The kids not getting along is one of the most common issues parents seek help for, according to parenting experts.

The good news is conflict between siblings of all ages and genders is very common and it can actually be a very good way to teach kids vital life skills such as negotiation, problem solving, conflict resolution and compromise.

ABC Life spoke with three child and parenting experts for their advice on how to handle your kids yelling at each other, or worse.

Disagreeing with siblings is a good way for children to learn important life skills such as compromise, negotiation, empathy and seeing things from another person’s point of view.

Nicole Kingston, a family therapist based in Hobart, says while there is a place for helping kids to work out their differences, it’s good to wait a bit before you get involved.

“Even if they have a big blue with each other, five minutes later they can be really loving towards each other,” she says.

Though you should always stop a fight that’s physical or if anyone’s behaviour is unacceptable to you.

“If you intervene too much the kids will get in a cycle of trying to get you to intervene all the time,” she says.

“[If] they don’t [learn] how to manage the ups and downs of life because they’ve only had the ups, when something goes wrong … they find it really difficult to cope with, they’ve got no resilience at all.”

“Mostly you just have to be available to listen and to be present to support and comfort them when they come to you,” she says.

“Often [what’s bothering them] are things we don’t need to fix, we don’t need to manage, we just need to be present and listen.”

Is it bullying?

The Kids Helpline defines bullying as behaviour that is repeated, done on purpose to cause hurt, humiliate or otherwise evoke a negative reaction.

If you have concerns about your children’s behaviour or find it hard to handle, speak with your GP or a psychologist who works with children in your child’s age range.

Share your comments below


  • I think having a sibling teaching you a lot about negotiating, sharing and working things out!

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  • Siblings can teach you a lot of things.

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  • As the parent of an only child, we obviously didn’t have to deal with this at home… but that meant it was new territory at playgroup, etc. I sometimes think my son missed out on conflict resolution as an only child.

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  • Yes we should let them sort it out as much as possible. But intervene when it’s walking out of hand or becomes physical. My 9yr has a Reactive Attachment Disorder and she listens very bad and can extremely annoy, so much so that it becomes torture to my other kids. At times she’s humiliating and becomes physical. She needs a lot of coaching and structure. And at the same time I need to protect my youngest with Down Syndrome from her and coach my teenagers to ignore her negative behaviour as much as possible.

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  • I agree with letting them sort it out as much as possible themselves – only step in if it becomes too violent – that way children can learn from their actions and reactions.

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  • It drives me insane! I really struggle with all the yelling and screaming.

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  • as long as they fight “clean” it is ok, we don’t tolerate violence towards each other.

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  • I always let my boys work things out themselves but I would step in if it ever looked like getting physical. I believe it has helped them negotiate life little problems without any intervention.

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  • I let them fight it out BUT I have a zero tolerance attitude towards physical violence. Any physical violence comes with immediate consequences. Otherwise how will they learn that hurting someone they love (or anyone) is not ok.

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  • Interesting POV I step in I will try observing more

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  • I always try not to “interfere ” when my kids are fighting but then I have to stop them when I need a quiet time. I will try not to stop them next time and let them resolve it themselves.

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  • Oh goodness, a hard one to know when best to leave it

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  • My youngest was a very physical one and would often be hurting the eldest so I was always intervening. Now they do come to me for EVERYTHING! It’s a difficult cycle for them to break and I do tell them to sort it out amongst themselves but that very rarely works, if at all! My youngest is still very much in the egocentric phase and will start shouting the same thing back at the eldest e.g. don’t take that from me … the youngest will retort don’t TAKE that from ME!

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  • This makes sense. I often feel stuck in a cycle, though a bit different as the fighting is usually my older 2 being annoyed with my youngest.

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  • I always step in if the fight becomes physical not just verbal. If the children cause injury bad enough to have to go to the Dr. or a hospital you could be questioned extensively by social workers or others in authority. Some kids put the blame on other people including the parents to get themselves out of trouble. I know of a case where a boy did that to get his Dad in trouble then admitted what he had done and thought it was funny.


    • Yes, my 9yr old is like this. She is my permanent foster child and comes with many problems. False accusations of abuse is one of the symptoms of her disorder, really scary. We’ve had child protection and police over the floor. Always good to be careful

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