The instinct that surprised me the most about parenting was my Mama Bear Instinct. Mama Bear nurtures, loves, serves, and protects. She is watchful and very cautious.
I never knew how protective I was until I had children.
Actually, I had a glimpse of it once before I even knew I was pregnant with my first child. Here’s what happened:
I was watching a movie about a young child who had been separated from his birth parents and was living on the streets.
There was a scene where his parents were being reunited with their long-lost boy and I felt something deep in my spirit.
There was a clear thought: “I will do absolutely anything for the good of my children.” Hmm. Weird, I thought, since I don’t have kids. Fast forward a month and 5 positive pregnancy tests later.
That movie scene had opened up a part of me that I didn’t know about… my “Momma Bear”.
I’ve been striving to harness it ever since.
The Mama Bear Instinct in Action
That “Mama Bear Instinct” or the feeling of “I will do absolutely anything for the good of my children” can happen anytime…anywhere.
You know the feeling… it’s an emotional rollercoaster that can leave a mom shaking with fear or anger. I have been there!
- pinpoint an issue
- draw out how it’s affecting you
- label what you don’t like about it
- determine areas of responsibility
- figure out how it’s showing up
- say what you’d rather happen
- brainstorm solutions
It has the potential to ruin perfectly good trip family outing. It can change the direction of any conversation. The Momma Bear Instinct can even control the environment of a whole room.
How does a perfectly sane person erupt into an explosive ball of spit fire? Should a “Momma Bear” be acting this way?
Is the Mama Bear Instinct totally a bad deal?
It’s an age old topic, but I believe it’s even more relevant in today’s world.
As a mother today, I am on high alert about so many things… strangers at the park, my children’s friends (and their family), people in the grocery store, MEDIA. Danger’s are all around for a Mama Bear’s instincts to pick up on.
It’s simple… we get a whiff of danger and we’re on alert. If you’re like me, having “Mama Bear” come out can take a while to recover from.
But… does that mean that momma should ignore those instincts? I don’t think so!
There is no replacement on this planet for a mother’s instincts. Mother’s come equipped with foresight, wisdom, and discretion when it comes to the safety of their children. When Mama Bear Instincts arrive, use them wisely.
A Mother’s Protective Instincts
When it comes to waking up mom’s protective instincts… there are some situations that take the gambit.
I’v had to learn when to not “overreact” and when to “fight to the death”… if you will.
Our Children’s Hurt Feelings
Children can be mean to each other. In fact, children will be mean to each other. However, sometimes enough is enough.
A while ago at church, an older child walked straight up to my daughter, pushed her down to the ground, and walked away. I wanted to spank that girl’s mother and the little girl (and I don’t even spank.)
My daughter was fine after a bit, of course, and there wasn’t really anything I could do about the other kid. Instead of allowing my “Mama Bear Instincts” to act on my feelings…I turned my attention to my daughter.
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Here’s what I did…
- I comforted her and allowed her to vent.
- Then, I reassured her that I would not let that happen again and would be watching her carefully.
- Lastly, I had a conversation with her about showing kindness to others in all circumstance.
You see, I want my children to be able to show kindness while still protecting themselves. I also need them to know that I will protect them without overreacting.
There’s a book called Little Girls Can Be Mean: Four Steps to Bully Proof Girls in the Early Grades. My daughter is still too young for it, but it’s on my radar.
Dangerous or Life Threatening Situations
Undoubtably, “Mama Bear” comes out in life threatening or dangerous situations…
Anytime I have experienced this, it felt like a rapid blood pressure drop coupled with an internal organ somersault. This feeling, much stronger than any I have had in regards to my own self, is probably the most altruistic feeling I’ve yet to experience.
In those moments, I felt like I would risk life and limb to make sure that my children were safe.
No Mother Should Have to…
I hope that no mother ever has to experience the fear of a child running towards traffic, falling into deep water, or running away from a vicious dog. It’s perfectly natural and realistic for Mama Bear Instincts to come out when a dangerous person or situation arrises around your children.
Children are by design, more fragile and helpless when it comes to most of the dangerous world around us. A mother is that child’s first line of defense to keep them safe so they can grow up healthy and protected.
Sickness or Injury
My baby girl was in the hospital for 3 days immediately after the birth of my second child, and she had to be hooked to an IV. She wouldn’t eat and barely slept.
Her eyes were puffy and she was so lethargic that it actually broke off a piece of my heart. I’ve always considered myself a deep person, but that expereince dug a trench twice as deep in my insides.
It didn’t end up being life threatening, but for those entire three days I was a wreck. I felt so grateful that it was something as simple as it was. I cried tears for parents whose children are terminally ill. Nothing brings out Mama Bear Instincts like helplessly watching a sick child.
During that time, I would have traded places and done absolutely anything in the world to take her pain.
It’s extremely difficult to correctly harness the Mama Bear Instinct in these situations. Faith in God’s hand on my situation is the only way I made it though and kept my sanity.
Parenting Instincts are Strong
Google defines an instinct as, “an innate, typically fixed pattern of behavior in animals in response to certain stimuli.” Well.. that basically sums up the Mama Bear Instinct. Don’t ‘ya think?
- Inate– A mother’s body is hard wired to respond in a certain way if they sense danger, and this heightened when it comes you children.
- Fixed pattern of behavior- You can expect a mother, when she senses that her children are in danger, to react and behave in a radical way.
- Response to stimuli– When danger is at hand, it’s natural for Mama Bear to respond.
Even though we instinctively want to interfere with every danger in our child’s view, mom’s can learn to harness the Mama Bear Instincts and react radically only when necessary.
An overbearing mom AKA “helicopter mom” can unintentionally damage her children self esteem and social skills by not correctly teaching them how to handle risks.
I have learned that raising balanced children requires me, as the mom, to also live balanced. This is true even when it comes to protecting my little ones.
Let’s Look at Some Real Life Examples…
- A three year old is running too fast in the park. Helicopter mom forces child to slow down and walk while everyone else runs. Balanced mom lets the child fall (on grass) and allows the child to come to the conclusion on their own about how fast they can run safely.
- A mom and her children are walking around their neighborhood viewing the Christmas lights. She spots a suspicious vehicle circling again… she immediately takes action by calling the police and bringing all of her children inside to safety. Mama Bear has done a great job!
When it comes to their children, each Mama Bear is going to react differently. Even though much of the action depends on the circumstance, it pays to look at the big picture.
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Let Mama Bear come out, but harness her to both protect your children and teach them how to handle the world around them in a firm, but kind way.
Read more about bullying and how to prepare your little girls here.