Books and Charts To Stop The Fighting

Although watching people fight seems to be a national past time (on TV, in political debates, and all over the tabloids), I don’t know a single person who enjoys the fighting at home.  Sometimes it feels like there’s no hope in sight.  (But there is . . . keep reading.)

Eight days ago, I had one of “those mornings.”

Child 4 hit Child 1 in the face “accidentally,” Child 1 pushed Child 3 off the edge of the bed while playing under the covers, Child 4 wouldn’t let Child 3 help with the blanket fort, and Child 1 came up and tattled through the closed bathroom door (where I just needed a couple of minutes of privacy).  I got Child 1 and Child 3 involved in another activity and then went downstairs to have a discussion with Child 4, but Child 3 started screaming again because Child 1 wouldn’t share.  Then Child 2 and Child 4 started fighting over a pair of shoes that Child 4 gave to Child 2–but they were actually loaned (not given), because they still fit Child 4.

After two hours of this (I’ll spare you the details), I asked my children, “Do you guys plan this?  Do you wake up in the morning and wonder how much you can fight before I will cry?”

So if any of you can relate, today I’d like to share two ways to handle the fighting.

First, let’s talk about what to do in the moment.

There are two excellent books that I highly recommend every mother keep in her parenting toolbox: Siblings Without Rivalry and Discipline Without Shouting or Spanking.

In Siblings Without Rivalry the authors have included illustrated cartoons showing helpful responses to fighting.  Here’s a page of the book that changed my whole week:

This illustration shows two children fighting over a toy (but it applies equally to teenagers fighting over clothes, etc.), and the parent says, “Boy, you two sound angry at each other!”

Then the parent continues to talk to each child as he tries to understand each of their perspectives (one child wanted to build a zoo by himself, and the other child wanted to play, too).

In the fourth and fifth frames, the dad says, “I see. Hmm . . . this is a tough one.  Two children who both want to use the same toys at the same time.  I have confidence that if you two put your heads together, you’ll come up with a solution that feels fair to each of you.”

And then the parent walks away to read the newspaper.

This is not how I had been handling the fighting.  I kept getting involved.  I kept trying to reason with my children.  I kept promoting the virtues of kindness and pleading with them to be nice to each other.    But you know what?  It works a thousand times better when I really listen, let my children know I care and I understand, and then let them figure it out for themselves.

In Discipline Without Shouting or Spanking, the methods are written specifically for preschoolers, which is why I’m including two books here.  My four-year-old is totally beyond reason right now, so I have to spend a considerable amount of each day deliberately teaching and training him.

Just the title page of this book is enough to make me feel giddy.  It covers ways to solve problems like resisting bedtimes, temper tantrums, whining, interrupting, getting into things, possessiveness, wanting their own way, not following directions, and messiness.  Can I hear a “Hallelujah”?

Seriously, if you’re struggling with the specifics of mothering, these two books will be like gold for you.

And now, for part two, I’d like to talk about how we prevent the fighting.

There are tons of excellent resources out there about helping children get adequate rest, nutritious meals, and regular quiet times, and these have all been extremely helpful to me, but my focus today will be on charts.

My children complain sometimes that we have charts for everything, but to be perfectly honest, a collection of very specific charts brings beautiful structure to family life.  It’s taken years of trial and error for us, but here’s what’s working right now:

(1) Money Charts that are Separate from Behavior Charts

We have a chart where they fill in their squares/music note for accomplishing the regular responsibilities I don’t want to nag them about. I’ve talked with lots of parents who pay their children for work and then fine them for bad behavior, but children will almost always become in debt to their parents when using this model.  In our family, it works to keep money and behavior separate.  The Eyres have more to say on this, if you’re interested.

(2) A “Move-Your-Clip” Behavior Chart

Family rules are written on the top of this chart, and consequences are spelled out for each move of the clip (no dessert, 20 minutes resting on bed, lose 30 minutes of screen time, go to bed 30 minutes early).

