Noora runs into the house and slams the door behind her. She bounds up the stairs and her mother hears her bedroom door slam. She audibly sighs sadly thinking to herself, “She had another bad day at school. I wish she would talk to me about it.” Noora curls up on her bed and cries quietly wondering what she did to deserve what she goes through at school everyday. Sometimes she even finds herself wishing she could just get a physical “beat down” rather than suffer through the daily emotional torment of being teased, ostracized and singled out for abuse. She feels as though her mother won’t understand what she’s going through and she also doesn’t want to disappoint her by confessing that she just doesn’t know how to handle the bullies. She feels hopeless and she doesn’t know to whom to turn so she cries quietly in her room, and each day holds in more and more of the torment she faces.
Bullying was once viewed as a necessary rite of passage of childhood, something children simply must endure. However, bullying is not simply something children will mature out of; rather, bullying can result in serious harm and long-term consequences. Bullying can take different forms, including:
- Physical bullying: includes hitting, punching, kicking and other types of physical harm, as well as destruction of a child’s property.
- Verbal bullying: includes teasing, name-calling, taunting and racial slurs, as well as spreading gossip or malicious rumors.
- Cyberbullying: includes harassing emails, instant messages and text messages, as well as intimidating or threatening websites, blogs or posts.
Parents often feel completely powerless as they witness their child’s tears day-after-day, as much a part of the afterschool routine as homework. Bullying has reached a new peak in our society and with tragedies such as the shooting at Columbine, bullying has received a great deal more attention than it used to. With the advent of technology, bullying no longer occurs exclusively within the walls of schools. Rather, social media has provided another opportunity to bullies who seek to demean others. Home is no longer a safe haven for victims of bullying; a Facebook status can hurt just as much, if not more, than hearing the typed words spoken aloud.
The Victims of Bullying
Being the victim of bullying can evoke a great deal of shame in children and teens (and in adults as well, since bullying is not an epidemic that exclusively targets children). Therefore, your child may not confide in you and may go through great pains to hide the fact that s/he is being bullied. The signs may not be as visible as a black eye; although children are often physically intimidated, bullying can be also be targeted in a way that leaves psychological and emotional bruises. Some things to keep a lookout for, which may signal that your child is being bullied includes (but is not limited to): damage to personal belongings, unexplained injuries, a decline in academic performance, physical complaints (i.e. stomach aches, headaches, tiredness, etc.), reluctance when going to school or riding the bus, few friends, or a noticeable change in sleeping or eating habits.
There are certain qualities that may make some children more susceptible to bullying. These include the following characteristics: cautious, sensitive, quiet, withdrawn, shy, anxious, insecure, low self-esteem, unhappy, lack of a close friend, relate better to adults than peers, physically weaker than peers. Bullying is a cycle, so these characteristics can be just as much a consequence as a partial cause of being victimized. There is also another subset of people within this bullying cycle who are characterized as bully/victims, who are both bullies and victims of bullying simultaneously. Bully/victims tend to experience a greater variety of symptomology including both internalized (anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts) and externalized (hyperactivity, rule-breaking) issues.
Although the focus of prevention and interventions are often on victims of bullying, it is important to provide support to bullies as well. As the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is oppressed.” The Prophet was asked: “It is right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?” He replied: “By preventing him from oppressing others.” (Ṣahīh Bukhāri, Volume 3, Ḥadīth 624)
From this ḥadīth, we learn the importance of helping those who are oppressed but, even more profoundly, the need to assist oppressors by stopping them from committing this infringement on the rights of others. Bullies are often misconstrued as people who simply take pleasure in the pain of others. However, research has found that some are quite complex and somewhat of a mystery. Many research studies have found that bullies are more likely to exhibit behavioral issues including aggressiveness, hyperactivity, attention deficits and conduct problems. However, contrary to what is normally considered of bullies, one research study found that they suffer from depression, anxiety, psychosomatic disorders, and eating disorders to the same extent as those who were victimized by their bullying. Some things that may signal that your child is bullying others include: being aggressive with others, gets sent to detention often, has unexplained new belongings or extra money, quickly blames others, refuses to accept responsibility for actions, and has a need to win or be the best at everything.
Verbal, Emotional & Psychological (Nonphysical) Bullying
Interactions between individuals, from an Islamic point of view, are governed by the fundamental right of sanctity of life, honor, and property. Therefore, anything that compromises these rights should be stopped. In Sūrat’l- Ḥujurāt (49:10-12), Allah says, “Verily, the believers are brothers…
- let not some people mock others, for they may be better than themselves,
- nor (let) women (mock) women who may be better than themselves.
