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28th May 2021

How to help kids resolve rows by themselves

Fiona McGarry

kids fighting

Get out the notepad and pen, folks

Childhood scraps and scrapes are a natural part of growing up. But there are times when even the most silver-tongued negotiator would be hard pressed to keep the peace in rows between friends and family.

Whether it’s in the home between siblings or on the playground between peers, kids fighting is a stressful ordeal for everyone involved. There’s a fine line between intervening too quickly with the parental magic wand and supporting children in working through conflicts for themselves.

The latter gives kids the tools they’ll need to resolve conflict in their future adult lives, where mammy or daddy can’t intervene on their behalf.

Here are seven tips for helping little ones to resolve rows and boost their interpersonal skills.

Naming the issue

Anger management experts tell us that identifying an emotion is one of the keys to handling it. Emotions and aggravations can escalate pretty quickly. Tears and tantrums (especially public ones) can leave parents puzzled and embarrassed, but often the child is just as confused about what exactly is causing their behaviour. Once a child has language skills, encourage them gently, in a calm setting, to name their feelings. When the child can figure out whether they’re angry or sad (or maybe tired or thirsty), you can support them in deciding what to do next.

Being resourceful

As children learn to solve life’s little problems,their sense of ‘self-efficacy’ improves and that boosts resilience to setbacks and challenges. Once the emotion has been identified, support them in figuring out what to do to fix things. The plan might require a little bit of brainstorming. Allow the child to think of options, rather than offering a quick fix. That way, you’ll help develop their problem-solving skills and resourcefulness.


Children – like the rest of us – don’t always play fair. If there’s a row as a result, you may need to support your child in behaving honestly and fairly. If you’re in the role of peacemaker, allow things to calm down, then gently start a process of having each child listen to the other and figure out a fair way to sort things out. Ideally, both children should come up with a joint plan, but if emotions are running too high, you might have to agree to take a time out for a few hours and look at the situation again later.

Being proactive

If you notice a particular pattern in children’s rows – maybe they only argue over a specific toy or game, or when they’re over-tired – you might want to take proactive steps to avoid future fights. Watch out for those tell-tale signs that bedtime is coming or that it’s time to wind down a play date.

kids fighting

Owning it

Rows at home are never fun and sibling rivalry, in particular, can fester for years. Let’s face, when you and your sister are both well over the hill, but still fighting about who stole whose Barbie back in the day, it’s not pretty and it’s not mature. Support your own children in taking responsibility for resolving rows – no matter who started it. That way, hopefully they’ll have put the past behind them by the time they start college.

Changing complaints to aims

There’s no doubt that a lot of childhood bugbears arise from relationships with brothers and sisters. If one child is constantly complaining that their younger sibling is ‘so annoying,’ gently chat to them about how they can get more time to themselves. It might be worth putting aside some time where each sibling can get your undivided attention. That’s a good opportunity to explain that younger siblings look up to older ones – hopefully they’ll get a kick from knowing they’re a role model.

Moving on

When children successfully resolve a row, they’ll soon forget it ever happened. Children are far quicker to move on than adults and it’s best not to make a fuss once an issue is sorted out. What you could do, later, at home, is praise the child for the positive qualities that they showed in solving their problem and getting over it. That helps build a positive pattern for the future.