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Parenting Series | Part III: Change in Parents Continues


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

Continuing from last week, let’s focus on more practical steps towards parenting.

Admitting Our Mistakes:

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We parents are human and far from perfect. Hence, we make mistakes as parents in our judgments or decisions. However, when and if we realize that we have made a mistake, it is best that we admit and apologize to our child/ren.  Not only does this teach them to act accordingly, it creates a more intimate and open relationship between child and parent.

For example, sometimes we get angry for no reason, usually when we are tired or frustrated about an unrelated issue. Unknowingly, we release our frustration on our children, only to feel bad about it later on. It is best to talk to our children, explain to them the reason for our outburst, and apologize to them. Believe me, this doesn’t take away from our respected position. In fact,  it puts us on a higher respectful status. Additionally, this prevents children from harboring psychological distresses or evil thoughts.


Teaching our children to respect their elders is an essential part of their upbringing. But the way it is done may differ from family to family. I have talked about this issue in detail before.One primary thought that I have is that although we, as parents, may each have our own way of dealing with our children, there maybe elder members of the family who may have more strict expectations of respect especially those who come from an Eastern background. Therefore, it is best that we teach our children to act and behave around their elders within the family as it pleases them. Although children find it a little challenging at first, especially when they are young, but around age ten they usually are able to adopt ‘diplomatic attitudes’, if constantly reminded. As I said, I have discussed this issue in detail in my other article before.

Unnecessary Criticism of Others:

At times, family members tend to criticize our parenting skills, pointing out that things were done better ‘in their time’, or where they came from. It is especially a problem for those of us who have parents/in-laws/family from different parts of the world, while our children are being raised in the West.

Don’t worry, and learn to be diplomatic. Listen to what the elder members of the family have to say, and thank them for their advice. You don’t have to implement any of it, and you definitely don’t have to defend your position.

Many sisters run into issues with their in-laws. It is a complicated situation and normally there is no “easy” way out, especially if you live with your in-laws. If you don’t:

  1. If it is a temporary situation, try to comply with their demand, keeping in mind that pleasing our parents-in-law helps our husbands earn Jannnahinshaa Allah. For example, a mother-in-law can be very particular about massaging little children with oil before bathing them, whereas a young mother may not consider it “necessary”, but sees that there is no harm in doing so while her mother-in-law is around. When our in-laws aren’t around, we may do as we wish. Similar situations can be handled the same way.
  2. Sometimes, elderly parents criticize the way we interact with our children or vice versa. As much as it is hard to remain patient at that time, it is equally useless to argue. Be smart and don’t waste your energy trying to explain or defend your approach. Let it go. At the end of the day, you will do as you wish with your child.
  3. At times, an elderly grandparent’s advice is invaluable. Although the way it is conveyed may not be the most appealing, examine their advice and see if it can be helpful and beneficial anyway. Don’t feel incompetent and week just because you took their advice, because these feelings are just waswasah of the shaytaan.

Accepting Criticism:

All the same, advice/constructive criticism should be welcomed from intimate family and friends, especially if it is coming from someone revered and respected, and it doesn’t have to be a “shaikh”, it could simply be our best friend. In fact, we SHOULD allow our parenting be put under the microscope of these experienced individuals. Sometimes we’re blind sighted by our own actions and fail to see our own mistakes or our children’s shortcomings. Healthy and constructive criticism can only help us better the upbringing of our children,inshaa Allah.

“Discipline” Outside the Home:

With younger children we tend to find ourselves in sticky situations where it becomes difficult to judge and handle the situation. For instance, at a grocery store, at the masjid, or at someone’s house we may face an act of misbehavior and become self-conscious. This leads to an over-reaction, more often than not, mainly because:

  1. Others are watching
  2. Our parenting abilities are being judged 
  3. Our children are being judged.

My advice for parents in a situation like this is to:

  1. Remain calm and composed.
  2. Not worry about how many people are watching or what they are saying. Simply tune it all out.
  3. Ask your child politely to behave. If they do, make sure you express your pleasure to them.
  4. If the child insists on misbehaving, inform him/her that he/she will be punished when you get home and MAKE SURE that you do punish when you get home, so it becomes a lesson for the next time.

