Out of all the hi-fi, over-hyped, glamorized, overpaid and stereotyped careers that make news today, peppered with extensive media attention such as red-carpet awards, talk-shows, exclusive interviews and photo-shoots, the single most important and pivotal occupation a person – especially a woman – can have, is that of being a parent.
It is this behind-the-scenes, get-down-and-dirty, round-the-clock job that very few people can do well, and majority of those who do, receive little credit for. Parenting is the most exhausting, fulfilling, demanding and satisfying role, responsibility and full-time job anyone can ever have. Whoever has become a parent would testify to its heady highs and, sadly, sometimes mortifying lows. The moment one sets eyes and holds in one’s arms a new life – a gift from Allah that is sent so miraculously, after months of excitement and anticipation – one changes forever. The joy one feels holds no bounds. This new ‘baby’ life gives rise to new adjustments in all existing relationships, which change in order to accommodate the new arrival. As many people will tell you, they also change once they have a baby.
However, after a few years pass, there are some typical statements that parents of any age can be heard making: “Kids nowadays are so ungrateful….”, “In our time, we were much more disciplined and obedient…”, “We never shouted at our parents the way kids answer us back nowadays….”, and of course, the ever-present “Because I said so!” Etc. I have hardly ever come across a parent who openly admits to having made a parenting mistake e.g. saying something like, “Had I not been lax about my daily prayers when my children were young, perhaps they too, would be more regular in their prayers today,” or “I should not have scolded my daughter in front of her friends. I think she deserves an apology,” More often than not, we find parents acting holier-than-thou and judgmental in front of their children, discussing their children’s weaknesses before friends and relatives, and detailing how difficult their children can make life for them. However, how often do we come across a parent who would readily apologize to their children for mistreating them? Or admit to being wrong in front of them?
On the contrary, parents hardly ever publicly admit to making mistakes in their children’s upbringing – at least, that is my experience. Once a young person becomes a parent, it’s all about enforcing rules, dictating orders, and establishing discipline, which is admittedly a necessary part of good parenting, but you have to have some leeway thrown in too. The young parent forgets what it was like as a child, to be caught red-handed, or worse, to be scolded or punished. It seems as if, now that a couple has become parents, they can get away with treating their children however they like. The moment the effect of their parenting mistakes manifests itself in their young children’s negative behavior, the latter are ceremoniously lectured or reprimanded. However, do the parents pause and reflect about which actions of theirs might have been the cause of that behavior?
When I became a parent, I realized just how prone I was to making parenting mistakes. For one thing, there are as many parenting styles as there are children. For another, you do not know which style will definitely work, until your child develops his or her own personality. Thirdly, you keep going through phases in your own life which keep changing your attitude and parenting style i.e. it’s a constant learning process for you as well – you keep making mistakes, and learning from them. It’s a trial-and-error methodology. Both parent and child keep going through these transitions, and adjusting their relationship according to them. To say the least, being a parent is a position of extreme responsibility and accountability before Allah – one for which one can be called severely to reprimand, if one takes it lightly. And here is why. Below are some ways parents are always at an advantage over their children, especially when the latter are minors:
Physical and financial authority:
Parents control their children’s movement within and outside the house. They control what they eat, what they wear, where they go, who they mingle with and what toys or accessories they buy. This makes a parent very strong as opposed to their child, in the first 2 decades of the latter’s life. Plus, children depend on their parents for money. They do not, and can not, earn money. Therefore, parents have almost complete control over how they bring up their children.
Having your own childhood buried in obscurity from your children:
Whether you were the nastiest kid in your class, getting regular detention; or you intermittently broke windows of every house in the neighborhood during ‘ball practice’, trashed your mother’s dresser every week, stole money from your father’s wallet, drove his car without his knowledge as a 16-year-old, applied Mom’s makeup when she was napping, prank-called strangers on the phone at night, or lied about your tryst at some mall with a “friend” – everything seedy or shady about your own youth gets hidden behind the hijab of time when you become a parent yourself. You get rid of all incriminating photographs, correspondence and videos. You don’t speak freely to your old friends in front of your teenagers. No one tells your teenager that you did not pray all the five prayers, wear the headscarf, or go to the mosque. No one tells them that you danced to loud music in your room and lied about your clandestine phone calls (“I was discussing my project with [best friend]!”) when Mom walked into the room.
