Stop Sibling Rivalry: 5 Ways to Have A Peaceful Dinner

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19 Nov 2013

Children face to faceDear Adina,

My kids are always fighting over who sits where at the dinner table. They all want to sit near my husband. Every day there is a battle. I am getting so tired from this fighting. It’s ridiculous. Dinner time is really unpleasant. What can I do?

I would like to say that this is a common problem, but many families do not sit down together for dinner. So start by giving yourself a pat on the back for having family dinner every night.

Now that I have said that, here are some ideas that can help:

1. Think of it in adult terms:

The most important piece of advice I have for you is this: although it seems silly to you, sitting next to their dad is extremely important to your children. Taking their problem seriously will help you deal with it in a compassionate manner. To help me deal with my kid’s problems fairly I try to  put myself in my kid’s shoes. Sometime it helps to visualize the problem and imagine what it would look like if I was  dealing with other adults. In your case, I can think of the time my husband and I volunteered to do seating for our local organization’s fundraising dinner. Many of the attendees had very specific directions on who they could and could not sit with and they were very vocal about it.

2. Problem Solve:

Kids come up with the best solutions.  I would pose this dilemma to them and hear what they have to say. You want to state the problem simply, without judgment and with a positive twist. You can say:

“Guys, I love to sit down with the family every night for dinner. However, we have a problem. Every night we seem to fight over who sits where. What can we do to make dinner time more peaceful?”

In the meantime, try to listen to their suggestions, even the silliest ones. Children need to feel like they are really being heard and taken seriously. This is when they will come up with their best ideas.

Don’t get discouraged if you don’t come up with anything the first time you do this. Sometimes you need to have a few brainstorming sessions before a solution can be found.

3. Do you think we should?:

If problem solving seems like too daunting a task, you can try suggesting assigned seats. Whenever you want to impose your ideas on your kids you want to be very diplomatic. You can engage their cooperation by saying:

“I heard that to solve the dinner seating problem, some families have assigned seats. Do you think we should do that? Do you think that would help us stop fighting?”

4. Know who you are dealing with:

In our house we have assigned seats. We had to change the seating arrangements many times depending on which siblings were fighting the most at any given time. Right now, two of my children are forbidden from sitting next to each other. I laugh when they find themselves together at the table and say to each other, “Hey, we’re not allowed to sit next to each other. We need to move.”

5. Excuse me:

It would also be helpful to get real on how long your kids can actually sit at the dinner table. Each kids’ tolerance can be different, depending on their age and energy level. You can teach your kids to excuse themselves if they find themselves getting antsy and/or belligerent.

I hope this helped.

Good Luck,


The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.