بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم


Teenagers — youths at the threshold of adulthood, still harboring a carefree, emotional child within, need their parents to empathize with them during the rocky, transitional phase of adolescence.

From bawling infants requiring round-the-clock care, to toddlers that break free and run amok, to preschoolers learning to scribble and being read to, to hyperactive tots who love to help around the house and play with toys, parenting takes us on one roller coaster ride after another.

Just when we think it will get easier, one fine day, these munchkins have morphed into teenagers: awkward, lanky, self-conscious, acne-faced and aloof. “Where did that friendly child of mine disappear?” you wonder.

Do not worry; your offspring will resurface in good time. Meanwhile, here is what you should keep in mind when dealing with them from now on:

Recognize the signs

In the past, you could barge into your “children's” room at any time, without knocking; shouting instructions off the top of your head, you could drag them out of bed to make them clean their room. No more of that, now, Ummi. Your teenagers will begin to indicate their privacy needs through body language. It might be a scowl when they are asked a question they find invasive, a tantrum when you go through their closet to look for something, or an outright wrangle with a sibling when the latter enters their room while they are studying.

Do not take all this personally. It is a natural endeavor to establish boundaries around their 'personal space', in which they can retreat for privacy, which is a genuine need at this age. They are transitioning into adulthood, and a need for privacy or space is natural. In addition, they will stop disclosing each and every detail about their lives and/or feelings to you, as they did before – this is a step towards establishing intangible, 'emotional' boundaries around themselves.

Provide them this “space”

As parents, we should not take offense at our teens' increasing aloofness with us or their frigidity in social gatherings. The best way to console ourselves is to think, “This is just a passing phase.” It really is. They need us to back off with the physical and verbal expressions of love and to treat them more like adults. The best way to make them feel appreciated is to delegate some adult tasks to them and to respect their opinions on matters.

Ideally, teenage girls should not be sharing a bedroom or bathroom with their brothers or father. If possible, each teenager should have a personal place to sleep and study in, in peace, and a locking closet that younger siblings cannot get into. However, if this is not possible, especially in large families, you can improvise and think out of the box. Renovate your garage, gazebo, tool-shed (no kidding!), attic, study, or balcony/terrace to set up a small personal place for your teenager, such as a desk with a bookshelf. Most of all, expect your teenager to withdraw into this space for a few hours everyday.

Make sure they know that you are still the boss

What parents must be careful about at this stage is to maintain the tricky balance between keeping a strict but discreet supervisory eye over their teenagers and giving them freedom and independence. Teenagers should be made to realize that garnering trust and “adult” privileges (e.g. using the Internet in privacy, going out alone, driving the car, or possessing a personal cell phone) comes with responsibilities and restrictions. These adult privileges must be earned after proving themselves to be trustworthy, responsible, honest and morally upright youngsters – especially regarding fulfillment of Islamic obligations and duties. Conversely, they should know that any breach in their parents' regulations or intentional treachery can immediately result in the elimination of these privileges.

Talk about their interests without probing

If you really want to know why your fourteen-year-old daughter is so glum since she came home from her friend's house, instead of asking her outright, you can start a casual conversation with her by telling her about your day. Then you can ask her how she liked the snack you packed for her.

“Parents often don't understand that their adolescent is resistant to questions for two good causes. Adult questions are not only invasive of privacy, they are emblematic of authority. They expose the inequity between adolescent and adult. The adolescent is expected to be answerable to the adult authority, not the other way around. Being repeatedly questioned by an adult can feel threatening, and agreeing to answer can feel demeaning.” – Dr. Carl Pickhardt, “Surviving (Your Child's) Adolescence“, PsychologyToday.com

Teenagers usually take the bait and start talking once they know they have a sympathetic ear. What they do not like is the interrogative probing. Know that the torrent will come out at some time; just make sure you are there for them when it does.

Watch your tone

If your teenager mentions something about their friends or recreational activities that you find objectionable, do not jump into “tyrannical-lecturing-parent” mode immediately. Let it pass then, but perhaps express your disapproval by remaining silent or not laughing (e.g. if they crack a joke in bad taste, use a curse word, or talk about an elder disrespectfully) or leaving the room to prevent an altercation. Later on, once you find a secluded spot and a quiet moment, talk to them about the behavior that is not appropriate. Keep it short (remember, they hate lectures) and never, ever make the mistake of scolding or reprimanding them in public, before their peers, or in front of siblings. Also, do not tattle to your spouse in front of the whole family as soon as the latter walks in from work. This will make your teenager feel as if you betrayed their trust.

