Fighting with a brother or sister

It’s not uncommon to fight with your siblings - in fact it’s a fairly normal part of growing up. However, it can be good to know why you’re fighting and different things you can do that might ease the tension, like developing effective ways of talking to your brother or sister without it turning into a mega argument. Sometimes it can’t be resolved and that’s when you might have to agree to disagree.

This can help if:

  • You're always fighting with your brother or sister
  • You want to know how to deal with family conflict
  • You want some tips on talking to your brother or sister
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Why people fight

Everyone disagrees with each other and occasional fighting is part of living with brothers and sisters (it sucks, but it's true). Ongoing arguments can be stressful, annoying, and unnecessary, but there are things you can do if it gets out of control.

Brothers and sisters know exactly which buttons to push to make you annoyed and start an argument. Things that can make it harder are:
  • Differences in age 
  • Jealousy or feeling like you're not good enough
  • Lack of space
  • Step-brothers, step-sisters or step-families
  • Competitiveness (like sport or study)

What you can do

There are different ways of dealing with fighting. Even if they just give you time to think about what to do next, it will help. Here are some things you can do:

  • If it's something relatively small, like teasing, try not to get wound up and ignore them if you can.
  • Count to 10 before responding. It might sound silly but walking away and counting to 10 can be a good way to avoid saying something you’ll regret. 
  • Talk it over with someone else. Getting a different perspective can help you understand why there is conflict and work out useful strategies.
  • Get some space. While not solving the problem it can be good to get some head space either with friends or by yourself. 

Tips for talking to your brother or sister

  • Find a time when you’re both feeling ready to talk calmly. Avoid trying to sort things out if you, or your sibling, are feeling stressed, angry or tired.
  • At the dinner table (after you've eaten) might be a good time to try and approach subjects which are on your mind. That way, other people could be able to mediate.
  • Be willing to settle and have a number of options you're willing to accept. 
  • Don't make it personal! Try and avoid being sarcastic and making personal comments.
  • Be honest. If there's something they do which is really upsetting you, let them know.
  • Listen to what they have to say and accept that their point of view is as valid as yours (it’s easier said than done, but well worth doing).
  • Once you’ve settled on something you can agree to, stick to it. This might mean agreeing to stick to it for a set period of time.
  • If talking to them seems impossible, maybe write a letter or email explaining how you feel and your point of view.

Agreeing to disagree

If you just can’t find a way to compromise, you might find you have to 'agree to disagree'. Remember that you can make your own decisions, based on your own experience, beliefs and values, and you don’t always have to agree with your brother or sister.

What can I do now?

Last reviewed: 25 November, 2015
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