My siblings and I used to fight like crazy. Whether it was over a toy, what TV show to watch, who took the blame for a broken vase … we were always at one another’s throats for something. But we never fought in front of our parents. They held the philosophy that no one in the world was as close as brothers and sisters and any fighting was just plain wrong. Or maybe they just didn’t want to hear us.
Now that I’m a parent, I feel slightly torn when I hear or see all the fighting that goes on. I would love it if my four kids always got along, but I know from my own experiences as both an older and younger brother, those wishes are pipe dreams.
Fighting the Positive Way
Science doesn’t quite address kids fighting, but the idea of arguments being a positive thing has been shown time and again. One study found that fighting “fair” with a partner helps keep a marriage happy, healthy and thriving.
Where do kids learn to fight fair? Ideally, from witnessing fights between their parents. It is a skill that can prepare them for future romantic relationships, friendships, and even their faraway careers.
It can also prepare them to say no to others. We all learn to assert ourselves at different times in life. The younger we begin, the easier that process will be when the stakes get higher. Fighting now might help to counteract the lure of peer pressure later.
When Fighting Is an Issue
Of course, not all fighting is positive and it can cause a problem in some situations. For instance, an occasional temper tantrum is normal. Sometimes your kids are going to get on one another’s nerves and lash out.
The line is when it is all the time, or when the actions of one or both siblings go too far. Some playful roughhousing is standard for most kids. But causing injury out of anger or really trying to hurt someone is different.
Quarrels in school just can’t happen. I will admit that my views on the matter can be controversial. If someone approached my child and become physical, I wouldn’t begrudge them fighting back. Hopefully, such defense will never be necessary. But starting fights or being disruptive in school is a much different scenario.
Kids Fighting Should Have Boundaries
In the end, I am a firm believer in allowing kids to argue, play fight and just get angry sometimes. They will learn to assert their boundaries, improve their communication and rhetorical skills, grow a backbone and learn to listen to other people’s grievances. All of which are valuable tools we can all use.