I will never forget the first time my daughter got into a spat with one of her friends. I called my sister upset because, of course, my precious girl could have done nothing wrong, and the other girl was being so – well, mean.
My sister has a daughter older than mine and reassured me that I was justified in my feelings, but stopped me from making a big mistake – calling the other parent.
I argued, “But I feel like this mum needs to know that her daughter was being mean.” I mean, I’d want to know right?
But, my sister reminded me of one very important lesson. That so many of these spats that kids have with their friends are part of a bigger learning experience they need.
And, if I’m always stepping in, they will never learn to fight their own battles.
I remember thinking, fight her own battles? But, she’s a baby! She wasn’t. She was an eight-year-old.
I trusted my sister, though and so I took her advice. I didn’t call the other mum. Instead, I spent a lot of time coaching my own daughter. In doing that, I got a clearer picture of what my own child had done wrong in the situation. And, I realised it would have been silly to call the other parent over something that my daughter (and her friend) was over in a couple of days.
Since that time, I’ve tried to stay out of the battles that my kids have to fight. I feel like there are so many lessons that they will learn if they can fight their own battles.
They will learn to stand up for themselves.
They will learn conflict resolution.
They will learn what good friends look like, and how they act.
They will learn from their own mistakes.
They will learn how they want to be treated in the future.
They will learn how to problem solve.
When you think about it, letting your kids fight their own battles is one of the best ways to ensure they will be confident, more sure of themselves, and learn how to find the right kind of friends.
But, there have been some occasions where I’ve still stepped in and fought the fight with my kids; because, with all things in parenting, there are always exceptions.
Here are three rules I use when deciding whether or not to step in:
If they are being bullied. There are normal fights that all kids go through with their friends, and then there is bullying. They look totally different. Bullying is mean-spirited, and usually takes place with another child that is NOT your child’s friend.
If my child is being bullied, you better believe I will step in on their behalf with the other parent, the school, and the bully if I have to. There is no tolerance in my mind for mean-spirited bullying, and I won’t stand for it when it happens to my kid, or someone else’s.
If my kids are in danger. If I feel like another child is participating in behaviours that could lead to my child being in danger, I’ll step in. Every time. If my child is breaking rules at school, or the person they are in conflict with is, I will make sure things are discussed with teachers and school administrators.
If they’ve tried to resolve it, and it’s not getting better. Recently, my daughter was having a conflict with a friend for a few weeks that I knew nothing about. Finally one day, she burst into tears and told me. We talked a lot about what she had tried, and it appeared that she really had tried to make things right.
She was at fault in the situation, but the other girl wasn’t being very forgiving. I didn’t want this to damage the relationship long term, so I brought it up to the other mum. She was very grateful and we were able to facilitate our girls solving the problem, and before I knew it, they were playing again.
Give your kids a chance to fix the problem on their own. It may take several talks with you to coach them, but if it’s still not getting resolved, it might be time to help them out.
Other than that, I really do try to stay out of it. I’m a firm believer that I’m a coach for my kids’ problems, not the fixer. I’m the one who is supposed to role-play what to say and encourage them to make good choices. I’m the one who is supposed to be there for them when things are hard.
But, I’m not the one who is supposed to fight their battles for them. By doing that, I’m robbing them of the opportunity to learn, grow, and figure life out.