However, if you are an Allah-fearing parent, have you really forgotten all those misdeeds?
The gift of forgetfulness (nisyaan) from Allah, that wipes out your early mistakes from your children’s memories:
Whether it was a nasty diaper-rash that made your infant scream in agony – one that was caused by your negligence in changing her diaper on time – (“Well, I was tired, so I fell asleep and forgot to change her diaper! I am her mother. Jannah lies at my feet. Lay off!”), or whether it was that tight slap on the cheek of your ‘terrible-two’ toddler when he yanked a food-laden plate off the dining table onto your lap – one that left him bawling; or the time when you didn’t wash your 3-year-old’s plates properly and she fell ill with diarrhea for a week; no one will be able to tell your children whether you were a lousy parent when they were babies, or an efficient one. Allah hides all your mistakes – whether unintentional or deliberate – behind the veil of the past. Your toddlers and minors are too young to remember when they were spanked without reason, humiliated or scolded for no fault of theirs [they were scapegoats to the mood swings or stress-highs you suffered as a result of your demanding job], or when their mattress stank because you didn’t bother washing their leaked excreta off it [“I’ll just throw it away and get a new one! What’s the big deal?”].
As a parent, you will always have the upper hand with your children, because Allah will hide your mistakes and misdeeds from them, keeping up your impression of faultlessness before them, making you their role-model – an ideal person free of human errors or weaknesses.
Having the Islamic injunctions regarding kind treatment of parents on your side as a perpetual trump-card in any argument:
The greatest “advantage” Muslim parents have over their children is the existence of Quranic ayaat and Prophetic ahadeeth that remind the latter of how their parents are the most deserving of good treatment from them. Sadly, however, sometimes parents use this as the most effective way of – excuse the terms I will use – emotionally blackmailing or manipulating their children to achieve their own desires and whims.
To the boy who refuses to marry the fashionista, insisting that he wants a hijab-and-abaya-wearing wife:
“Is this how you repay your mother, after all the years I have taken care of you? What will my relatives say, when they see this pardah-clad girl as my daughter-in-law?”
To the boy who refuses to pursue a job dealing directly with riba:
“Had you listened to me, you would not be sitting jobless today. Why not take up that bank job, albeit with dislike in your heart? At least you’ll get the perks. You have to support us both financially now that I have retired. It is your Islamic obligation.” [Notwithstanding the hefty retirement provident fund invested in a riba-based bank, which gets monthly “returns”!]
To the girl who insists on considering proposals only from men who are regular in prayers, who earn halal income and who will let her do hijab:
“You will then get proposals only from “mullah” families, who are not very educated or well-established in society.”
A parent who really and truly fears Allah will usually be a believer who focuses on giving others their rights instead of demanding their own. Hence, just because Islam has exhorted Muslims to be kind to their parents, doesn’t mean that parents use these injunctions to unjustly demand favors and servitude from their children. Rather, the Quranic verses and Prophetic narrations reminding Muslims about their parents’ great rights upon them are to be read and heeded more by children who have parents; not by parents who have children!
There are parents who, when they do not get along with their daughter-in-law, otherwise a good girl whom their son is pleased with, use the “proof” of the Prophet Ibrahim [علیہ السلام] and Caliph Umar [رضی اللّٰہُ عنہ] telling their sons to divorce their wives, in order to twist their son’s arm to do the same. There are parents who are insecure in their old age and whenever a visitor comes to see them, complain about how their offspring with their spouses fall short in fulfilling their rights. There are parents who are adamant that spanking is a very effective disciplinary method for minors, being fully aware that the Prophet Muhammad [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] never struck a child (he was father of 7) – “I do not know of any mother who doesn’t spank her child.” Birds of a feather flock together. Please look beyond your circle, Ma’am. :-)
Here are a few tips that might help Muslim parents in general.
Apologize when you hurt them: Saying sorry for your mistakes will exalt your ranks, and teach your children to do the same. For example, saying to your toddler: “I’m sorry I yanked your arm so hard on the road. I was afraid of the cars passing by you and was just being careful. I did not mean to be so harsh, beta,” would take a load off your back and make you feel better yourself.
