The term “mama bear” has been used for a realllyyy long time to refer to moms. Urban Dictionary defines it as a cuddly, lovable mom with a ferocious side. Before I became a mom, I didn’t understand the raw, very real emotions behind the term. Now I understand that “mama bear” really refers to the white-hot anger moms can feel at the slightest threat to their children. Don’t get me wrong – this response can be very helpful, but I sometimes think that moms can take it too far. We need to remember that our mama bear response is not an excuse to lash out in anger, rip someone a new one, or be mean to other’s kids or even our own partners. Yes, I see these things happening all the time. So I want to give you 3 coping strategies if mama bear syndrome is something you struggle with.
Mama Bear Syndrome
“Mama bear syndrome” is what I use to refer to what happens to moms when their kids experience even the slightest threat. You know exactly what I’m talking about, don’t you mama? It’s when you see another kid, perhaps an older kid, purposefully push your kid down at the play ground. It’s your heart beat pounding in your ears. Your hands shaking, sweating, and cold all at the same time. It’s sometimes uncontrollable yelling. It’s snapping your fingers, lowering your voice in tone while increasing its volume, and baring your teeth (pun intended).
It’s a lot of intense emotions that can be very hard to control in the moment, especially if you haven’t given thought to it ahead of time. That’s why it’s important to be self-aware and willing to learn strategies to help you cope through those emotions before you’re in the moment.
Why should I tame the mama bear?
You might be asking yourself just that. Like I said before, the mama bear response can be helpful in extreme circumstances. If, God forbid, someone was trying to snatch your kid off a playground, that mama bear rage would be an appropriate response. But often times we’re unleashing mama bear rage on innocuous threats, such as other people’s kids.
I get it mamas – kids can be real jerks sometimes. But it is not acceptable to sick your mama bear on a 6 year old for not playing nice with your toddler.
- Our kids are watching us for our reactions to things. How do we respond to conflict? How do we handle people we don’t like? How do we manage uncomfortable situations? Our kids are observing the behaviors we model for them. It’s important we model the behaviors we want them to have during times of stress.
- Parent other people’s kids the way you’d want them to parent yours. I think we all know the saying “it takes a village”. I can’t watch my kid every second of everyday and I understand that she’s not perfect, so I don’t mind if another adult corrects her behavior. But I would mind if they were in her face, towering over her, yelling, not using kind words, name calling, swearing etc. Again, it is not acceptable to be mean and aggressive toward other people’s kids – or anyone, really – over harmless threats and confrontation.
3 coping strategies for mama bear syndrome
So the next time you feel that mama bear bubbling up inside you, here are 3 helpful strategies.
Wait 10 seconds before you respond.
This not only gives you time to cool off before responding, it gives your kid a chance to handle the confrontation himself – if the situation allows that. When mama bear always swoops in to save the day, kids don’t get a chance to learn conflict resolution on their own. Additionally, in certain situations, ten seconds may be enough time for you to realize the situation isn’t as bad as you thought and your kid is 100% okay.
If the situation allows, wait even longer. For example, if your kid comes home from school and tells you another student was mean to them and the teacher did nothing about it, wait until you’ve cooled off to write an email.
Anger causes your breath to quicken. While counting to ten, focus on taking deep breaths through your nose and exhaling out of your mouth. The extra oxygen helps decelerate your heart rate and lower your blood pressure.
Repeat a mantra.
Decide on a simple saying that you can repeat to yourself during these ten seconds. Something very simple, such as “don’t over react”, “my kid is okay”, “stay calm”.
You could also repeat the reference to a Bible verse about anger. Proverbs 29:11, Proverbs 15:1, James 1:20, and Ephesians 4:31 are all good reminders for myself. 😉
When you feel the mama bear anger bubbling up, take just a moment to reflect on these tools. Even delaying your reaction by ten seconds can drastically change how severely you react, thereby reducing any overreactions.
When it comes to mama bear syndrome, where do you feel you fall on the scale? Would you say your mama bear is tame or more fierce? Has there been a time where you feel you overreacted? If so, there’s no need to feel ashamed or guilty – sometimes our emotions get the best of us. But the chance to improve and do better going forward is always there for you! 🙂
Did you find this article helpful? If so, share with a fellow mama who may also be struggling with mama bear syndrome!