Keep up-to-date with what is going on in 'their' world

As a teenager, I remember naively thinking that my parents knew nothing about all the “cool” stuff in “my” world – one that revolved around my friends, slang words, glossy fashion magazines, music, movies, pop idols, makeup, supermodels, dirty jokes and romance novels. What teenagers do not know is that even their parents went through this phase, and know exactly what they are going through.

Read newspapers, magazines and blogs to understand all that is new in the youngsters' world, including the slang words and sly jokes that teenagers use during conversation. Keep yourself updated; become the technologically and fashionably “with-it” parent whom they can proudly introduce to their friends when the latter visit. However, remember that you will still be feared and revered by your teenagers; hence, you will not exactly be welcome to 'hang with' their friends. Therefore, do not take your teenager's embarrassment and awkwardness personally when you walk in on or sit with their friends for a while. Most likely, your departure will elicit sighs of relief all around!

Be the “toughie” friend outside their clique

As a parent, know that your teenagers will probably consider their friends clique the center of their universe for a few years but will come crying to you when they hurt them in any way. Your role as parent to a teenager, is not “the hand that feeds them or bathes them”, but rather “the friend who is always there” when needed. In addition, you must not be afraid to become the occasional 'warden' or 'bad guy' when the need arises; someone who is there to set limits, enforce rules, check performance, and unfortunately, as a last resort, exact appropriate retribution to wrong behavior.

Establish a rapport with their educators

If your teenager goes to school, establish a rapport with their teacher by casually talking to him or her about your ward's progress and behavior at school. This will establish your concern as an “involved” parent; someone who can be approached easily if they want to discuss something about your teenager's progress at school.

Do not go through their private things

Unless you want your teenaged son or daughter to brand you as “the enemy”, do not go through their stuff behind their backs, unless it is absolutely necessary. Do not read their diary (if they keep one) or go through their journals, notebooks, desk, dresser, closet, school bag, clothes, or accessories without a valid reason. You need to realize that they are no longer children and that your role has changed. If you do not tread with extreme care, you might cause irrevocable damage to your relationship with them, which is at a fragile, volatile stage.

Your focus throughout your children's adolescence should not be just establishing and enforcing stringent rules, restrictions, curfews and chore-lists. Rather, you should also give importance to maintaining open, heart-to-heart communication, providing an understanding and sympathetic ear, and giving emotional support. You will need to relinquish some control in their lives, and instead, learn to delegate tasks to them in order to build their confidence as “wannabe” adults and make them feel trusted. The more teenagers believe that their parents trust them, the less likely they are to break rules or to disobey them.

Lastly, if a breach of trust on their part gets them punished, but they follow it with sincere repentance, ratification and consistent good behavior, you as their parents, should embody humility and justice by retracting their punishment and allowing them honorary privileges once again.

This will convey the valuable message to them that, just as Allah always accepts His penitent servants' repentance and opens the door for them to a new beginning, so do you, as their parents, accept and appreciate atonement. They should know that you will continue to have hope in them to reform after a lapse in good behavior and are always there for them as their “rock” during these stormy, hormone-charged, formative years of their lives.

Thereafter, you can sit back and enjoy as they come to you, again and again, looking for a hug, a heart-to-heart conversation, and emotional catharsis over warm, homemade brownies and a cup of hot tea.

This article was first published in SISTERS Magazine.

9 Responses

  1. amq

    There are some MAJOR Issues in parenting today:

    1. Parents nowadays don’t anticipate children growing into teenagers, and thus they won’t train them as children behaviors necessary for a teenagers lifestyle.

    Recognizing the signs and providing them with “space” – this is obvious, everyone deserves it, why would you even need to think about it? Parents are adults, they have their own apartment/house and room. Why not give part of that house to a teenager? it is common sense!!! JUST give them space starting from childhood, train them to maintain it, problem solved.Yes it is easy.

    Being the boss – If the parents are nobodies in terms of low paying jobs, immigrants etc (this may or may not be their fault) expect your teenagers to have absolutely no interest in you and expect them not to obey you UNLESS YOU INSPIRE THEM about your job and YOUR LIFE when they are children.

