Parenting Series | Part II: Change in Parents is Essential

Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | | Part V(b) | Part VI | Part VII | Part VIII | Part IX

The following practical parenting steps are not in any particular order, but the implications of them can start from a very early age, even before the children turn two.

Positive Change in Parents:

From the beginning of a child’s life, a parent should constantly be involved and must develop a habit of spending quality time with the family. It is essential that a parent must think of him or herself as a role model for his/her child. Once a child arrives in a household, certain changes must be made by: a) the mother, b) the father, and c) the family as a whole.

Let’s not worry about influencing change in extended family to prevent undesirable influence on our children. What impacts our children most is the influence they receive from direct family, mainly their parents. The battle that many parents feel obliged to take on with their extended family in order to “protect” their children is quite useless and uncalled for.  Of course, da’wah should be given to everyone but from different perspectives and with the correct intentions.

Hide Your Sins from Your Children:

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Islam encourages us to hide our sins from others and that includes hiding them from our children too. Therefore, every time we commit a sin and hide it, not only we are reminded that we are indulging in a sin (which should, insha’Allah, eventually lead us to shunning it), but also we will not be setting a bad example for our children either. However, because of their close proximity to us, if they see us do something wrong and confront us, we should not become defensive and feel that our parental status is being challenged. Rather, we should:

  1. Show remorse
  2. Admit our mistake
  3. Ask them to make du’a for us that we cease this sin

In this way we are setting a guideline for them to follow in the future.

Instill Daily Habits:

Don’t think of instilling Islamic values as a part-time task like karate or soccer, which is done for an hour a few times a week at best. Rather, it should be a way of life, which may start off as a “task” due to our newfound eagerness, but should become more of a routine, like our daily athkaar when waking up, going to the bathroom, wearing the right shoe first, eating with our right hand, saying salaam, etc. We actually reach a point that if we forget, our children remind us.

Kindness & Tenderness:

The instinctive kindness felt towards our children should show more in our actions and our words. What can be taught with simple kindness cannot be taught with unnecessary strictness in the name of “teaching them to respect us”!

As the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wasallam) said:

“Indeed gentleness is not used in any matter without it beautifying the task, just as removing gentleness makes the matter become  ugly”. (Muslim)

“He is not one of us who does not show tenderness to those who are young or respect to his elders.” (Tirmidhi)

In the same note, this applies to our methods of parenting, disciplining, and child rearing. Any Islamic value that we wish to instill in our child must be taught in a merciful way rather than a forceful way, especially when they are less than five or seven years.

Disciplining Children:

Nevertheless, it is not possible to raise a positive Muslim child without clear disciplinary measures. Setting consequences for their actions teaches children how to take responsibility for them. This may vary according to each action, sometimes being a firm reprimanding, time out, or temporary revoking of advantages (like play time or computer usage), all depending on the child’s age and the seriousness of the act of disobedience.

Positive Reinforcement:

It is highly advisable that we create a merit chart for children, on which their good and bad deeds are recorded. This idea can be adopted as early as two years of age. Parents can explore their arts and crafts skills and come up with different ideas to develop the behavioral chart. A friend of mine created a tree with ten branches out of construction paper and a bug with her child’s name. The bug would climb up the tree for every good point, and would come down for every bad one. Once the bug made it to the top, her child was rewarded. Sometimes she would switch the bug with a dollar so her child could earn the dollar at the end. For smaller children, set smaller goals with fewer steps to win the final reward.

Forgiveness:

Not every mistake has to be reprimanded, especially when they are young (up to around the age of seven). However, disapproval must be shown and a warning should be passed out so they don’t repeat the action, especially if it is a “first time” mistake.

At an older age, if the mistake is repeated, then as parents we should carefully consider how severe the mistake was, how disobedient they were and how much remorse they showed, judging of course by the situation and the child’s reaction. Once a fair appraisal is made, a parent can then consciously apply his/her punishment to teach them a valuable lesson and consequently end a habitual repetition of the ‘mistake’.

Lying, the Root of all Problems:

In my humble opinion, lying leads to greater problems and difficulty parenting. It is one of the most serious mistakes that my husband and I have personally been adamantly strict in forbidding, and hence have taken strict actions to prevent it from ever occurring in our household.

