As soon as one of our 'chicks' are upset about anything at
all, our maternal instincts prompt us to rise and wage war on
their behalf. The age of the child is immaterial: if my
fourteen-year-old girl is weeping copious tears and refuses
to eat because Shuli has been teasing her for weeks and all
the other girls are making fun of her as well, I have to put
things right immediately, if not sooner!
However, there are few occasions when a parent should get
involved in children's arguments, quarrels or even physical
fights. The exceptions are if your child is being abused or
bullied, whether verbally or physically. But even then, it is
worth trying other avenues first, before accosting the guilty
child. Self confidence and self reliance are two of the best
gifts we can provide for our children, which will stand them
in good stead all their lives. If we fight their battles for
them, it undermines their self confidence.
Most parents have to deal with children's quarrels
repeatedly. When the girl claimed that she had been teased
for weeks, my first thought was to ring the mother. After
further consideration, I decided to contact the teacher,
although it was in the evening, when my daughter had finally
gone to sleep. The teacher was most surprised that she had
not noticed the deplorable state of affairs, and assured me
that she would investigate. The next day my daughter came
home in the best of spirits, with no sign of the previous
day's outburst. "What sort of a day did you have?"
"'Wonderful." "Did the teacher speak to you at all?" "Yes,
she asked me if Shuli was teasing me." "What did you say?" "I
told her that we were good friends." She turned to get a
snack from the fridge and I felt like a fool!
A mother stormed down to a group of girls who were playing
jump rope outside. She started screaming at the dumbfounded
children that they were a bunch of mean kids and why did they
always make her girl turn the rope and only let her skip at
the very end. She should have discussed the matter with her
child and taught her how to interact with the other children.
By trying to smooth the way for the child, the mother
rendered her a disservice.
When parents take up their children's squabbles, it can cause
major family feuds. The children have long since made up and
become friends, while the parents have ended up by not
speaking to each other. A child who gets accustomed to
saying, "I'll tell my Mommy on you," will be lost when s/he
gets to seminary or yeshiva and there is nobody to whom s/he
can tell tales. Besides, their fellow students will laugh at
A child was off school for several weeks and not a single boy
phoned to ask how he was. The mother took the teacher to task
for not teaching his class better middos and after
that the teacher came in once or twice, accompanied by one or
two boys. He also sent several groups of boys to visit in
turn. The sick boy was overjoyed. Nevertheless, it would have
been wiser for the mother to encourage her son as soon as he
began to get bored, to call some of the boys, explaining that
he was ill and was feeling lonely and bored, and that he
would appreciate some company. In this way he would learn how
to improve his social skills and how to cope on his own,
without someone making life easier for him. Children have to
learn how to take the initiative in fostering friendships.
(We are not discussing the teacher's role in this little
Some parents do not interfere when the quarrel is between
children, but when the child comes home dissatisfied with the
teacher, they throw all caution (and manners) to the wind.
Why did my child only get 'very good' on his report card,
instead of 'excellent,' as his friend did. Why did she not
get a main part in the school play. Please move his seat; he
does not like the boy next to whom he sits.
A teacher from Bnei Brak reported that one Friday afternoon
as they were leaving the house to go to her parents over
Shabbos with their five little children, the phone rang. A
woman began to harangue her over the phone and she said
gently, "Could we discuss this after Shabbos, as I am in
rather a hurry just now." "You are in a hurry? My
daughter is crying her eyes out and all you think about is
your own convenience!"
Unfortunately, these conversations do take place, and there
is little excuse for parents to behave in this way. Moreover,
some parents go straight to the principal, without hearing
what the teacher has to say about the episode in question.
One principal listened to the father of a twelve- year-old
boy, who complained that his son did not like the rebbi at
all. The principal answered, "Do you really think that your
boy is going to get on with everybody with whom he comes into
contact, when he is older? Our job is not only to teach the
children gemora, we also have to teach them coping
skills, and how to sort themselves out."
If there is no communication between the child and the
teacher, there are cases when parents must intervene, but the
child does not need to know. For example, if a child of
limited ability is not achieving any good results, a wise
parent might ask the teacher (respectfully!) before reports
are sent out, to boost the one or two good points and to
inflate the poor marks. Some teachers do this of their own
accord without having to be told. The report card of a girl
with Downs syndrome reads as if she were at the top of the
class. Communication and intervention are not synonymous.
There should always be communication between parents and
It is often impossible not to interfere when one brother
seems bent on choking the other or in other "affectionate"
interchanges between siblings. The children usually manage to
settle things between them, but it makes the mother feel
better! However, outside the home, parents, particularly
mothers, have to ask themselves, "What will happen if I do
not mix in? What will my child do when s/he is a little
older? Will this little spot of trouble blow over?"
Empathizing with the child will frequently calm the situation
and then you will find out that it was all a storm in a
teacup. You might discover that the weeks or months which the
child describes, are just a matter of hours or a day or two.
As always, there are exceptions, particularly if your child
is being bullied. A parent cannot stand by and watch his
child feel frightened or miserable for any length of time.
However, as with visits to the doctor, there is no need to
panic as soon as a child has a fever: wait a few days and see
if things will settle down. Help the child find a way to sort
it out alone, without help, if at all possible.