Help! My Child Doesn’t Listen!


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Qainaf Najam

Qainaf Najam is a freelance writer, based in Lahore.

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Oct 10 - Help my child doesn't listen

By Qainaf Najam

“He hit the stone with full might. A few sparks were produced and people backed away, frightened. The jeweller seemed oblivious to his surroundings or to the sparks, for that matter. He kept on hitting the stone with juvenile force. Each impact added an ounce of shine to the stone and with each increase, the force of the jeweller doubled. He hit harder and harder. He was a diamond carver. The more you hit the diamond, the more cuts it has and the more beautiful it is,” grandma ended the story with her ‘wise’ words.

Later, I thought of the story Grandma had shared. My imagination wandered and landed at a spot, where I was the diamond, my mother was the jeweller and the hammer signified the disciplining tool. It all fit. Curiosity welled inside me, and I decided to embark on an arduous journey to discover the ‘hammers’ that mothers use, when the diamond refuses to shine.

Of all the mothers questioned, only one confidently and proudly told me that her kids always obeyed her! For the rest, the level of submission varied from 70 to 80 per cent. Everybody agreed that mothers should try to create a good environment for children, since they are the best imitators – they will do what they see.

Following are some of the tactics that mothers use, when their kids refuse to obey them.

The Understanding Formula

Shaista, a mother of two, said that the basis of any relationship is understanding. To erect a strong building, we must put forth a stable base, and, when it comes to children, that base is understanding. Another experienced mother observed that mothers should try to understand the reasons, for which children disobey or stretch their limits, to be precise. They should act like their friends not their bosses. Mothers should genuinely hear out the kids, placing themselves in their shoes, and not be quick to pass a verdict. Mums should also not interrupt, and let the child do the talking to clearly understand where he/she is coming from. Then, mothers should try to explain to the child, calmly and logically, why he/she should not disobey.

Naseem Dilawar, a mother with an experience of about 33 years, beautifully summed up the formula: “Children are like flowers: if you press a flower, it withers. Similarly, strictness and austerity in the beginning deteriorates a child’s personality and shatters his confidence.”

The Cost-Reward Theory

I jumped in excitement, as my psychology lessons came alive during the survey. We had studied that humans tend to calculate the cost and the reward involved in doing anything. If the cost goes up, we show reluctance towards the act. If the reward goes up, we are more than happy to deliver. Farhat Khan, a mother of two, said that she constantly reminds her children of the odds they’ll have to face if they disobey. This presents them with a clear picture and allows them to calculate their decision.

Another mother observed: “I tell them the consequences of their disobedience. I tell my little girl that she won’t be able to play with her favourite toy. And I declare to my 10-year-old son the computer ‘out of bounds’, till he listens to me. I think this is very effective, because the child realizes the magnitude of his mistake. To reinforce good behaviour, I give them sweets of their choice, when they listen to me against their will.”

A new mother replied that she would show her son the right and wrong in the light of Islamic teachings and then let him choose his way. “I’ll make him pay the cost of disobeying and reward him, when he pleases me,” she added. If we think about it, this is the exact tactic Allah (swt) uses for us: He has told us, which is the right path, but He has also granted us the freedom to choose this right path. Besides, good conduct must spring from within to please Allah (swt) and not out of a parent’s fear. Otherwise, it has short lasting value.

The Loving Way

After an in-depth analysis, I must admit that this approach works mainly for little kids.

According to researches, bedtime stories help the grooming of a small child more than anything else. My friend uses this technique for her two kids. She says that when they disobey, she doesn’t talk to them. She shows them that they’ve done something wrong. Usually, this is enough to trigger their emotions, and they come up to her with somber faces, saying: “Mama, Kya Huwa Hai? (What is wrong?)” Then, at bedtime, she tries to come up with a fictitious story, which they can relate to themselves. This reinforces what she had taught them during the day.

Mother of 3-year-old Aayushie wrote all the way from India that she tries to make her daughter understand that she is doing the wrong thing. “I make her sit on my lap, I kiss her and softly tell her, why she shouldn’t do so and so,” said Roopali. “90 per cent of the times, I get a positive response.”

One mother said that a mother should come down to the level of the child and then tackle the situation. 95 per cent of mothers said that in the first stage, they try to tell the child how much they care for them – children need to know that what their mothers say is for their own good, and that they still love them in spite of their questionable behaviour at times.

Penalties and Punishments

This usually comes as the last stage. Many mothers believe that retributions are crucial to children’s grooming, when they become illogically adamant. When children are bent upon defying, they must be shown their limits.

“The game starts with me ignoring my children. When they keep on refusing, I ground them. They are then forbidden to play computer games, go out in the field or with friends and are made to eat alone in their room. But this is only when they violate against the set limits,” expressed yet another mother.

One mother said that little kids should be made to stand in the ‘naughty corner’, or the mother should twist their ears if needed. But for older kids, corporal punishments do not go well, because they retaliate – they think it’s an insult and fly off the handle. For children above ten, penalties usually included grounding and taking away such facilities as the Internet and the cell phone.

Say No to ‘No’

A mother proposed that children should be provided alternative things to do. For example, if your daughter wants to go out with her friends at night and you know that it’s not suitable for her age, invite her friends to your home or take her out yourself. Don’t say ‘no’ to the child. Let them know that you want them to enjoy life but within limits, that are safe for them.

Trust Allah (swt)

When I asked a mother what she does when her kids refuse, she plainly said: “I pray.” She further explained: “This doesn’t necessarily mean that a mother should just sit on the prayer mat and pray; the fact is that you are not with your child at all times, while Allah (swt) is. So when you’ve done your job, entrust your child to Allah (swt).”

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