What we are not conscious of is that often times we indirectly teach our children to lie in the midst of ‘disciplining’ them! Mothers scare their children with imaginary monsters that will supposedly appear if they don’t finish their food, take their nap, or comply with their parent’s instructions. These are all forms of lies and we have been warned against it:

“Once a mother was calling her child and enticing him by showing her closed hand that she will give him something if he came. The Prophet, sallallahu alihi wasalam, upon seeing this asked her if she really had anything in her hand. The woman replied that she had a date. And the Prophet, sallallahu alihi wasalm, warned that had she haven’t had anything to offer to the child, it would have been a lie.”

Truth must be upheld by parents first and foremost, and eventually will be acquired by children, insha’Allah. It has been my personal experience that although continuously observing the truth with our children takes effort and time, its benefits are great. It helps build parent-child trust, not to mention reflect proper Islamic tarbiyah. For example, when and if I had to leave my child home alone, from the time they were very young, I always gave them an honest report of where I was going. Some mothers prefer to give deceptive answers to make it easy on the child to stay behind such as “I am going to kill a lion” or “there are bad guys outside” etc. Quite frankly, these are all forms of lies.

This is not a trivial matter either because what we model for them is what they learn. In order to avoid a future problem of children lying to their parents, the initial steps of ‘always being truthful to our children’ must be taken. As I said, when a child is born, parents need to make specific positive changes in themselves.

At the same time, parents can be 100% honest, yet children will experiment with the idea of “lying to get out of trouble”. Stay prepared and be wise. As for me,I myself do not go easy when it comes to lying. On this essential belief, I have always made it clear that there are advantages to telling the truth. Thus, if:

  1. The children themselves confess to having done something wrong, then most of the time I let them off the hook. Depending on the error, I might show disapproval or disappointment. Remember, disappointment can hurt them more than anger would and drives the message straight home!  Nevertheless, I show my appreciation of their confession. Simple words of appreciation from parents have a tremendous positive effect on a child. We, as parents, often tend to underestimate the power of words. At times, consider “rewarding” you child upon their confession to encourage them to be truthful.
  2. If I find out about their disobedience or trick and confront them with it, and they choose to admit the truth, then they are lightly punished. Again, appreciation should be shown for their choice to admit the truth, followed by a reminder of how their punishment would have been far more severe had they attempted to lie to avoid it altogether.

When these measures are taken consistently from the time the children are at an early age, it is easier to instill the habit of honesty. This is not to mention the fact that it is easier to catch them in their lie when they are younger!

However, when they are too young (up to around age 5 or 6), we shouldn’t be too harsh but rather only be firm and consistent in our reprimands. After age 7, consequences will be necessary.

Be Flexible:

Let me conclude this part of the series by advising parents to be flexible with the children. For instance, sometimes we may punish them by revoking a certain advantage for a fixed number of days, but we may see a genuine effort from the child’s side in “being good” and trying to make up for their mistake. In that case, I do not feel necessary that the punishment must be applied as it was determined. I do believe that the good deeds remove the bad deeds,

“Verily the good deeds remove the evil deeds. This is a reminder for the mindful.” (11:114)

This principle should be applied towards the tarbiyyah of our children also. This will encourage the children to follow up their mistakes with good deeds from a very young age, especially when they are informed of why their punishment was lifted/lightened.

This idea may be in contrast to the principle of consistency, but I personally do not conceive parenting to be a “military ground,” and neither do I want parents to be dictators. Flexibility should be applied. Even when the children get older, they should be given room to disagree with their punishment, though with respectful and reasonable objection. This helps the children not harbor any anger against their parents and also enhances their confidence and helps build an understanding with the parents.

Again, every child is different and a parent must make an effort, from a very young age, to get to know his/her child. Parenting guidelines cannot be written in stone and at times we may have to experiment different methods to learn what works best for our child.

Insha’Allah, next week we will continue with more practical steps.

21 / View Comments

21 responses to “Parenting Series | Part II: Change in Parents is Essential”

  1. AbuMarjaan says:

    أسلام عليكم

    “Change in Parents is Essential” ..because Our Actions speak louder than our words.

    جزاك الله خير umm reem for the tips

  2. Nayma says:

    JAK Umm Reem for the advice. I truly believe that when a child does something wrong, it is sooooooo much better to sit with them and explain why it was wrong to do it instead of just yelling at them.

    IT is much harder to do as we have so many responsibilities and don’t feel like we have those minutes to explain..

    But the result is much sweeter and the effect stays longer on the child’s mind.

    May Allah give us sabr and wisdom in dealing with our precious ones in the best of manners.

    • Umm Reem says:

      JAK Umm Reem for the advice. I truly believe that when a child does something wrong, it is sooooooo much better to sit with them and explain why it was wrong to do it instead of just yelling at them.

