How To End Sibling Rivalry

When children fight, there's a tried and true way to stop it once and for all!

Dear Susan,

My wife and I have two children, 10 and 8.  They are reasonably well-behaved.  They are mischievous at times but not defiant or disrespectful.  They have good manners and they get decent grades.  They’re so good that my wife and I struggled whether we should even write to you. But here we are.  There is only one problem my wife and I have faced that we cannot solve.  

They fight. 

All the time. 

And we are at a complete loss as how to handle this.   Can you help us?

Sincerely, Hopeful in Atlanta


Dear Hopeful,

Yes, I can help.

First, congratulations on raising two well-behaved children.  Most of the parents who write in are, like you, examples of loving parents but lack the confidence that they do a lot right.  And boy, do they do a lot right!  It sounds like you and your wife have that confidence and it is my hope that my readers see some of their parenting skills in you.

And now for a simple solution that I have used myself to great satisfaction.  It is taken from John Rosemond’s book The Well Behaved Child.  It’s called "Tickets" and here’s how I did it:

What you’ll need:  

  • 2 magnetic clips
  • Target Misbehavior Sheet
  • three “tickets” (colored index cards cut in half will do)

Write the misbehavior on the Target Misbehavior Sheet (fighting with your sibling) on a piece of paper.  Clip it with the magnetic clip to the refrigerator.  Affix the three tickets to the fridge with another magnetic clip.

Explain to your children that you will no longer get involved with nor tolerate their fighting.  Tell them that starting today, they have three tickets per week.  These are SHARED tickets.  Any time that you or your wife hears them fighting, they lose a ticket.  If they loose all three tickets, they will be confined to their rooms for the rest of the week, coming out only for scheduled bathroom breaks, chores, and family dinner (or a family outing).  They may not play with friends, watch TV, play with electronics, etc.  Further, bedtime will be one hour earlier.  Even on weekends.

When you hear them fight, simply wait until a good time (when things have settled down) and ask them to follow you to the refrigerator.  Tell them that they were fighting so they lose a ticket.  Place the lost ticket on top of the fridge and walk away.  Ignore them if they play the blame game.  Remember, it takes two to tango.

Repeat this until the last ticket is lost.  Then confine the children to their room for the rest of the week. 

This is a huge consequence that, for generally well-behaved children, will quickly cause a positive change in their their behavior.  However, I would keep this going for at least six weeks or until they stop losing tickets all together.

Let me know how it goes!


Do you have a parenting question for Susan?  If so, send her an e-mail at susan@ParentCoachAtlanta.com

About this column: Because I Said So is a parenting advice column that runs on the first and third Wednesday of each month. Susan Eppley lives in Decatur and is a leadership parenting coach and owner of Parent Coach Atlanta. If you have a question for Susan that you would like included in this column, send her an email with your question to susan@ParentCoachAtlanta.com.

Christina Scott November 02, 2011 at 11:12 PM
Sage advice, as always, Ms. Epley!
Susan Eppley November 14, 2011 at 03:04 AM
Thanks, Christina! I ran into a mom in town and she told me that she didn't even have to use the ticket system. She just told her boys about it and they haven't asked her to get involved since!


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