(3) A Car Seating Chart

I know it sounds silly, but we have a monthly rotation for where we sit in the van, and the fighting over this has stopped.  (One mom I know drew a picture of a car and put sticky notes with her children’s photos on them in each seat.)

(4) Dishwasher Jobs

We also rotate jobs monthly: glass, cups and bowls, plates, and silverware are our four categories.  These are written on a simple dry-erase board, along with the two charts listed below.

(5) Laundry Folding Jobs

Each child sorts one basket, folds his/her own clothes, and then folds one category of family laundry (small towels, large towels, and socks).

(6) Zones

Each night before bed, we clean up our zones (living room/bathroom, family room/backyard, and kitchen).

Every family is unique, and every family changes regularly, but finding innovative ways to create peace and order is essential to deliberate parenting. Fighting may be central to the success of the media, but not fighting is central to the success in my home.

QUESTION: Do you have any specific “stop-the-fighting” ideas to share?

CHALLENGE: If fighting is happening too often at your house, read one of the books referenced above or take some time to create charts and structure to restore the peace.


  1. jenkinsme says

    Once again you posted just what I needed when I needed it! Thank you! The thing that stood out most to me was your Family Rules chart. I have charts for their chores and for their schedules, etc. But I had not come up with a good system like this. I know at my daughters school it’s cards. They start with a green card and if they need a warning it moves to yellow. If they continue with that behavior it moves to red and the parents are notified. The chart you have is a similar idea, just moving up or down and I love that the consequences are listed right there so they know what’s going on. I know what my evening project is going to be. :)

  2. Ingrid says

    THANK YOU! Brilliant ideas! I do have a question: on the “move your clip” chart– are they allowed to move back up after they’ve moved down? I think my kids would be full of apologies and begging if I did allow upward movement. How do you handle that? Again, thanks!

    • April Perry says

      I’m with you, Ingrid. No, we don’t allow anyone to move back up. That’s been a little hard, but I keep saying, “I bet you’ll do great tomorrow!” And then I say, “If I let you move back up, that would only teach you that you can be mean and naughty all you want–as long as you make up for it later. But don’t worry. We start again tomorrow, and I have full confidence in you!” (Now they don’t even ask to move up. They just move their clip, accept the consequences, and almost ALWAYS do better the next day.)

  3. says

    I am super excited to read these! I love How to Talk so your Kids will Listen and Listen so your Kids will Talk (by the same author as the first one). Seriously, the cartoons help!! I also find that when my kids are struggling, sometimes it is because we’ve had a few too many hours together (summer, vacation) and my kids really just need a break. I usually suggest 15 minutes of personal time for everyone, it seems to help even me! Thanks April!

    • April Perry says

      I need to read that book, “How to Talk so Your Kids Will Listen . . .” That sounds wonderful. Thanks for the suggestion. And yes, the 15 minutes of personal time is mostly for me :) Thanks, Rachelle!

  4. shellbell78 says

    I love your idea for the Behavior chart, and including the Family Rules at the top is great, too. I definitely plan on making one for mine!
    One thing that we do in our family to help is a Marble Jar for each child. They can earn Marbles by being helpful without complaining, do a kind deed, being first time listener’s, playing nicely, sharing, being reverent at church, etc. Whatever my Hubby and I notice a particular child needs to be working on and they do it without reminders from either of us. If they are naughty or misbehave they get marbles taken away. If they have at least 10 marbles in their jar they can cash them in for watching a movie, playing video games, playing on the computer, etc. This has really helped, especially when they are very close to being able to cash in. If I see misbehaving all I have to say is “is it worth losing a marble?” and normally it helps that child to improve.