    Basically, how in the world do the PARENTS expect something greater for their teens if:

    1. if the PARENTS don’t try or love their job, but want the teens to get a job.
    2. if the PARENTS aren’t close Islam yet remind the teens to pray 5x a day.
    3. if the PARENTS don’t train (“brainwash”) teens into good manners of everyday life AND PRACTICE By EXAMPLE, yet tell the teens to do it magically when they hit a certain age?.

    if the PARENTS … don’t lead by example, DO NOT expect the same from your teens.

    PARENTS who are not AWARE of this should NOT become PARENTS.

    Its all about awareness and not marrying just because of culture/your friends are. if you are single and thinking about marrying and don’t satisfy the things above DO NOT MARRY.

    The root cause is always the parents.

    Period.
    ————————————————————————————–
    About Probing:

    Parents shouldn’t need to do it… why? … Just train the teens (YOUR Children) to like and dislike certain things, make a diary to keep track, its not hard. Make sure when they are children, and you want them to dislike something, make sure either 1. They fear it if it cannot be explained (sex). 2. They understand with logic (Bullying hurts). its NOT HARD!

    So when they become teenagers YOU can trust them, the PARENTS should establish a child implanted routine the children can do (HAVE to inorder to feel peace – as a COPING MECHANISM) through training them as children ie:

    1. Family rock climbing.
    2. Family running
    3. Family Workout
    4. Family bike ride etc……

    Do all of the above things when they are children and they feel “sad”. This way the teens establish them as “coping mechanisms” they have to do when they grow up … to remember how they felt at EASE when they did these “cool” things with you!. NOT HARD.

    Conclusion about probing:

    1. Train “brainwash” them at early age to reject and accept things close to Islam.
    2. Develop coping mechanisms where you can “probe” them without problem.
    3. Do these THINGS YOURSELF AS ACTIONS and NOT JUST TELL THEM TO.
    ———————————————————————————

    Parenting is hard work, not because there is work. BUT because PARENTS TODAY are STUPID when it comes to marrying and raising children.

    PARENTS and THEIR KNOWLEDGE and STRATEGY is the problem.
    TEENS are NEVER to Blame.

    Remember that singles. Are you good enough to be a parent? Do you lead by example?
    If not, then PLEASE DO NOT BECOME PARENTS.

    Period. (for those who want to refute, don’t use ahadith or other islamic examples, i want to see your logic)

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    • Umar

      “…everyone deserves it, why would you even need to think about it?”

      Actually no, thought precedes action so of course you would need to think about it. I think i know what you mean though, saying that a parent should naturally subconsciously give more space. But many don’t, and have countless issues with their child because of it so the writer is justified in mentioning it.

      “If the parents are nobodies in terms of low paying jobs, immigrants etc (this may or may not be their fault)…”

      Firstly using the word “nobody” to describe a low paid job or immigrant status is extremely unfair and insulting. Secondly, saying it may or may not be their fault does not detract from the implications of the previous line. Is it a fault to be an immigrant?

      “expect your teenagers to have absolutely no interest in you and expect them not to obey you UNLESS YOU INSPIRE THEM about your job and YOUR LIFE when they are children.”

      I agree that inspiring a child to your own life or job would no doubt increase their interest in you, but I feel it is an over exaggeration to say “absolutely no interest” and “expect them not to obey you”. The deciding factor would be what aspects of your life should you inspire children with. Most parents have no objections in saying “I have x job…you should aim for y job as my experience shows me that field gives greater profit/satisfaction”.

      “Make sure when they are children, and you want them to dislike something, make sure either 1. They fear it if it cannot be explained (sex)…”

      Making a child scared of the topic of sex because it “cannot be explained” is a bad approach. Sex indeed can be explained and should be explained according to the level of the child. Making a child afraid of something which they later find to be explainable is a one way ticket to losing the trust of the teen.

      “1. Train “brainwash” them at early age to reject and accept things close to Islam.”

      I am somewhat perplexed at your choice of words – it can be interpreted in two ways and forgive be if I’ve got the wrong end of the stick. Brainwash is usually used with negative connotations (‘brainwashed into becoming a murderous…’ why put Islam in this category anyway?…instead use a word like teach, explain, instruct etc.) : drugs, television & hypnotism. All these things require the mind of the child to be switched off. When teaching Islam, it is better if the parent explains each action clearly to the child, engaging the mind of the child and the Quran itself is something which should be reflected upon.

      I agree with a lot of what you said, but there were the above points and a few more minor points which I disagreed with.

      With all respect, the final line is something I disagree with most, and if you are a Muslim an extremely dangerous statement to make.