Take a Stand for your Child:

Sometimes, when people criticize our children and we firmly believe it to be unfair criticism then there is no harm in defending them without getting into an argument or clash. At times it is okay to just laugh it off, perhaps casually and politely remarking, for instance, ‘we don’t adopt that technique in our family system’ or ‘I don’t agree with that’.

If the child is older, it is very important to show them that you will take a stand for them. It gives them confidence and builds their trust. If you believe your child to be at fault, do not admonish him/her in front of others, but rather talk to him/her privately. If the situation requires an apology to someone they have wronged, assure them that you stand by their side and you will never demean them in front of others, politely point out their mistake, and explain to them why an apology is necessary. Reward them for admitting to their mistake.

Physical & Verbal Affection:

One aspect of parenting that is usually underestimated or shortchanged is showing physical affection to children. Our children are in need to hear but also see sign of our love and affection. It is not okay to believe that what we do for our children, and the advantages or tangible valuables that we provide for them are enough of a “sign” of our love. They are not. A true sign of love must be verbalized and shown through physical touching, like kisses, hugs and pats.

Abu Hurayra said, “The Messenger of Allah, salla Allahu alayhi wasallam, kissed Al-Hassan ibn ‘Ali while al-Aqra’ ibn Habis at-Tamimi was sitting with him. Al-Aqra’ observed, ‘I have ten children and I have never kissed any of them.’ The Messenger of Allah, salla Allahu alayhi wasallam, looked at him and said, ‘Whoever does not show mercy will not be shown mercy.’”

Some mothers stop showing physical affection once their sons grow older, and fathers are no different with their daughters. There is nothing haraam in being physically affectionate to our older children of the opposite gender, there being no age limit in this matter.

Talk Talk Talk:

Good and thorough communication is the key in raising and building a sound relationship with our children. Open up to your child and talk to them about everything. Even if you punish them, make sure that you explain to them why they were punished, so as shaytaandoesn’t twist their thoughts, create waswas in their minds, or arouse anger or hatred in their hearts.

Our communication should be so strong that even if they make a mistake, they should be able to approach us and admit it, knowing that they will not be disappointed. Inshaa Allah we will discuss this further later in the series.

Friends & Companions:

Find them good friends from an early age. Sometimes childhood friends remain their best friends for the rest of their lives so it is best that we monitor the company they keep from the very beginning. Some parents may have to change their own company in order to provide good friends to their children.

Free Way or Complicated Small Roads:

Let us not be too demanding on our children. It is okay to let go sometimes, especially knowing that we are their path to Jannah. We have two different roads we can take. We can choose to be easy going parents and take the “simple freeways” or we can be over demanding parents and take the “complicated back roads with multiple turns”. The more we love our children, the easier we will be on them, inshaa Allah ta’ala.

Self-Evaluation and Du’a:

Every time a child behaves badly, it is time for the parent to evaluate him or herself and take a closer look at their relationship with Allah azza wajal.

Make du’aa, and lots of it. We really do not make enough use of the weapon Allah has armed us with against shaytaan for our children’s protection. Remember our du’aa as a parent is accepted for them. We simply cannot achieve our goal and the success of our children without the help of Allah no matter how much perfection we achieve in our parenting.

So far we have discussed some general issues related more to parents. Inshaa Allah, next we will discuss matters enforced with kids between the ages of two-five. Please remember though that these age approximates are simply that, estimated suggestions. As a parent you can and should explore more with your child, as children never seize to surprise us with what they are capable of doing and understanding. Therefore, always challenge yourself and your child with more; never settle for less and in turn restricting their potential to flourish.

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Saba Syed (aka Umm Reem) is the author of International award winning novel, "An Acquaintance." Saba has a BA degree in Islamic Studies. She studied Arabic Language & Literature at Qatar University and at Cairo Institute in Egypt. She also received her Ijaazah in Quranic Hafs recitation in Egypt from Shaikh Muhammad al-Hamazawi. She had been actively involved with Islamic community since 1995 through her MSA, and then as a founding member of TDC, and other community organizations. in 2002, she organized and hosted the very first "Musim Women's Conference" in Houston, TX. Since then, she's been passionately working towards empowering Muslim women through the correct and untainted teachings of Islam. She is a pastoral counselor for marriage & family, women and youth issues. She has hosted several Islamic lectures and weekly halaqas in different communities all over U.S and overseas, also hosted special workshops regarding parenting, Islamic sex-ed, female sexuality, and marital intimacy.



