Continuing from last week, let’s focus on more practical steps towards parenting.
Admitting Our Mistakes:
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:
- 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 Jannnah, inshaa 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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:
- Others are watching
- Our parenting abilities are being judged
- Our children are being judged.
My advice for parents in a situation like this is to:
- Remain calm and composed.
- Not worry about how many people are watching or what they are saying. Simply tune it all out.
- Ask your child politely to behave. If they do, make sure you express your pleasure to them.
- 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.