      True. It is VERY important to talk to them. A lot of times, children don’t understand why what they did was wrong. It must be explained to them.

      Plus the parents should also tell them what they could have done instead and would not have had their parents gotten angry at them.

      Just yelling at the children and then leaving them is very dangerous, because that is the prime time for shaytaan to play with their thoughts and arouse their anger and negativity in their minds against their parents. Instead if a parent takes out only 5-10 minutes to speak to them, inshaAllah, a lot of harm can be avoided.

  3. OM says:

    I am constantly looking for ideas to help educate children. The idea of rewarding the child with the bug-tree is very smart, Mash’Allah.

  4. Assalamu’Alaikum:

    Jazak’Allah Khairin Umm Reem for this series. Parenthood is a struggle and ensuring that your child is raised up in Islam is very important especially in today’s society where the moral fabric of society is degenerating.

    I look forward to reading more of this series, learn more and implement it as a parent.

    -Aly

    http://discomaulvi.wordpress.com/
    http://www.twitter.com/DiscoMaulvi

  5. Syed J. says:

    Parenting is an ongoing and daily struggle. I ask Allah SWT to help us raise children as he wants us to.

    Jazak Allah Khair.

  6. Abdul-Qadir says:

    Assalamualaikum,

    @Umm Reem

    JazakAllah for the Article. The most important part for me was the section on flexibility. I have a question about something you mentioned.

    ‘Let’s not worry about influencing change in extended family to prevent undesirable influence on our children. What impacts our children most is the influence they receive from direct family, mainly their parents. The battle that many parents feel obliged to take on with their extended family in order to “protect” their children is quite useless and uncalled for.’

    I agree that one should not battle extended family. This does nothing but destroy family relations, and this is no good Islamically. I think some people are concerned that their extended family will expose their child to something inappropriate, like pornography. They want to be sure their child is not exposed to things they do not allow in the home. I agree that we do have the most influence, at the same time it only takes one incident for a child to pick up a bad habit from someone else.

    So how do you ensure your children have good relations with their cousins and other extended family without them being exposed to inappropriate things?

    • Umm Reem says:

      wa alaikum assalam

      Br. Abdul Qadir:
      We cannot fully shield our children from all the evil that is out there. The best we can do is shield them inside our homes and keep a VERY close relationship with them…so much so that they build a confidence with us that if they do something wrong they can always talk to us about it.

      Focus on building a very understanding and close relationship with them…talk to them and talk to them about everything…make them open up to you by you opening up to them first…this helps tremendously with the tarbiyyah because whenever they are exposed to some evil they come running to the parents.

      So, with the relatives, If the issue is small, then you may have to overlook and just keep talking to your children about it. but if it is something serious as pornography than i will be a bit more careful and try to minimize my child’s exposure to that family. But whatever decision i take as a parent, i will make sure that i explain to my child first why i decided what i decided and let them be a part of it.

      For instance, if a cousin has those evil magazines and shows them to the other younger cousin, then:
      * I will tell my child how and why pornography is evil. What it can lead to. Depending on the age, you can simply the terms.
      * Then I will explain to the child that it is better to keep away as much as we can.
      * If it is a matter of a VERY close relative, then it maybe better that we invite them to our house, than we going there (as much as we can reduce that)
      * Or try to do more outside activities with that family.
      * Encourage your child to make du’a for that relative
      * Lastly, encourage them to be thankful to Allah, that Allah safeguarded them from this evil, and that He gave them an understanding parent who they can approach to with their problems.

      Also, I like to be a step ahead…like when my son (10) started going to an all boys school, i warned him that sometimes boys bring magazines with girls not wearing proper clothes etc. he was shocked but i was content that i told him in my own words with a friendly motherly advise.

      I would rather be a step ahead and introduce a subject at an earlier age than wait, our of fear of my child “losing” his innocence, and let someone else corrupt my child.

      • Umm Reem says:

        And also just one more thing,

        I have actually discussed this in the series later, but this point can never be emphasized enough…

        we have to be a bit careful around the older or even same age cousins because a lot of time they are the ones, on many occasions, who end up introducing the “sex-ed” to the younger children. And not only it is wrong, it can even be psychologically damaging for our children.

        A lot of times those who develop sexual addictions, have an improper exposure to sex during their childhood. So this can lead to some serious consequences later in their lives…something we, as parents, tend to serious underestimate. InshaAllah I will have more discussion over this later in the series.

