[Part 2] Parenting by the Horns

bull_by_the_horns_9518Based on an Islamic Online University Webinar

When children crib and cry we can tackle them in the following steps:

Step 1: Conflict

Every tantrum starts with a conflict. The moment the conflict appears in front of you, how you deal with the conflict shows what kind of connection you have and the result that you will get.

In life we get a lot of conflicts. How do you deal with those conflicts? Do you panic when a conflict comes? Or are you more relaxed when a conflict comes? In psychology, we call it either you ‘flight or fight’. Hopefully with children we don’t have to do either of the two. We have to reason between the two; we’ll not fight and not run away from them; rather, we’ll face the conflict.

One of the most important rules in parenting is that children do not hear, they see. You can tell a child hundred times do not do this, do not speak on the mobile late, and do not chat late but if they see you calling someone late at night, they see you doing the same thing; hence, they will not obey you.

One of the most important rules in parenting is that children do not hear, they see.

Once there was a huge earthquake in Japan and as the earthquake spread people started starving. Grocery stores closed down and there was a shortage of food. There was one juice dispenser company with different kind of juices. It was dispensing one juice at a time. There was a big queue at that juice company headquarters for everybody to take a juice. There was an American manager in this Japanese firm and he also was in the juice queue. Every Japanese could have taken more than once juice on their turn but they took one juice and went back to end of line to take another one, just so that everyone gets an equal opportunity. This manager was tired and hungry. When his turn came, he got four juices immediately and he went home. Nobody said a word to the manager. A few days later, word spread that the manager was not a man of integrity. He could not lead a team, because the people did not accept a leader like him.

Are we the kind of leaders as that manager was? Or are we like the people who are waiting in the queue to show our children? It is not talk the talk, it is walk the talk.

Conflict usually happens when we say something but we do not implement it. This is one lesson that Luqman Hakeem gave to his son: “And do not turn your cheek (in contempt) toward people and do not walk through the earth exultantly. Indeed, Allah (swt) does not like everyone self-deluded and boastful.” (Luqman 31:18) He is admonishing his son; do not turn away from people and do not walk in arrogance. How you walk shows what kind of a person you are.

Where are our manners? Abdullah ibn Mubarak said twelve hundred years back that today the Ummah needs more Akhlaq than Ilm. What would he have said if he was alive today?

Where are our manners? Abdullah ibn Mubarak said twelve hundred years back that today the Ummah needs more Akhlaq than Ilm. What would he have said if he was alive today? It is our Akhlaq that the children are watching. It’s the way you are driving, not the lessons that you give while you are driving. While I was living in Dubai, a Sheikh once said that Islam will spread faster if we drive a little nicer. Children are noticing the way you flash lights and honk people from behind. Don’t ever think that they are not noticing.

Are you a Tiger Mom?

A tiger mom is someone who is very clear or strict with the child’s upbringing. She wants him to succeed all the time. She wants him to always achieve first position. She wants him to take part in the painting competition, the debate competition, become a Hafidh of Quran – in short, she wants him to be the best at everything. She expects everything from one child – which is why we say please have more children! If you have any of the traits of a tiger mom, please reflect your position. Our children are not trophies. “Oh you know my child knows Surah Fajr or Surah Naba.” Please don’t treat your child like a trophy in front of others; just let them be what they are. This method is not bad all the time, but we don’t want them to be performing monkeys.

The opposite of a tiger mom is a helicopter parent, who is always hovering over a child. You choose their clothes, you choose their toys etc. A tiger mom lets the child take responsibility. We do not want to become roaring, growling tiger moms and make our home an emotional jail, as a child would put it. There needs to be a balance between the two.

There is a great parenting tip in how Muhammad (sa) dealt with young Sahabah. He was not their father but far greater than a father. When the treaty of Hudaibiyah was about to be signed with Suhail bin Amr, Abu Jandal (rta) came running in chains. He escaped from Makkah somehow, from the jail and torture and came running to the best refuge. Now this was the greatest test that a leader can have.

Abu Jandal’s hands were tied. He was still crying, “Please save me. Will you leave me alone?”

Suhail (also the father of Abu Jandal) said: “He is the first example we’ll take and I’ll take him back with me.”

The Prophet (sa) said: “But the treaty has not been signed yet.”

Suhail refused saying: “We’ve agreed to the terms.”