- And do not slander yourselves, nor revile by (offensive) nicknames…
- O you who believe, avoid (indulging in) much suspicion; truly, some suspicion is a sin.
- And do not spy or backbite one another; would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would abhor that.
- And be conscious of Allah; indeed, Allah is Relenting, Merciful.”
These verses emphasize the non-physical face of bullying. Verbal and emotional bullying can have even greater and longer-lasting negative effects on the victims than physical bullying. Many of us may have grown up asserting the maxim, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” however, we soon realize that sometimes words can hurt more than anything else.
According to Rachel Simmons’s Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, this type of bullying is particularly common among girls and often goes unnoticed by non-participants (such as teachers and parents). Due to the expectation of girls to be sweet, nice and caring, direct aggression is deemed unacceptable in them. However, girls are just as likely as boys to experience anger, a natural human emotion, so they engage one another in nonphysical, alternative forms of aggression. This includes:
- Relational aggression: acts that harm others through damage (or the threat of damage) to relationships or feelings of acceptance, friendship, or group inclusion.
- This is seen through behaviors such as ignoring someone to punish them, excluding someone socially for revenge, using negative body language or facial expressions, sabotaging someone’s relationships, etc.
- Indirect aggression: the bully avoids confrontation using covert behaviors. In this way, it may seem as though there was no intent to hurt anyone and others may be used as vehicles to cause pain to the targeted person.
- This is seen in the spreading of rumors, backbiting, “accidentally” knocking over someone’s books, etc.
- Social aggression: intent to damage the self-esteem or social status of a targeted individual.
- This can include rumor spreading, backbiting, and social exclusion.
Rather than using physical intimidation as a weapon, relationships are used for leverage. What could be worse than the threat of loneliness and social isolation as you wander friendlessly through the halls of school? Hearing lies spread about you to cause you to lose your friends and fall into a downward spiral of lowering self-esteem? One of the issues inherent in these forms of alternative aggressions is the fact that they can easily be committed under the radar of others. Teachers are often caught unaware when their students speak with them about this type of bullying and don’t know how to deal with it since it is not easily spotted. When engaging in covert aggression, the bullies often seem like the type of people who would never mistreat someone; it’s the perfect disguise for accomplishing as much damage as possible while ensuring their actions are undetectable to others.
Girls in this type of situation often have nowhere to turn; they may feel too ashamed to speak to their parents or teachers about the torment they’re enduring because they may feel as though they have failed at a fundamental rite of passage – making friends. There is also a great deal of uncertainty regarding these alternative aggressions; girls may question, “Did she just bump into me on purpose?;” “Did she roll her eyes at something I said?;” “Is that note she’s passing about me?” It’s easy to know when someone gives you a black eye, but if you’re uncertain whether others are shutting you out or teasing you behind your back, it becomes much more difficult to discuss it with others. By the same token, many girls withstand emotional abuse from their close friends in order to maintain the inclusion as a part of a group; they fear that the creation of any conflict (including voicing their concerns) will cause them to lose a relationship. Due to this, anger continues to simmer and issues pile up and are rarely addressed.
Practical Tips & Possible Solutions
It is incredibly important to arm our children, our students, and ourselves with the proper methods of coping with bullying. This is not simply a rite of passage that children must endure. Furthermore, the issues brought about by bullying can quickly, and dangerously, spiral out of control. In the next segment, practical tips and possible solutions will be offered to promote healthy relationships.
 Mayo Clinic Staff (2010, August 24). Bullying: Help Your Child Handle a School Bully. Children’s Issues. Retrieved January 19, 2012, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/bullying/MH00126
 Olweus, D. (1999). Sweden. In P. K. Smith, Y. Morita, J. Junger-Tas, D. Olweus, R. Cata- lano, & P. Slee (Eds.), The nature of school bullying: A cross national perspective (pp. 7–27). London: Routledge.
 Kaltiala-Heino, R., Rimpelä, M., Rantanen, P., & Rimpelä, A. (2000). Bullying at school. An indicator of adolescents at risk for mental disorders. Journal of Adolescence, 23, 661–674.
 Simmons, Rachel (2002). Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls. San Diego, CA: Hartcourt Trade Publishing.
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.