When siblings bicker and fight it is often difficult for parents to diffuse the argument. In the book Siblings Without Rivalry by Adele Faber and  Elaine Mazlish some helpful rules to handle the fighting are outlined.

Level I. Normal Bickering

1. Ignore it. Think about your next vacation.

2. Tell yourself the children are having an important experience in conflict resolution.

Level II. Situation Heating up. Adult Intervention Might Be Helpful

1. Acknowledge their anger. “You two sound mad at each other!”

2. Reflect each child’s point of view. “So Sara, you want to keep on holding the puppy, because he’s just settled down in your arms. And you Billy, feel you’re entitled to a turn too.”

3. Describe the problem with respect. “That’s a tough one: Two children and only one puppy.”

4. Express confidence in the children’s ability to find their own solution. “I have a confidence that you two can work out a solution that’s fair to each of you…and fair to the puppy.”

5. Leave the room.

Level III: Situation Possibly Dangerous. 

1. Inquire: “Is this a play fight or a real fight?” (Play fights are permitted. Real fights are not.)

2. Let the children know: “Play fighting by mutual consent only.” (If it’s not fun for both, it’s got to stop.)

3. Respect your feelings: “You may be playing, but it’s too rough for me. You need to find another activity.”

Level IV: Situation Definitely Dangerous! Adult Intervention Necessary. 

1. Describe what you see. “I see two very angry children who are about to hurt each other.”

2. Separate the children. “It’s not safe to be together. We must have a cooling-off period. Quick, you to your room, and you to yours!”