All the Sahabah were looking at him. The Prophet (sa) told him we’ve now negotiated and you’ll have to go back.

Such a difficult decision it was! This is walk the talk. It had a lesson not only for Abu Jandal or the Sahabah but even for the Mushrikeen. Do you not believe in a man who’s keeping his word even for a companion? Did Abu Jandal’s Iman increase or decrease? It only increased. If your children see that their father stands up for principles, they’ll only love you more.

Step 2: Connection

Now that you’ve resolved the conflict, how do you go back and make a connection with your child? In the next verse, after the arrogant part, Luqman Hakeem tells how to make a connection. “And be moderate in your pace and lower your voice; indeed, the most disagreeable of sounds is the voice of donkeys.” (Luqman 31:19)

Please don’t treat your child like a trophy in front of others; just let them be what they are. This method is not bad all the time, but we don’t want them to be performing monkeys.

Please follow the middle path and whenever you see a conflict happening; do not be arrogant. Let’s become a parent of the middle path. The child cannot go out and buy everyday everything that he wants; yet it’s not that none of his demands are fulfilled.

Luqman did not say that your voice is like a donkey. He is not pointing to the child directly. When you shout, children get scared. For example, we say, “You are lazy.” That’s a big thing to say. Instead make Dua that your child is protected from it. Who gave you the right to say so? Our language is not like that of Luqman. He truly was Hakeem.

Dolphin Dad

Fathers need to spend time with their children. A Dolphin dad is a father who is helpful; he is a father who is playful and wants to raise happy children. These are the fathers we are looking for.

Fathers are directly involved in character building. They should use the correct language. The first words that Luqman Hakeem used were “Ya Bunayya: O my Son!” Address them in the best manner.

When you tell your children how beautiful their names are, they feel good.  We give them such good names but do we ever tell them what their names mean?

Do not raise your voice. Do not compare your child to a stupid donkey, etc. Become a dolphin dad and not a complaining dad.

At the end of the day, our mission as parents is as follows:

“O you who believe! Ward off from yourselves and your families a Fire (Hell)…” (At-Tahrim 66:6)

Coming to Terms with Familial Issues

family-bondingAnd Allah has made for you in your homes an abode (An-Nahl 16:80).

Are we playing our part in making our home a peaceful, serene abode? Is our sense of responsibility towards other family members still substantial enough to make our family an institution within itself?

We’re living in times when shamelessness, rebellion, corruption and self-obsession are at their peak. A righteous, practicing Muslim has to be all ears of the social dilemmas that surround him/her. In this day and age, one of the biggest shields that can protect us from falling trap in the social issues is being united with our family and home.

Most of us quickly jump to expectations first. We tend forget the transient nature of this Dunya and the perpetual, yet to come Akhirah. The temporariness of this world implies that nothing here would be perfect or ideal, because perfection is the attribute of Jannah. Nouman Ali Khan in his talk highlighted that an ideal Muslim does not exist rather there are ‘ideal ways’ to deal with one’s family.

I genuinely feel for the current familial crisis that we are in. I see in my home and other families that we have reduced the home to a place of eating, sleeping and resting or worse, using it as a place of entertainment. 

One of the biggest realities of life is that we have to deal with that tough member(s) of our family, who we get hurt by occasionally. Family issues, within the home have become really common and we all need a way out of them. However, like all other problems, there are no shortcuts to this. After having considered the basics of parental psychology and relationship psychology, I have realized that we have to encounter the tough relative to our best capabilities rather than wanting them to change.

I observed around, within my family, friends and my work place, I looked for the common error that most of the families were making. That sibling who comes home late, that parent who argues with you on wearing Hijab or not, that uncle who calls you a Mawlana, or the in laws who are always sarcastic about you, all have to be faced at some point in life. The indifference, the carelessness or rudeness within a family can rust the ties until one of us realizes that improvement can be made. Instead of hopelessly closing the file and locking that cabinet, we need to reconsider that relationship in a number of ways. The best of people in Islam have had the toughest of family members, even sometimes non-Muslims. Aasia had Islam’s enemy as her husband and she prayed for a house in Jannah; Yaqoob (as) had disobedient sons except Yusuf (as) despite of his hard work into parenting. We can take numerous examples by reviewing the Ahadeeth and boost our morales.

