I'm writing in English, which is strange in itself since I really love my own language, Finnish, and since I detest the power position that the English language has in global communucation... but I'd get way too many complaints from American friends if I didn't write in a language comprehensible to them.

Jul 11, 2011

Mama Bear mode

I just read a post in my friend Reuben's blog about two girls who had a bad experience with a mormon father of their friends (Won't be Friends with Non-Mormons?) In her question to Reuben, a girl told how she had some excellent mormon friends, but one day their father came up to them and told them that his daughters wouldn't be allowed to play with them anymore. The girls never knew the reason. This story is worrying in many ways, but I guess the most likely explanation for the behavior of the dad is that he felt the girls were somehow a bad influence on his daughters and felt the need to protect them. We don't know if he was being overly protective or not. I don't know much at all about the situation, but it made me think about a subject I've wondered about before.

There is something often called the "mama bear mode" that we find good or at least acceptable in parents. Parenting instincts are the most revered instincts, right? And therefore it's commendable when we protect our children in any way that's needed, right? Sure, in many situations. What disturbs me is when this mode makes parents hurt other people. Parents attack (at least verbally) other adults when they feel their children are being slighted, or like in this case, upset other children to protect their own. This example especially worries me. Our own children are of course our main responsibility and we love them, but shouldn't all children be protected from hurt, whether they be ours or someone else's? And talking about adults, those of us who are Christians at least should see other people also as precious.

Attacking others to protect our own children is a very basic instinct. Almost all mammals have it. As humans we can, however, decide to override our instincts. We can even override our survival instinct, and more often we have to ignore our sexual instincts. Why then can't we decide to react slower when we feel our children are threatened (assuming they aren't about to hit a car or something that needs immediate action) and make decisions that spare both our children and the feelings of others? I think it's because of our culture. It's good to be protective, we think. Mama Bear is almost sacred for us.

Before anyone objects I want to say that I think it IS important to protect our children. Sometimes that might mean we have to make someone else upset, I know. However, I think blind admiration of mothers and fathers rushing to snatch their children away from any perceived harm, and lashing out on others at the same time, is not good.


  1. Totally agree. And me protecting my children will most likely upset them, not others, I hope.

    Just spoke with a lovely girl in her twenties. She's suffered a lot for Mama bears telling their kids to avoid her. And she's a Mormon too. I think it is so sad. I'd rather try help my kids grow strong enough to influence others for good than to ask them avoid others. Of course there may arise situations when that is needed, for example if substance abuse comes into the picture. But we should always be the ones reaching out, not slamming doors on others' faces.


  2. Elder Ballard in 1992 general conference talk:
    "Occasionally I hear of members offending those of other faiths by overlooking them and leaving them out. This can occur especially in communities where our members are the majority. I have heard about narrow-minded parents who tell children that they cannot play with a particular child in the neighborhood simply because his or her family does not belong to our Church. This kind of behavior is not in keeping with the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. I cannot comprehend why any member of our Church would allow these kinds of things to happen."

    Does parenthood make people totally insane sometimes?