Why your kids should fight

Conflict between siblings is actually a good thing ― children learn an important life skill when they settle disputes.


“Stop touching my stuff — I didn’t say you could touch my things!”

“Why do I get blamed for everything?”

“Just leave me alone — I wish you’d never been born!”

          Sound familiar? Siblings fighting is the bane of many parents’ existence. When your offspring bicker, argue, have screaming fights, even come to fisticuffs, you’ll wonder what happened to that vision of loving siblings you’ve cherished. You may even start to question your own parenting skills.

          So, why do your kids fight so much? (Many reasons, including establishing a pecking order in the family.)

          Do all siblings fight so much? (Yes, actually. Some more visibly than others.)

          Will they hurt each other physically or emotionally? (That’s where you come in.)

          Will this damage your children’s self-esteem and future? (Again, that’s where you come in.)

“Often, fights escalate from simple disagreements and name-calling, with the siblings refusing to give in to each other.”

Why siblings fight

As long as there is more than a single child in the home, sibling rivalry is bound to exist. While all that fighting seems to be unnecessary to you, it actually does serve a purpose: From the perspective of your children, they’re vying for the same “resources”, says Dr Lim Boon Leng, from the Dr BL Lim Centre for Psychological Wellness. These can include anything from material resources like TV, books, or games, to emotional resources like your or your husband's attention.  

          “Often, fights escalate from simple disagreements and name-calling, with the siblings refusing to give in to each other,” Dr Lim explains.

          For older kids like tweens and teens, the disagreements may shift to things like the borrowing of clothes, belongings, or who has more privileges or chores, says Jolene Hwee, director and counselling psychologist at Womancare Psychological Services. She recently supervised two pairs of siblings in the Prudential Relationship Reconnect social experiment.

          As adolescence is a challenging developmental stage where the children go through physical, emotional, neurological and hormonal upheavals, you can expect them to be “irritable on some days, cheerful on other days, perplexed and withdrawn on others”, notes Hwee.

         At this age, siblings often fight because of reasons like personality clashes, different communication styles, or are taking their stress out on one another, she says. Also, one sibling may feel like she is living in the shadow of another, or she may feel that she is getting less privileges or more responsibility than the other.

So, how can the fighting actually help your kids? Click next!