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Why I Let My Kids Fight

Photograph by Getty Images/Cultura RF

My son and daughter are only 19 months apart. All their memories are together. They’ve been best friends since the day my daughter was born. They play well together and simply adore each other. Basically, I used to think I hit the sibling jackpot with these two. My sister and I grew up fighting like cats and dogs, but there’s no way my kids would be the same, right?!

Well, here’s a news flash in case you didn’t know: all siblings fight! It’s true. You can’t avoid it. They just hit a certain age where they annoy each other, or they want to play with the exact same toy at the exact same time, or they say something mean. Or, here’s my favorite sibling complaint: “She won’t stop looking at me! Tell her to stop looking at me!” It’s ridiculous and hilarious.

But sometimes it’s downright obnoxious.

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I used to hate when my kids would start fighting. I didn't like seeing them argue back and forth, and my ears certainly didn't like hearing it. I want them to get along and have each other’s backs no matter what. So every time the whining and screaming would start up, I would intercede. I would right the wrongs. I would come up with a compromise for them. I would separate them to their corners. As time has gone on, though, I’ve decided to take a step back.

I'll guide them when needed, but I want to give them the opportunity to try.

I believe that conflict doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. Conflict can be an opportunity for learning and growth. I can’t always be there to referee the arguments my kids get in—either with each other or someone else—so I want them to figure it out themselves.

I’ve already given them the tools. They know that they should use kind words and that yelling is unacceptable. They know about compromising and working together to come up with a solution. Now they need to take these tools and use them.

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I know it won’t always end well. After all, they’re three and four years old. They may end up in tears instead of in harmony, but that’s OK. I'll guide them when needed, but I want to give them the opportunity to try. I know they're capable of making good choices and the older they get, the more capable they become.

Through fighting their own battles they'll learn to communicate more effectively, empathize with others, process their own emotions and resolve conflict. And I’m learning to check my own anxiety about their fighting and trusting them to work it out. Plus, all the time I spent refereeing can now go towards cooking dinner or folding laundry or simply sitting on the couch watching my favorite TV show.

Sounds like a parenting win to me.

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