A Mama bear battles for her kids.
When it comes to things concerning my kids, I am a mama bear. Biological or foster kids, it matters not. When anyone messes with my cubs, I am a growling, pawing bear. The only problem is that becoming a maniac is not biblical – nor does it represent Jesus well.
Granted, when money changers sold things in the temple, Jesus showed anger as He upset tables and drove out the money changers. He did that because what they were doing was wrong. His anger was a righteous anger. Jesus had that “right” because these people were desecrating the temple of God. The issue was the holiness of God; not hurt feelings or unfairness.
Often times when mama bears become upset, it’s not so much about a wrong as it is about their cubs.
If we’re honest, we have to admit that we are more upset when our kids are. We usually don’t stop to consider the real issue. All we know is that our cub is hurt or upset and we intend to fix it.
No matter who gets in the way or where the problem lies, the temptation is for us to lumber over to the persons we consider opponents and level them to the ground. After all, nobody dares mess with our cubs!
This is where we are wrong.
Too often, we lose an opportunity for our child to learn a life lesson because we rush in to fix things instead of helping him tackle a problem himself. Sadly, we often teach our cubs that if anyone messes with them, mama bear will make him pay. They miss an opportunity to learn consequences for their behavior or actions and how to resolve a conflict.
I’ve been around the block a few times, and I’ve learned the hard way to sit back and let the chips fall where they may. I have listened to both my child’s story and the other party – and many times discovered that the child’s version is not completely true.
I remember the day a child came home from school and gave me a tearful story of his unfair, uncaring teacher. The mama bear in me wanted to hit the driveway at full speed and head to the school to set his teacher straight.
The Christian in me made me take a step back and say, “That’s a sad story. I’m sure your teacher will be glad to explain it to me when I call and ask her to tell me what happened.”
“Oh no, Mama, you don’t need to call her,” my child replied, eyes wide with alarm. “It will be okay.”
To think that I almost gave him an opportunity to live a lie by defending him before I had heard all the facts!
There are other times, however, when a child is in a difficult situation and his story is true.
There is still a way to respond that helps pave the way for conflict resolution while modeling integrity and caring in a confrontation. If we follow these steps, we’ll be well on the way to teaching our kids how to handle conflict. In addition, they will learn to come up with solutions for their own dilemmas.
What employer wouldn’t like to have an employee with those character traits?!
Four simple steps
When your child is in a difficult situation, these steps will help you find your way to a biblical approach and solution.
- Get the other side. Recognize that although a child may be telling the truth, human nature makes any of us want to embellish things. Be sure to get the other side of the story before you assume that everything you hear is the gospel truth. This helps our kids be careful of extra flair they might be tempted to bring to the story, true or not.
- Figure out the root. Once you have gathered the truth, help your child figure out the real problem – or its cause. Is there anything he could have done to have avoided the conflict or the problem? Was he in any way a catalyst for the issue?
- Help him figure it out. Instead of decrying unfairness or false accusations, help him figure out a solution to the problem. Granted, this takes more time than just bulldozing someone down in the interest of our child. Yet it’s worth the time and effort because it’s the right way to resolve an issue. This approach seizes an opportunity to help our kid declare truth rather than fiction. Our children need to learn that if they are going to cry unfairness, untruth, or proclaim evil, they also need to find a way to call for truth and justice. If he can’t help figure out a solution, then it can’t be that much of a problem.
- Support. Give your child support and help him find a biblical way to slay the giants in his life. When you help him start with the root cause or problem, you’ll help him develop a plan to repair the damage, or certainly a venue for not repeating what caused the problem.
Conflict resolution helps resolve battles
Helping your child work through conflict resolution prepares him for life. He won’t always have Mom or Dad around to fix things. They won’t always be able to bail him out of the situations in which he finds himself. What better time to learn this biblical plan than now, when his parents are still available for help, counsel, and prayer?
These principles will work if we actually do them. Dave and I know this for a fact because we’ve experienced it as we’ve helped our kids, many times over.
My Mama bear story
This story is true, and I remember it like it was yesterday.
One of our sons continued to be frustrated with his elementary school teacher. He’d come home from school, stomp upstairs to his room and slam his door. He disliked his teacher; he disliked his classroom, and he disliked going to school. Every. Single. Day.
Finally, in frustration, I told Dave, “If you don’t do something about this, I will.”
