*Please note what works for me may not work for you. These are suggestions.
My oldest and youngest children have different brains. And I mean that are also wired differently. Their view on life and needs vary greatly. Not just because of the age difference. Because sometimes they can't calm themselves down or agree, they get into physical fights. Knee wants to turn off the lights to play a game. HB gets mad and tells him to turn them on. Instead of "tattling" which I wish he'd do he balls up his fist and hits him. He doesn't really give Knee a chance to respond either. Naturally Knee has no problem with tattling and runs in to tell me that HB has hit him. Rinse and repeat. So it poses its own challenges when like today HB is home "sick" because of last night, but is fine during the day time. (sometimes I hate school's sick policies)
These are some of the things we attempt to do. They don't always work.
1) Seperate them-
If they are both fairly calm but one is having an off day, I find its best just to designate them a room until they can come back together. HB doesn't mind the seclusion as much. Knee hates it. This morning he came to me sobbing that he "likes" HB and "wants him back." Knee's definitely more social but he spends his days with me mostly. So when HB is around he likes to spend as much time with his brother as possible. This plan of attack is a hit or miss in other words.
2) Pull out the crafts-
The problems tend to multiply when their games get rough and out of hand. What starts out as a nice game of chase, turns into a pushing shoving match. So I have to reset the boys interest. I've tried to read them books, but they still want to move around so it doesn't really work. Fortunately I keep a stock of art supplies and so it's easy to pull a craft out of hat (so to speak). They get super excited and focused on the task at hand and calm down. You may not be crafty, but there are a plethora of craft kits for kids at craft stores. And for something educational and crafty there are a number of box services that send you their own pre-packed craft kits. I recently received a box from Green Kid Crafts to try. It had four craft activities pre-packaged all about nocturnal animals. They included a list of additional craft suggestions related to the subject. No, they didn't ask me to review. It was a promo. I just liked the service. Some people also recommend Kiwi Crate, but I haven't tried them.
3) Send them outside-
Sometimes my kids just feel cooped up. If it wasn't snow in London, it's heat in Arizona. If the weather is bearable, I've been known to send them outside. The backyard is big and fenced in. They are more likely to go exploring or digging in the dirt than attempting to kill each other.
4) Grab some toys from storage-
We rotate their toys although I haven't much lately (which might explain why they are entertaining themselves with my laundry basket). If they seem really really bored, I will announce that I am going to the shed to bring something back. Sometimes they follow me but I kick them out and grab only a few things. Otherwise they view it as a free for all. Some fav toy they haven't seen for a while can jump start their imaginations and keep them focused on play for a while instead of killing each other.
5) Bring out the board games-
This is really what my husband does. He's not a craft person. I'm not a gamer. But it's the same concept: get them to sit down and work on their fine motor and critical thinking skills for a while. The game can sometimes back fire as my children are aging and learn about "loosing" and "winning." Overall it works okay. And just like with crafts I might have to help one (Knee the younger one) more than the other.
6) The "Never" Fail-
And if all else fails or I just feel too darn sick, my ol' stand by is to pop popcorn and find a movie. But you don't want this too much because even then movies can become boring.
What do you do to keep the fighting down to a minimum?