You see your child and another child fighting over a toy. What’s a parent to do?
Your teen daughter comes home talking about an altercation with one of her friends. Should you step in and mediate?
Your son starts off playing with another boy but you see it slowly escalate into aggressive wrestling and even some fighting. Does the parent need to intervene to stop the fighting?
Does your “Mamma Bear” or “Papa Wolf” jump up to protect your child in the scenarios above? I can feel my protective tendency rising up. But, let me suggest that sometimes the best approach to such situations involves “nonintervention.” That’s right. Nonintervention is an effective tool to use in parenting. Of course a parent must practice wisdom when using nonintervention. Specifically:
- A parent needs to know his children well enough to anticipate when and where a conflict may get out of control or become dangerous. We don’t want any child to get hurt. So, plan to step in if you see the potential for someone to get hurt.
- A parent must remain observant of his children and any conflict that arises so he can assess if and when he does need to step in to mediate. Times will arise when a parent will need to step in to mediate, teach, and facilitate a resolution.
- A parent also needs to focus on teaching the importance of relationship and the corresponding respect for others. Our children learn this in our daily interactions and conversations with them. They learn it by observing our actions and listening to how we talk to others. When they see us valuing relationships and showing respect to others, they will more likely do the same.
- A parent must model healthy anger management and conflict resolution skills in relation to their spouse, friends, and children. Once again, children learn the most by watching how we act and what we say in relation to them and others.
Keep those four caveats in mind and nonintervention will prove itself a very effective parenting tool. As children work out their own disagreements and conflicts, they will learn how to manage contentious relationships. They will gain the strength to handle quarrels graciously. They will increase their ability to endure in healthy relationships, even in the midst of inevitable conflict. Learning to resolve differences independently will allow children to learn the art of compromise, to seek the greater good of community, and to respect one another in spite of transitory antagonism. Resolving conflict independent of adult intervention teaches our children that relationships can grow stronger through times of strife and disagreement. They will discover that community brings pleasure and pain. Perhaps more important, they will learn that pain, like pleasure, can produce intimacy when managed properly. So, take a step back Momma Bear. Slow down Papa Wolf. Give your kids a little time and space to work things out on their own. You might be pleasantly surprised with their creative resolution and their growing maturity!