.

However, if the issue escalates and violence is involved, then it’s necessary for parents to stop the fight and then mediate to find a consensual solution between the children and put an end to the conflict.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • García, J. (2005). Rivalidad entre hermanos. Aula de infantil. 2005, n. 27, septiembre-octubre ; p. 33.
  • Prieur, N., Gravillón, I. (2016). ¡Dejad de pelearos! ¿Debemos intervenir en los conflictos de los niños? De Vecchi Ediciones.
  • Puente, F. (2004). Celos y rivalidades entre hermanos. Padres y maestros. 2004, n. 36, año 4 ; p. 1-4

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.