Why do kids fight over stupid things?

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock 

Things have become so bad between our three kids we've had to set up a roster to stop them fighting over who sits in the front seat of the car.

It might seem ridiculous because it is, but we had to do something to keep them from fighting constantly. 

The bickering got so ugly my three girls would push and pull each other in a bid to sit at the front. There would be tears, shouting and refusals to travel. In the end I couldn't take it anymore – it was doing my head in. I had to draw up a roster. 

And when they're not fighting about car seats they fight about everything else.

Why, oh why? 

It seems like such meaningless things to fight over, so why do they do it?

Dr Karen Phillip said there are many reasons siblings fight.

"One sibling may feel overlooked by parents creating jealousy. One may feel they are less special than their sibling or less capable," Dr Phillip said.

"Kids have a sense of fairness and with little else they can control within their environment, fairness becomes extremely necessary.

"Kids are often not yet capable of negotiating or understanding differences hence the fast escalation of unreasonable objections."

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Although your kids fighting can be annoying, you need to remember they're learning how to communicate with each other.

"Disagreements can teach kids strategies of tolerance, differences and safety to vocalise their feelings," she said.

"It can help develop confidence in the child to speak out and demand fairness or equality."

Accepting differences

Kids are learning how to accept people who do things differently to them.

"It is important all children learn to understand the difference in each of us," she said.

"Learning our strengths, weaknesses, opinions all enable the child to realise we are all very different and different does not necessarily make one right and the other wrong, just different.

"Speaking about tolerance as a grown-up type of behaviour can entice the child to strive toward tolerance as they always want to display how grown-up they are."

Spend time talking to each child about why they're feeling the way they do, what their sibling does to annoy them, what they need to change, how they're different to each other, what you can do to help and come up with ways to resolve the issues together.

And keep an eye on the level of disagreement, if it escalates into aggression and regular verbal or physical abuse more intervention is required.

"Never accept physical or verbal aggression," she said.

"If a dispute arises allow the children time to work out their own resolution. If the situation escalates (into bullying) a parent can intervene.

"This is essential for the child being bullied to be protected and consequence given for the perpetrator. A home needs to be a safe haven for all living there."

Be a good role model

Clinical psychologist and author Dr Janet Hall said parents have to work together to set realistic standards for cooperative behaviour between each other and their children.

"Parents have a responsibility to teach their children to resolve conflicts," Dr Hall said.

"Learning how to avoid and resolve fights is a vital skill."

Fighting in front of your children is also important. Not violent, verbally aggressive fighting, but calm and considered arguing and conflict.

"Unfortunately, parents who avoid conflict are teaching their children to avoid conflict," she said.

"By avoiding conflict we are creating a nation of 'nice' people who are unable to stand up for themselves."

Surpressing your feelings or not 'rocking the boat' can cause illness and an inability to speak out on things you believe strongly about. Learning how to fight fair is a necessary skill.

"It all starts with letting children know that it's okay to express anger," she said.

"Show them appropriate ways to do this: for example, punch the pillow.