  7. UmmAdam says:

    JazakAllahKhair for this Umm Reem. Truly, parents are models for their children…the good and the bad. And if we see bad behavior in our children, we must first look to ourselves to see if it is something that they have gotten from us. May Allah guide us so we can raise good, pious Muslims, insha Allah.

  8. Holly Garza says:

    Great points and food for thought. JazakaAllah u Khayer for posting this, the reminders benefit the believers…thats for sure.

    I will be sharing InshaAllah

  9. Sarah S. says:

    Excellent points masha’Allah. I completely agree with the reward system you presented. I recently began working at as a Crisis Interventionist at a preschool and I have found that the classrooms that utilize a consistent reward system are creating a much more stimulating environment for the children.

    Great article! I am looking forward to the next one in your series :)

  10. amatullah says:

    A bit disappointed, didn’t find anything meaningful

  11. Abid says:

    Salaam all,

    Jazakillah khair for the article sister, I’m grealty looking forward to the rest of the series.

    On the topic of parenting, you might want to visit:

    http://www.home-group.co.uk

    A new community project in the UK aimed at raising awareness of and improving muslim parenting…

    Check it out ia!

  12. […] article source Posted by admin on December 25th, 2010 […]

  13. tanya zafar says:

    Dear Umm Reem,

    Assalaam alaikum,

    Jazakillah khair sister for your articles and feedback on some comments. I wanted to ask your views on TV watching, whether to have it at home or not. Although I can control so far what my daughter watches (she’s 2 & half now), I’m scared that there are still so many things that I can’t eliminate. I don’t want the TV at all in my home but this is a constant debate with my husband who wants it. He says we should control times & programs but not eliminate it. But I’m scared for most of the uncontrollable things that pop up from time to time (even in tv ads nowadays) that we can’t control.

    Also, my husband doesn’t want to believe in hadiths as he says they might be changed and not the real thing by the Prophet pbuh. I’m really struggling in my mind to make him understand. Also on the issue of music. Please help.

    Jazakillah khair, Salaam alaikum,

    Tanya

    • Hebah Ahmed says:

      Asalam ALikum Dear Sr. Tanya,

      We struggled a lot with the issue of the tv in our home. My husband and I finally concluded that we should not have a tv at all. These are the reasons we decided this:

      1. My husband and I have the tendency to become addicted to the tv and it makes us lazy. Instead of reading Quran or a book or taking care of things we need to, we take the easy mindless route of just sitting comatose in front of the tv

      2. We had a hard time figuring out how we were suppose to lower our gaze with the opposite sex and avoid seeing their awrahs when watching tv, especially non-Islamic channels

      3. American studies have shown that excessive tv watching can lower the IQ of children, reduce creativity, increases laziness, and increase aggression and risky behavior (http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2009/09/27/the-debilitating-effects-of-tv-on-children/)

      4. Even if you find a decent program, the commercials are horrid. One lecture I heard said that there is deliberate placement of ads for breast augmentation in cartoons so that little girls will start thinking about it from an early age. I also think the extreme commercialization leads to increased materialism and will make any shopping experience MUCH more difficult.

      5. We have a computer with a DVD player so that the kids can watch things of benefit without worrying about commercials or them sneaking to watch things behind our back.

      6. I think that just like with alcohol, you can try to use it in moderation but the nature of the beast really does not allow for moderation, rather it seems for me at least to be a slow path to addiction and increased use.

      These are just a few of the many reasons we do not have tv although I believe there are many more.

      Allah knows best.

      • tanya zafar says:

        Dear Sr. Hebah Ahmed,

        Jazakallahu khair for you response on my queries. I will convey this message, InshaAllah. However, my husband & I are not on the same page & I’m still struggling with the TV issue – his issue is he wants to watch his games live!
        I have a new one to deal with, he has questions on hadith authenticity & so he says we should only follow the Quran. I’m trying to convince him to go to a sheikh but he doesn’t want to. He says that how do you know that the hadiths in Sahih Muslim/Bukhari or the other books are true to the prophet & there’ve been no alterations. is the Quran not complete enough just to follow it? why do we need to follow the hadiths when they might not have recorded correctly.

        Plz help.

        Tanya

  14. Anonymous says:

    jazakAllah khayr UmmReem, for this very practical and beneficial series!

    I am SO glad that you mentioned not lying to children. I really hate it when mothers say “if you don’t do such and such a man is going to come and get you”, etc. My problem is that I live with my in laws and they often tell the children these “small lies”. As soon as I have an oppurtunity alone with the children, I tell them that what they heard is wrong…but then, as you can imagine, it’s confusing for the child. Any practical tips for how to deal with that?

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