      You said, “(for those who want to refute, don’t use ahadith or other islamic examples, i want to see your logic)”

      If we do not use Islamic texts and evidences what more do we have? Everybody would have their own opinion on everything and if Islam is not included in the equation, where would that leave us? It would make us people of desires. Islam means submission and surrender to Allah, and is the criterion for judgement. So to say you do not want your comment verified by Islamic texts, wishing only to be judged by logic is:
      a. Naive considering this is an Islamic forum.
      b. Is lacking trust in Allah. Wouldn’t the commands of Allah be best for his creation.
      c. Is mildly hypocritical. You say you want to see my logic, but you ask for no Islamic references. The highest form of logic is to use Islamic texts! Isn’t Allah the most wise, and the most merciful. Wouldn’t therefore the guidelines of Allah be best for his creation?
      Therefore I guess I just refuted your comment asking for a refutation lol. 
      But really, this mentality of requiring some kind of logic, alien to Islamic texts, is in fact THE LOWEST FORM OF LOGIC.

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  2. sakina

    Mashaallah, a good article :D Being a teenager myself (17) with teenage siblings (18, 16 and 14)I thought I’d mention things from our perspective;
    Alhamdulillah as a family we are really close. The best thing is that our mom is like a best friend to us, she spends most of her time playing with us, taking us out places. So all of us are more likely to open up to her and take her advice on board. She takes care to remind us about things privately and never embarrasses us in front of others, even in front of each other. I think if all parents were to be like this there’d be more happy, successful teenagers in the world.
    Though I must add I think that even if many parents spent their time keeping up to date with the latest teen trends, many of us would not consider our parents to be ‘with it'; because they are our parents, they are of a different generation and they do things differently, which is why the relationship between us is so strong. They don’t have to be like us to be our closest friends, they just have to be the awesome individuals that Allah created them as.
    I definitely agree with giving your teenager space, and respecting them as a young adult, but above all reminding them about the Greatness of Allah, without whom no teenager can survive this phase of his life without.

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  3. Muhib

    MashAllah, very well written. Sakina’s points also beautifully complements the main article. I found it very useful.

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  4. Abdullah

    @amq

    Just a clarification that if something is from the Quran or in the Ahadith then it is the most logical thing….

    The article’s and your points are good and I’m actually going to share them with my spouse, however it seems that you are really angry and upset. Parents try and some make mistakes, but to shout (CAPS) and structure your sentences the way you have is not going to help. The tone and framing method used by Sr. Sadaf is something that we can also learn a lot from.

    All the best and with a sincere desire.

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  5. Sabeen

    A very helpful article for parents that are currently facing these issues with their teenagers. But is it not time to turn the tide on this license to disrespect and disobey that is granted to kids as they hit adolescence? It has become a self-fulfilling prophecy that the expectations of rebellion leads to rebellion and the inordinately defensive attitude of some parents causes their teenagers to misbehave.
    Teenage as an accepted part of growing up is a fairly recent phenomenon. The term ‘teenager’ was used first in 1941 and in the decades before that there were two basic categories of people-either you were categorized as a child or as an adult. And the young adult deserves the same respect and privacy that any other adult does. In fact as a Muslim everyone deserves respect from us. The Prophet (saws) said
    “He is not one of us who shows no mercy to younger ones and does not acknowledge the honor due to our elders”. [At-Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud]
    However, parents that have already weathered the terrible two’s should not have to brace for attitude problems till their kids hit twenty!

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  6. muslimah

    great article! sadly, a lot pf parents (from what i see around) think it’s their birthright to boss their kids around..i think it’s one of the reasons that messes up a lot of people big time.

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  7. Safia K R

    ASA,

    i think the idea is to start early. The rapport building need not begin WHEN they are teenagers. This will be your training also because remember parenting is not an easy job description.

    I have an 8 year old and i realize that children are very smart these days (more than we were while growing up). Thanks to the exposure. We should use it as a positive thing in helping develop that relationship with our children – both boys and girls earlier on in their lives.

    Also i find it very helpful when i tell my children: You are my best friend. I am building ground for the future ensuring they remember this and they take me as THEIR best friend. They feel the connection immediately and it gives me a ground to work with them.

    Also i think as they grow older, we have to cut the yelling from the routine and go more “discussion” and talk. They listen to that more.
    May Allah help us with this role we have been given as moms. :-)

    JKK

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