Summer Sibling Squabbles

Summer Sibling Squabbles

Jul 13, 2023

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It’s summer - kids are off school, they’re spending more time together and you’re probably seeing a lot more sibling squabbles and fights. 

And it’s frustrating, right? You spend all this time thinking of fun activities and outings, you do the planning and prepping. Then, when you get them to the location, they’re fighting, arguing and bickering. 

I know that this is a problem for most parents, especially in the summer months, so this episode is meant to help you understand why it’s happening (which is a game-changer all on its own) and give you more clarity when you go to solve the problems.


Why Kids Fight More in the Summer

I don’t know about you, but when I understand why something is happening, it frees me from the feelings of guilt and responsibility and helps me think clearly about possible solutions.

In general, kids have less capacity to self-regulate and manage their emotions in the summer, and there are quite a few reasons for this. 

There’s less routine and a different pace and rhythm to their days. When they don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing at any given time, it shows up in their behavior. 

Extra downtime in the summer also leads to boredom. When kids don’t know what to do with that unstructured time, they get restless and dysregulated.

Summer is more physical than the school year, too. During school, they spend more time indoors, sitting and learning. In the summer, they use their bodies a lot more, which is amazing and also exhausting. 

And let’s not forget about travel. We tend to place pretty high expectations on our kids when it comes to long car rides or lines to stand in at the airport, amusement park or museum. There’s a lot of waiting around, and this also feeds into the boredom and dysregulation.

Another factor in summer behavior is the way they connect with you. During the school year, there are rhythms to this, too. There’s predictability and you probably have some time built in where you connect with each kid one-on-one. When this gets thrown off in the summer, our kids are missing that one-on-one connection. They miss us even though we’re spending so much time together. 

At the same time, we are spending SO much time together, that we get burned out on each other. 

The way this all shows up is that when a kid feels restless or uncomfortable, they dump that discomfort onto their sister or brother. It’s a coping strategy they’re using to try to balance out or express some emotion. 

It's a way to get some stimulation if they're bored. It's a way to get connection if they're feeling disconnected. It's a way to express their discomfort or frustration.


Typical Responses to Sibling Fighting

What most parents tend to do is ignore the behavior until it escalates. Then, all of a sudden you have a huge problem. You yell, you threaten and create extra stress in the situation. 

This might work in the short term, but it’s kinda like putting a lid on a boiling pot of water - it will boil over again. 

Another common strategy I see is protecting the victim. This often looks like shaming the kid who was hurting or poking at the other kid. The problem with this is that you’re creating even more disconnection with the aggressor. 

Consequencing everyone in the fight also tends to create more problems. Sometimes the conflict isn’t about all the children. It may be one kid who needs a limit or more connection. If you take away privileges for everyone, it makes the impact of one person’s behavior impact everybody, and you’re not addressing the emotional need of the kid who is creating the conflict. 

What your kids are seeking in misbehavior is regulation and support. They want to feel better. They need some help.

What I want for you is to be able to pay attention and provide guidance, rather than checking out emotionally, disconnecting or jumping in and solving all their problems for them. It’s a fine balance.

A Better Way to Deal with Summer Sibling Squabbles

First, I want to say that you cannot take on every problem. It’s exhausting, and it’s not serving your kids. So when you do intervene, I want you to intervene in a way that is actually helpful, solves the emotional situation and helps your kids feel better so that they show up better.

The foundation here is this: Pay attention, but be slow to intervene. 

Look at the behavior. What is happening between these people? What is this conflict even about? Then ask yourself what they need. Do they all need some support, or is it one kid who needs a limit? Look for clues before you respond.

When you decide to intervene, start with the Connection Tool. Narrate what you see, name the emotion and set a limit. 

If they're able to be calm and talk to you, you can guide them through a conversation about the conflict, as long as they both speak kindly and one at a time. Narrate and name the situation. Then ask them what they  want to do about it. How do they want to solve this problem?

You are the leader and the guide, not a participant in the conflict. 

There are lots of ways to set limits within conflict, and you’ll hear several examples in the full episode. 

While we internally help them with their feelings, we want to also externally show them that their behavior has impacts, which can be great or not-so-fun. 

With conflict, these impacts (aka consequences) might look like missing out on activities or privileges. It can also look like restitution to you when supporting your kids in conflict drains you of your energy.

Ultimately, limits and consequences help your kids see that it is in their best interest (and the family’s best interest) for them to get along. Because when they do, Mom has more energy, capacity and patience to do fun stuff. 


Your kids are going to fight this summer. So when it happens, I don’t want you to feel surprised or like you're doing something wrong. The more connection and emotional support you can offer to them, the easier your day will be. 

When you guide your kids to solve the problems (instead of doing it for them), they learn to solve conflicts for themselves and there is less sibling fighting. 


You’ll Learn:

  • Why siblings argue more in the summer
  • More helpful ways to respond to sibling fighting
  • How to guide your kids through solving their own conflicts
  • Examples of limit setting during sibling squabbles


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