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A Time to Be Silent, a Time to Speak

Shira Yehudit Djlilmand

The scenario is all too familiar. One of our children has a fight or fall out with his friends. What’s your first reaction? To storm out there to protect your precious offspring? But perhaps, intervening is interfering? Are our kids better off when left to sort their spats out themselves?

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

When it comes to my kids’ fighting with their friends, I’m one of those moms who tend to race in rather than leave things alone. Maybe it’s the natural protective instinct rising to the fore, the raging lioness roaring to protect her precious offspring. Whatever the reason, my first reaction is usually the desire to give it to the child who dared to hurt my little one.

First reactions are often wrong, and so I do stop to think twice (fortunately for the other child), but until recently, I had always believed my interventionist policy was beneficial for my children. In fact, I thought that this was part of my role as a mother — that my kids needed this from me. Until my kids had a fall out with the children of Zahava, one of my closest friends and neighbors.

I called my friend to discuss the “dispute,” and she surprised me by telling me I should stay out of such childish nonsense. (Well, she might not have put it quite like that, but that’s what she meant.)

“Look,” she said firmly, “if we stick our nose in every little disagreement our kids have, how are they going to learn to cope? They have to learn to take responsibility for themselves and find their own solutions. Do you want us to be taking sides and perhaps getting into a disagreement because of our children? Besides, how are you ever going to know who is telling the truth? Once you get involved in all the parties’ claims, you’ll get bogged down in a slew of accusations and denials.”

Hmmm, she had a point there. I’ve already learned to take what my kids tell me with a few pounds of salt.

But I wanted to get across to Zahava that I really wasn’t one of these interfering mothers, but only got involved when things got nasty and mean.

“Look,” I tried to justify myself, “you know I don’t always call you. There are plenty of fights that I just let go — if they’re both the same size and fists fly once in a while, well, boys will be boys, and it’s soon forgotten. But when the kids start ganging up against each other, then I mix in to put a stop to it.”

“Shira Yehudit, listen to yourself!” Zahava exclaimed. “When the kids are beating up on each other you don’t do anything, but when they just exchange a few words you get all upset?”

I had to admit it did sound odd when you put it like that, but I hadn’t seen it from that perspective.

“And anyway,” Zahava went on, “what’s the point in getting involved? If we leave them to it, they’ve usually forgotten about it by the next day. If we mix in, we make it even worse; why make mountains out of molehills? Look, if we are dealing with constant bullying, then that’s a different story. But I’m not going to run after every tiff my children conjure.”

I hung up the phone, my thoughts churning. Zahava is a fantastic mother and a close friend whose opinions I respect. The conversation set me thinking. Did I get involved too much? Should I let my kids work it out for themselves? The questions raged within me, until I turned to another friend and neighbor, who also happens to be a respected parenting professional.

Ilana Trachtman, an experienced mother-of-many, is a psychologist and one of the instructors in both the B’Derech HaMelech chinuch program and the GAP (Giving Authority back to Parents) parenting program. That’s besides being my personal savior every time I’m at my wits’ end how to deal with a parenting issue. So what are the answers? When should we intervene — and how?


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