Admit it to your child when you’re wrong and they are right: Children can help their parents a lot, especially when the parents are over fifty. The former are in touch with the latest trends and news. If the parent has a humble attitude instead of a “know-it-all” one, they can pave the way for positive learning on both sides.
More importantly, though, winning an argument should never be your goal just because you have rights over your children. Say “You are right” to them when they are. That way, you will be teaching them by example to give you the respect which you supposedly deserve as well.
Remember every day that you will be called to account for even the slightest discrepancy left in giving them their dues (“dhulm”): Just like all other relations in this world, children have rights upon parents, which they will be asked about. Just being conscious of this impending reality will enable parents to forego their children’s mistakes and shortcomings, and focus instead on their own method of upbringing their children – whether it will be accepted by Allah or not.
Seek forgiveness from Allah daily for your shortcomings as a parent: In Islam, any position of authority is a position of accountability before Allah, including parenthood. The more pious a person is, the more he fears Allah regarding the high positions he occupies in this world. That is why our pious predecessors would – literally – run away from the posts of judges and kings that were offered to them. Similarly, a Muslim parent keeps track of their shortcomings as a human being, and seeks Allah’s forgiveness for their mistakes.
It is obvious that – after having gone through the pains and strains of raising young children – parents are entitled to high rights over the former. This is Allah’s own compensation method of providing worldly “perks” for this tough job. However, focusing on what rights of yours others have to give to you, instead of what rights of others you have to give to them, is not the way of the earnest believing Muslim. If your children respect you, obey you and eventually, take care of you in your old age, they are doing themselves a favor. You, on the other hand, should not consider them an ‘investment’ for this world – desiring sons more than daughters because they earn money; making them marry into affluent families and pushing them into high-flying careers so that you get to choose which “big house” with the most servants to reside in, in your old age. Rather, you should consider your children an investment just for your own Akhirah. By that, I mean that you should just do your job in instilling Islamic values in them, by imparting Islamic knowledge to them and making them live an Islamic life. After that, what they do is between them and Allah and you are essentially a valued consultant in their lives.
I once heard a very pious and honorable Muslim advise us: “From birth to age 13, be strict in disciplining them; from 14 to 20, be their friend; after they are 21, let them go.”
Wise words, indeed.
Allah knows best and is the source of all strength.
The Hyperactive And Inattentive Child | Dr. Hatem Al Haj
Some kids are fidgety and hyperactive, as if they are “driven by a motor,” constantly moving around, bouncing off the furniture, and unable to stay still and quiet. They may be also quite impulsive, so they can’t wait for their turn, blurt out answers before you finish your sentence, and intrude in on others. Others are inattentive and out of focus – almost always. They are disorganized and forgetful, and they lose their things regularly. These criteria could be bad enough to qualify for a diagnosis of ADHD, which is Attention Deficit And Hyperactivity Disorder. This disorder is characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. Some may have the inattention alone, others the hyperactivity alone, while a third group has both.
This spectrum of disorders may lead to poor performance in school, inconsistency in work, emotional immaturity, and social difficulties, but let us not forget that these kids may have some special strengths as well, such as their boundless energy, enthusiasm, humor, and creativity.
The diagnosis of ADHD will need a specialized health care provider to make, but the following tips will be helpful for kids who share some or all the aforementioned criteria, whether they have the disorder or not.
Since a big part of the problem that will lead to most of the difficulties in schooling is the disorganization and lack of focus, it is recommended that we help those kids stay organized and on task through the following measures:
o Consistent schedules and having daily routines even when it comes to the waking up rituals: going to the bathroom, brushing their teeth and putting on their clothes. (Older kids should have prayed fajr before sunrise.) Have the schedule on the refrigerator or bulletin board in their study or bedroom. (Don’t forget to schedule time for play and wholesome recreation.) Let the child be part of the planning and organizing process.
o Keep in the same place their clothes, backpacks, and school supplies. Use notebook organizers and color-coded folders. If you homeschool, make the day structured and buy them a desk where they can put their belongings, and if you send them to school, make sure they bring back written assignments.
o Decrease distractions as much as possible. If you home school, then I suggest for you to keep a quiet environment as much as possible and avoid excessiveness in decorating your house (particularly their study place) with knickknacks and pictures. Maybe this would provide us a reason to try (and hopefully appreciate) minimalism!
o TV and videogames are bad for all kids, and even worse for kids with ADHD, except when permissible programs are watched in moderation. See the AAP’s guidelines for “use in moderation.”