I didn’t realize that Dave had been processing what was happening during the weeks this situation seemed to get worse. He gently told me that my sympathies toward our son weren’t helping him be objective about his situation. I naturally assumed that everything my third-grader told me was completely truthful.
What I failed to consider was that our child was adjusting to his third school in four years. He didn’t like change, and that alone colored his view of his new teacher and the new classroom. Dave also realized that if we didn’t do something, we’d be living this every day for the rest of the school year.
“There is a way to do this right,” my husband told me.
Helping a child figure it out
Then he sat down with our son and they talked what the problem.
Our boy was able to identify what he thought the problems were:
- It was difficult for him to focus during class because the class seemed to be out of control. The kids didn’t respect the teacher because she made threats for misbehavior, but she failed to carry them out.
- Since the teacher didn’t follow through with promised consequences, the students weren’t afraid to act up during class. They were disrespectful and even talked back to their teacher. She took no corrective action and had no behavior plan instituted in her room. It was a free-for-all.
- The main students who caused problems were three boys who sat together. These three students constantly made havoc, creating noise and disturbances. With no consequences for their bad behavior, they felt free to be as disruptive as they pleased. In addition, students whose behavior was good were never acknowledged. It seemed that bad behavior brought more attention from the teacher than good behavior.
A Biblical battle plan
Together, my husband and son came up with a battle plan.
It was biblical, Dave told Ben, for him to speak to the teacher about his frustrations first. If he didn’t make any progress, we would then go to the teacher. If we didn’t make any progress with the teacher, we would go to the principal. However, the Biblical model required him to first meet with his teacher. [We have followed these same steps on other occasions, once ending up in the office of the Superintendent, who listened to us and resolved the problem.]
Dave helped Ben figure out how to approach the teacher. In the morning, before class started, he would tell her that he wanted to speak with her alone. If she asked him for a time he thought was good, he’d offer to stay in the classroom while the rest of the class went to the library. If she suggested a different time, such as recess, he was willing to give up recess to talk with her.
Ben planned to give her the three things that frustrated him, and offer suggestions to help the situation if she asked.
He had his suggestions ready.
- Develop a behavior and reward system, where students get rewarded for good behavior. Children will be given a set of colored cards that are moved for poor behavior. For children whose cards remain on green, a reward is promised at the end of the week. Children whose cards get moved to yellow will receive a verbal warning first; and if the card is moved past yellow to red, the child will be sent to the principal for further warnings. [He saw this work in other classrooms and felt it to be beneficial in this situation.]
- Follow through with promised consequences when children misbehave.
- Separate the three boys who are causing problems. Move them to separate parts of the room and next to students who are not troublemakers.
Prepared and prayed up for battles
I watched my son go out the door that morning and felt like I was sending him into a pack of wolves. If you’re a mom, I’m sure you can identify. How much easier, I felt, to just visit the teacher for him! However, I knew Dave was right. It was time for our kid to start fighting his own battles. I stayed home and I prayed.
Guess who was watching for that bus to come to a stop at our driveway that afternoon? This mama bear. I saw him bound down the steps and head up the driveway. From his body language, it was evident his visit was a success.
I had to admit Dave was right.
“It worked. She listened to me. When we came back from the library, she had moved the three boys away from each other. She had the card system up and ready and the whole day went better. I’m so glad I talked to her instead of Papa going and talking to her. I think she liked it better to hear it from me than from you,” he said.
Well now, if I had been the teacher, I would have liked it better, too!
There you have it. This mama bear got put in her place. I think I learned as much – or more – than he did that day.
What I learned about kids fighting their own battles
I learned that our kids can handle more than we think, that helping them take small steps prepares them for life. It’s never too early to start teaching our kids to follow the biblical way to do things.
It’s never too early to help our kids develop biblical battle plans.
I learned that mama bears do better staying home and praying than bombarding doors to defend their kids. And, even it appears we are sending our kids out alone, they’re not alone when they are covered in prayer.
Our kids are much more resilient than we like to think they are.
The trouble is that we often don’t even give them a chance. We step in and try to fix things for them. Our kids will never learn battle strategy if we fight their battles for them.
How about it, moms? Are you helping your kids develop battle strategies so they can work through their problems, or are you trying to fix life and problems for them?
Remember: the day will come when you won’t be able to fix things for them. How about investing time now so they can wing it on their own later (with the help of God, of course.)