It often seems that the only thing Sara LaFountain's four boys have in common -- besides their DNA -- is the love of a good fight. Whether they're squabbling over who's the fastest runner or brawling because one kid dared to breathe on another, the Rockville, Maryland, brothers spend an awful lot of time and energy mixing it up. "No matter what the issue is, if they can fight about it, they do," says LaFountain.
If you've got more than one child, you can relate. The exhaustion of being summoned to referee the "I had it first" disputes and breaking up the 10th shouting match of the day can make even the most Zen parent lose it. In the heat of the moment, it may be small comfort to know that it's perfectly normal for brothers and sisters to fight. Plus, the experts all agree that constant feuding won't affect the relationship children have with each other when they grow up. Siblings fight because they're hungry, tired, bored, or they want Mom and Dad's attention. Sometimes they squabble because they're simply sick of spending so much time together. But there is an upside to the bickering. "As kids resolve their disputes, they learn how to compromise and cooperate," says Marian Edelman Borden, author of The Baffled Parent's Guide to Sibling Rivalry. We know what you're thinking -- that's great, but how do I maintain the day-to-day harmony? Our experts have advice on keeping mundane conflicts from escalating into nasty free-for-alls.