  1. Yasir Qadhi

    December 29, 2010 at 12:15 PM

    I couldn’t concentrate on the article…the picture was just TOO cute :)


    • Daughter of Adam (AS)

      December 29, 2010 at 6:32 PM

      lol I was just about to say the same thing.. masha’Allah!

  2. Blessed

    December 29, 2010 at 4:37 PM

    Jazakillah Khair for these articles!

    You have mentioned how to handle the situation of in-laws if they don’t live with you, which is something more manageable, but could you also elaborate a bit more on what to do if they do stay with you? It seems like there’s not much one can do with the interference.

    • Umm Reem

      January 5, 2011 at 10:20 AM

      Dear Blessed,

      Your question is a very valid question and to be honest not a simple one to answer :)

      There are different scenarios. If the in-laws share the same vision as the parents then many issues are workable. Keeping a good communication with the in laws always help in that situation.

      But, if parents have different priorities for the children than the in laws, then it gets complicated. To be honest, husband has to play the key role.

      The interferences must stop especially if they start becoming harmful for the children and their tarbiyyah. The mother should patiently but wisely handle the situation and should keep in mind that, in the end of the day, the tarbiyyah of her children is her responsibility and she should do whatever maybe necessary to give a good upbringing to her children.

      Maybe she should try talking to her in-laws, especially mother in law, if she can get through her than that should take care of the major issues.

  3. Nayma

    December 29, 2010 at 5:59 PM

    A thorough article Umm Reem. JAK for the tips. It is hard to own up when we make mistakes. But it is so important to. May Allah help us always do that. As mothers we get upset many times when we are overwhelmed with work. We need time out for ourselves and come back to them refreshed.
    I agree with the importance of finding good friends. They are like sponges and take in everything at the early age. But it is ever so hard to find good companionship!
    And may we remember to make dua to Arrahman to give us wisdom in raising our children.

  4. Hebah Ahmed

    December 31, 2010 at 1:06 PM

    Asalam Alikum,

    Jazak Allahu Khair for the guidelines…I need to re-read these periodically as a reminder cuz it is very easy to go on auto pilot with parenting and forget that it should be a constantly evolving process in response to our child’s age and reactions.

    With regards to dealing with unruly children outside of the home, this is a technique I formulated based on a some techniques for a book called “The Strong-Willed Child” by Dr. James Dobson. Perhaps it can be of help to some of your readers.

    1. I tell the kids ahead of time where we are going and the consequences for their behavior. If they behave well, do not pull anything off the shelf, and obey me, they get a little yoghurt treat or a stick of cheese from the store (not candy or chocolate..I still want to encourage healthy eating and not junk as a reward). If they misbehave, run around, pull anything off the shelf, or throw a tantrum, they immmediately loose the treat without me counting to three and without further warning (since I already told them before we entered the store).

    2. If the loss of treat does not work or they throw a tantrum, I take them out to the car, belt them into their car seat,and make them sit there for 2 minutes. At this stage I sit in the car with them. Once the 2 minutes are up they must agree to behave and not touch anything on the shelves before they will be released from the car seat. I explain to them that if they misbehave again they will come right back to the car.

    3. The next violation in the store results in me taking them back to the car and leaving them in their car seat for 5 minutes. This time I close the car door and stand outside of the car. Once again, before they are let out they must agree to behave. I explain to them that one more infraction will result in us immediately leaving the store.

    4. If there is a violation after that, I immediately without warning leave whatever I have in the store, take them out and we go home.

    The key to this technique is to leave plenty of time for the shopping trip and be willing to leave at any point without finishing what you need. Having a husband or other adult with you helps a lot so they can take the kid out while you continue shopping or dealing with other children. If you stick to it, you should only have to do it 2-3 times and then after that a reminder should work great.