Some tips for parents and guardians
- Consistent rules must be in place. Rewards must be given to the children when they follow them, and punishment must be judiciously used when the rules are broken.
- Kids with this condition may have low self-esteem, and it is detrimental to their welfare to further lower it. Thus, praise good behaviors frequently even if they were little and expected, such as putting their shoes where they belong.
- Do not be frustrated with the inconstancy of the child’s performance. He may get a 100% on one test and then fail the next. Use the first to encourage them and prove to them that he can do better.
- One on one teaching/tutoring may be needed to enable the child to keep up with the schoolwork.
Should we use medication?
Medications are sometimes needed. You must consult your doctor regarding their use.
Here are my non-professional thoughts:
- Prescribing those medications should never be a kneejerk reaction. First, we must be confident of the diagnosis, then, try all other modalities of therapy, and finally, entertain the option of pharmacological intervention.
- Medicating the children should never be for the interest/comfort of the parents or teachers; it should be only for the interest of the child.
- Medications should be tried if the child is failing to keep up with learning knowledge and skills s/he will need in their future, and other therapies failed to help them
How Grandparents Can Be Of Invaluable Help In A Volatile ‘Me First’ Age
I grew up in a small rural village of a developing country during the 1950s and 1960s within a wider ‘extended’ family environment amidst many village aunties and uncles. I had a wonderfully happy childhood with enormous freedom but traditional boundaries. Fast forward 30 years, my wife and I raised our four children on our own in cosmopolitan London in the 1980s and 1990s. Although not always easy, we had a wonderful experience to see them grow as adults. Many years and life experiences later, as grandparents, we see how parenting has changed in the current age of confusion and technology domination.
While raising children is ever joyous for parents, external factors such as rapidly changing lifestyles, a breath-taking breakdown of values in modern life, decline of parental authority and the impacts of social media have huge impacts on modern parenting.
Recently, my wife and I decided to undertake the arduous task of looking after our three young grandchildren – a 5½-year old girl and her 2-year old sibling brother from our daughter, plus a 1½-year old girl from our eldest son – while their parents enjoyed a thoroughly deserved week-long holiday abroad. My wife, who works in a nursery, was expertly leading this trial. I made myself fully available to support her. Rather than going through our daily experiences with them for a week, I highlight here a few areas vis a vis raising children in this day and age and the role of grandparents. The weeklong experience of being full time carers brought home with new impetus some universal needs in parenting. I must mention that handling three young grandchildren for a week is not a big deal; it was indeed a sheer joy to be with these boisterous, occasionally mischievous, little kids so dear to us!
- Establish a daily routine and be consistent: Both parents are busy now-a-days earning a livelihood and maintaining their family life, especially in this time of austerity. As children grow, and they grow fast, they naturally get used to the daily parental routine, if it is consistent. This is vital for parents’ health as they need respite in their daily grind. For various practical reasons the routine may sometimes be broken, but this should be an exception rather than a norm. After a long working day parents both need their own time and rest before going to sleep. Post-natal depression amongst mums is very common in situations where there is no one to help them or if the relationship between the spouses is facing difficulty and family condition uninspiring.
In our trial case, we had some struggles in putting the kids to sleep in the first couple of nights. We also faced difficulties in the first few mornings when our grandson would wake up at 5.00am and would not go back to sleep, expecting one of us to play with him! His noise was waking up his younger cousin in another room. We divided our tasks and somehow managed this until we got used to a routine towards the end of the week.
- Keep children away from screens: Grandparents are generally known for their urge to spoil their grandchildren; they are more relaxed about discipline, preferring to leave that job to the parents. We tried to follow the parents’ existing rules and disciplinary measures as much as possible and build on them. Their parents only allow the children to use screens such as iPads or smartphones as and when deemed necessary. We decided not to allow the kids any exposure to these addictive gadgets at all in the whole week. So, it fell on us to find various ways to keep them busy and engaged – playing, reading, spending time in the garden, going to parks or playgrounds. The basic rule is if parents want their kids to keep away from certain habits they themselves should set an example by not doing them, especially in front of the kids.