    • April Perry says

      Ooh, I like that idea! Thanks for sharing! One mom at our Arizona Retreat has an “I’d love to” jar. It’s full of candy or stickers or something like that, and if she asks a child to do something and they respond with, “I’d love to,” then they get to pick a treat out. Oh, the fun we can have :)

  5. Julie P says

    Ok, just had my comment all typed up and then lost it.
    I think I already know the answers to my questions, but have to think these through.
    First, Do you give a warning before you move them to “warning?”
    Second, Do they move to the next level down from “warning” even if they have done something different from what caused them to be moved to “warning” in the first place.
    The reason I asked the second question is because it seems my two boys (8 and 5) will be moving to the lowest level pretty quickly every day. It seems we’ve had a rash of bad behavior and they’re just getting set up for failure…but maybe that’s the whole point…bring the bad behavior under control because it’s so prevalent.
    It also seems that I’m telling them that the goal is “to not move down at all”…and that would mean they have to be perfect all day long. (or does it just mean they self-correct their behavior after I’ve given them their initial warning and even though they “dabble” in bad behavior all day long, as long as they correct themselves, that is the goal?) Would love to hear your thoughts on this, but I think I helped myself think through this on my own!

    • April Perry says

      Good questions. Thanks, Julie! I’m sure as you try this out, you’ll figure out what works for your family.

      Sometimes I do give a “warning” to the “warning.” But I’ve found that the fewer warnings I give, the more seriously they take this whole thing. This morning I said to my son, “You are very close to moving your clip to Warning.”

      Then, yes, they continue to move their clip down each time they break one of the family rules (posted at the top). If they do the same thing over and over and over, then I keep moving the clip. Honestly, we rarely move the clips now because they feel sad when they miss out on dessert or lose screen time or go to bed earlier than everyone else. The behavior around here was so good that I got rid of the chart . . . but then they started acting up again, so I re-posted the chart, and now everyone is good again. It’s so funny, but it really has worked great for my kids (ages 4-12). Good luck!

  6. Christine James says

    I love this post and will be referring back to it because I want to implement the ideas here. Thanks a bunch!!

  7. Simone says

    Just to let you know that How to Talk so Kids Will Listen… is available in a video series (I think six) at libraries in my area…maybe yours too. Actors role play skits of various issues first using a negative technique and then using the book’s technique. Then the authors meet with a group of parents struggling in their parenting styles and discuss improvements gained the previous weeks lesson and issues form this week. We’ve had weekly gatherings where we show it and discuss the topics included. It’s been very interesting.

    • April Perry says

      I love that idea! Thanks Simone. I have this feeling that my library has way more resources available to me than I’ve previously realized. Can’t wait to check it out. (No pun intended.)

  8. says

    Thank you so much for putting so much thought and vulnerability into this post. Love this. I want sit and digest it! I have three boys, 8,6,&3. Fighting HAPPENS OFTEN here :{ The Lord is constantly working on ALL of us in this area. Mommy included :)
    Thanks again 😉

  9. Lisa Campbell says

    I made a bath schedual my kids always seem to fight that they do not want to go first to take a bath or shower, I have 3 kids one boy 9 and twin girls 8 and fighting happens to often around here, I really like your ideas :)

  10. says

    Hi, I’m fairly new to the site and have been soaking up articles. I am so encouraged and challenged by everything here. I’ve been thinking about implementing a more structured discipline system with my boys (9 and 6) and the clip chart seems like a good idea, especially because they are already familiar with the concept from school. I think I get the hang of the chart itself (previous comments and responses helped clear up some questions), but I would love to hear more about the family rules on the top of the chart. How do you explain the rules to the kids? They seem pretty broad and I wondered if the kids are ever surprised that they are in violation of the rules. Do you have any advice on choosing family rules? Thanks!

  11. Susan says

    We were able to solve some fights/arguments in our household by letting each child (we only have 2) have their own day. One child was born on the 20th of a month, so he has even days. The other was born on the 1st of the month, so she has odds days. Whenever it’s the child’s day, they get to chose where they sit in the car, what they want to watch on TV, get computer first, gets first pick on which chore they want to do, etc. But it’s not always fun & games for them. That child also sets the table, unloads/loads the dishwasher, etc.
    This has settled SO MANY arguments!
    Love your ideas, too!

  12. Rebecca says

    I am making my Family Rules Chart as soon as I finish this post… my question is the same as above. How do you explain the general rules so that each child of varying age will understand what each rule really covers? Where can I find more information on this?


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