    And of course, lots of duaa! :)

    • Umm Reem

      January 5, 2011 at 11:22 AM

      mashaAllah great suggestions hebah!
      no wonder you get recognized outside by your “well-behaved” children, mashaAllah :)

      The key to this technique is to leave plenty of time for the shopping trip and be willing to leave at any point without finishing what you need.

      I think this is the problem with most mothers that the schedule of the day is so tight that they just want to be done with the grocery or whatever business they may have outside without having to come back again.
      But as you said, if done properly, it may only be a matter of 2-3 times before the message hits home!

      In face, my husband was telling me about a study he read sometime ago that children under 5 years of age, cannot perceive future consequences well but they can easily recall a punishment/reward they may have gotten in the past.

      For instance, if we tell a two year old, ‘if you don’t stop crying then you will not get the candy’, they don’t tend to understand that as much, but if we make them recall an incident from the past like, ‘remember when you were being a good girl and not crying in the store than i bought you a candy,’ this can work better as they can relate to that more effectively.

      • Ify Okoye

        January 5, 2011 at 12:02 PM

        Umm Reem, completely unrelated, your Gravatar image being a picture of Abu Reem is slightly awkward :)

        • Umm Reem

          January 5, 2011 at 11:10 PM

          that’s interesting….i guess because i was using his laptop :)

          • Ify Okoye

            January 6, 2011 at 12:08 AM

            It has to do with the email address used in the comment, if you change it from his email to yours, the picture will change.

      • Hebah Ahmed

        January 5, 2011 at 3:44 PM

        Now you making me look all arrogant!!!! I should have put a caveat when I wrote (in one of my articles) that a stranger told me my kids were well behaved. That caveat would have been that she really does not know my children!!!!!

        Despite some outer appearance, there are no perfect parents and even less perfect children. I think that is one of the hardest things for us to accept as parents…that each day every parent holds their breathe and wonders what approach will work with their kids and what will leave the parent in tears, ready to give up! :)

        I have concluded that the key to parenting is to accumulate a large “bag of tricks”, i.e. a list of several approaches and motivations that you have to go through, one at a time. One day something will work brilliantly and you are convinced your children are on the right track, and the next day the same technique will fail miserably and your kids will be the epitomy of rebellion.

        I think this all points to the most important qualities described in Umm Reem’s articles, flexibility and open communication (guided by correct Islamic knowledge). I try not to sweat the everday battles and try to maintain these two qualities in a more long term approach.

        As for the grocery store scenerio, I wrote in a past article that I truly believe parenting is about submission to your role. That means you have to be willing to put everything else on hold to do right by your child, even the things you hold most dear to you or believe are a must, at least for a temporary time. Much easier said than done!

        May Allah makes us all of the sabireen (patient ones) and make our children of the most righteous. Ameen.

        • iMuslim

          January 12, 2011 at 7:23 AM

          Great tips, masha’Allah.

          Of course, there is always online grocery shopping these days. ;) I can imagine that being a literal God send for busy mums!

  5. Fathimah

    January 1, 2011 at 1:25 PM


    I had a question: I admit my mistakes and apologise to my kids, and also explain I got angry for so-and – so reason. But then I wonder: will that kinda instill in them a notion that it is ok to mistakes as long as there is an apology or expression of remorse afterwards.

    Jazaki Allahu khayr Umm Reem

    • Umm Reem

      January 5, 2011 at 11:34 AM

      I don’t think it will instill that notion in them, insahAllah, but it will for sure teach them what to do next IF they make a mistake and inshaAllah it will enhance in them the characteristics of admitting their mistakes, face the consequences and make up for it…
      we, as parents, should also not only apologize and show remorse but at times we should try to “make up” to them…it could be something small or big depending on the situation…

      inshaAllah it will help our children in future with their dealings with others, in their marital life and especially with their religion.

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  7. Abid

    January 6, 2011 at 6:41 AM

    Salaam all,

    Jazakillah khair for this article againe sister, really beneficial mashallah!.

    Whilst on the topic of parenting, you might want to visit:

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

    Check it out inshallah!

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