- Building a loving and trusting relationship: From even before they are born, children need nurture, love, care and a safe environment for their survival and healthy growth. Parenting becomes enjoying and fulfilling when both parents are available and they complement each other’s duties in raising the kids. Mums’ relationship with their children during the traditional weaning period is vital, both for mums and babies. During our trial week we were keenly observing how each of the kids behaved with us. We also observed the evolution of interesting dynamics amongst the three; but that is a different matter. In spite of occasional hiccups with the kids, we felt our relationship was further blossoming with each of them. We made a habit of discussing and evaluating our whole day’s work at night, in order to learn things and plan for a better next day.
A grandparent, however experienced she or he may be, can be there only to lend an extra, and probably the best, pair of hands to the parents in raising good human beings and better citizens of a country. With proper understanding between parents and grandparents and their roles defined, the latter can be real assets in a family – whether they live under the same roof or nearby. Children need attention, appreciation and validation through engagement; grandparents need company and many do crave to be with their own grandchildren. Young grandchildren, with their innate innocence, do even spiritually uplift grandparents in their old age.
Through this mutual need grandparents can transfer life skills and human values by reading with them, or telling them stories or just spending time with the younger ones. On the other hand, in our age of real loneliness amidst illusory social media friends, they get love, respect and even tender support from their grandchildren. No wonder the attachment between grandparents and grandchildren is often so strong!
In modern society, swamped by individualism and other social ills, raising children in an urban setting is indeed overwhelming. We can no longer recreate ‘community parenting’ in the traditional village environment with the maxim “It needs a village to raise a child’, but we can easily create a productive and innovative role for grandparents to bring about similar benefits.
Raising a Child between Ages 7-12
From a cognitive-development standpoint, this is called a concrete operational period, according to Jean Piaget.
(N.B: Some adults never progress beyond this phase, while 15% of kids may reach the following formal-operational phase at age 9!)
The child now (7-12) may factor in two dimensions of an object simultaneously. So, the longer cup may have less water because it is thinner. However, this is still hard for him/her to perform in the abstract realm, so, they are still uni-dimensional in that respect. Concepts and behaviors are still black and white. It is also hard for the kids in this stage to imagine and solve the structure of a mathematical problem. They cannot think contrary to facts. In other words, you can’t get them to use as a basis for an argument a question like what if the sky rains sugar instead of water?
Socially, Erikson felt that in this period kids develop industry or inferiority. According to his theory, from age six to puberty, children begin to develop a sense of pride in their accomplishments. If encouraged, they feel industrious and confident in their ability to achieve goals.
Based on these observations, we may recommend:
1- Using a lot of hands-on teaching, since they still have limited ability with conceptualization and abstract reasoning.
2- Continue the focus on memorization. If you want them to finish the Quran in 1-2 years, 12 and/or 13 seem to be the prime years for that. This suits some children and some families, not all. If you like a more gradual approach, you should have them start serious memorization at 7, accelerate at 10, and finish by 15-17. Not all kids are meant to memorize the whole Quran though; they can still be educated and pious. Invest in their strengths, not your dreams.
3- Use concrete props and visual aids, especially when dealing with sophisticated material. Use story problems in mathematics.
4- Use open-ended questions that will stimulate thinking and help the child reach the following stage faster. Example: “What do you think about the relationship between the brain and the mind?”; “What do you think about the relationship between prayful-ness and piety?” Make sure you know the right answers!
5- More explanations will be needed, but keep them simple, and even though they should be more detailed than the last stage, they still need to be uni-dimensional. Examples: we obey God because he created us; if we disobey Him, we get punished, and if we obey Him, we get rewarded in this life and in the hereafter. Too early to teach him that “the brokenness of the disobedient is better than the haughtiness of the obedient.” Break it down. Humbleness and obedience are good, while haughtiness and disobedience are bad.
6- Encourage and praise their accomplishments, while making them aware that there is always room for improvement. Continue to encourage initiative-taking and leadership qualities, yet you may also set limits, and make them aware that they will have to always report to someone. Even if there are no people above them, Allah always is. They have to adapt to being leaders and followers at the same time, because that is the reality of all people.
7- This is still a stage of belonging and affiliation to the group, and the child will develop more or less attachment to Islam through his or her experience at the masjid and with the community.