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Physical Fighting and Spitting

Children Physically Fighting with Each Other

Two children are angry with each other and hitting, kicking, or shoving. This is not wrestling. In wrestling, children are not angry with each other but are practicing their physical skills. Wrestling is fine as long as it’s done outside or in a recreation room and the opponents are reasonably well-matched.

  • The rule

    “Don’t fight with each other, because disagreements can’t be settled by hitting.”

    While you can have a rule against fighting in your home and yard, you can’t control what goes on in the neighborhood or school. Some parents teach their children to fight (but fight fair). Another option is to teach your child to say, “I don’t believe in fighting,” and to walk away from aggressors. Although the chance of being seriously hurt in a fight is slim, it can happen. Sometimes it’s better to be smart than to be brave. Most disagreements can be settled with words, and most bullies can be ignored. You don’t have to teach your child physical defense.

  • Discipline technique

    Intervene at the early shoving stage. Separate the children without questioning the children. Send both to time-out in separate rooms or separate corners. Another option is to send one child outside. When appropriate, remove the object of conflict, such as use of the TV.

  • Praise

    Praise your child for playing with other children in a friendly way and for settling verbal disagreements themselves.

  • Model

    Solve problems without hitting or yelling. Spouse abuse condones physical fighting among children. Also avoid favoritism, which contributes to sibling fighting.


  • The rule

    “Don’t spit. It doesn’t look nice.”

  • Discipline technique

    If your child spits on another person, use immediate time-out. If your child spits for attention-seeking purposes, restrict the places where it is permitted (such as in the toilet, sink, or outdoors). If your child spits anywhere else, place him or her in time-out.

  • Praise

    Praise your child for not spitting in situations where he or she previously spit.

  • Model

    Don’t spit yourself. Take a position against chewing (smokeless) tobacco.

Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2002-01-09
Last reviewed: 2014-06-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 Barton D. Schmitt, MD. All rights reserved.

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