We need to reconsider this reality; no matter how hard we try, we can’t change the person if he or she is not willing to change. We can only work on ourselves as the biggest room is the room for self-improvement. Nuh (as) did not change his wife neither did Ibrahim (as) change his father. They kept their duty to Allah (swt) and are the blessed legends of Islam today.

We can’t change the person if he or she is not willing to change. We can only work on ourselves as the biggest room is the room for self-improvement.

In dealing with an apathetic family member, we often make the mistake of repeatedly quoting Ahadith and Ayats, in the hope that they will realize. This can work at times but not always, because we are not working on the root cause; each family member has a need to be heard, to be understood and respected. We need to first identify what they are responsive to and then give our sound advice.

Yusuf Estes, in his talk Family Development, highly discourages the blame games we play at home with our family or even our relatives. After a particular situation, we start talking in ‘if’ terms. ‘If you had listened to me, you could’ve  . . .’. Such statements only ruin the Islamic atmosphere of the home. Today’s parents and even youth have developed the habit of cursing each other. If a 13 year old doesn’t listen to the mother, the mother yells ‘Allah will deal with you.’ If the brother doesn’t switch off the music while the sister is praying, she yells right after finishing her Salah, ‘Allah will ask you’.  We should really stop and ponder over our choice of words and the temperaments at our homes today. Is the love for our family so less that we can think of Allah (swt) questioning them on the Day of Judgement?

A strange heated friction exists between siblings, parents and even grandparents. We have become so aggressive verbally and non-verbally that it ruins the very roots of our relationships. 

It was narrated from Abu Hurairah (rta) that the Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “The strong man is not the one who wrestles others; rather, the strong man is the one who controls himself at times of anger. (Muslim)

A strange heated friction exists between siblings, parents and even grandparents. We have become so aggressive verbally and non-verbally that it ruins the very roots of our relationships. This friction prevents the youth from coming home early or the parents to get up and have discussions with their kids. The interpersonal relationships are deeply affected shaking the grounds of trust, sincerity and love. We need to choose our battles wisely, we need to prioritize the unwelcomed advices we give. Before taunting a young boy to keep a beard to become a true Muslim, we need to find Khushoo in our own Salah and ensure its regularity.

Unfortunately, what has become of us? The intrinsic values that the Sunnah of our Prophet (sa) imbibed in us are gradually sinking somewhere. A significant issue that exists between families and within a family is the different opinions they have about Islamic aspects; the elder brother follows the Hanafi school of Fiqh while the younger sister follows the Sha’afi  school of Fiqh. Moreover, there are other minute differences such as the sister ridiculing the younger brother for listening to the lectures of Shaykh or an Ustadh regularly instead of respecting her. One method of dealing with such a scenario when one faces opposition through opinion is to motivate the relative or the family member to seek further knowledge and also humbly accept the imperfection that one’s knowledge might possess. Over and above, the Sahabah (ra) and the Salaf (ra) spent their entire lives as students of the Deen and never complained. Similarly, the Shaykhs we tend to criticize harshly have spent much of their life studying Deen and serving people. How can we question the sanctity of their knowledge in a second?

I genuinely feel for the current familial crisis that we are in. I see in my home and other families that we have reduced the home to a place of eating, sleeping and resting or worse, using it as a place of entertainment. We should strive forth and amend our modes, tone and even our non-verbal gestures. Each act of kindness and piety should begin from within the home.

When making changes to our behaviour towards our family, we should keep in mind that each step that we take for improvement is for Allah’s (swt) pleasure. Ibn-e-Taimiyyah rahimullah has magnificently summed up an advice regarding relationships:

“Anyone whose heart is attached to the creation, hoping for someone from the creation to help him or provide for him or guide him, then his heart submits to them and to the degree that his heart submits to them, he becomes their slave. This holds true, even if he is outwardly a ruler or a guardian over those whom he treats as masters. The wise one looks at realities and not appearances. So if a man’s heart is attached to his wife, even though it is permissible, his heart remains a prisoner to her, and she may rule over him as she pleases-though outwardly he is her master and her husband. In reality, he is her prisoner and her slave, who cannot escape or go free. Indeed for the heart to be taken as prisoner is a much greater matter than for the body to be taken as a slave or prisoner. Even a body that is slave can have in it a serene heart, peaceful and happy heart. As for the heart, that is a slave to other than Allah (swt), then that is true humiliation, imprisonment and slavery.”

Image Courtesy http://sbs.strathmore.edu