There is an old saying which states that we teach the way we are taught and we parent the way we are raised. Behaviours are somehow contagious. We have absorbed and adopted the ways of our parents. In our so called Pakistani culture, we have been fully stuffed with our traditions and cultural norms. When it comes to raising children, we parent our boys and daughters according to the list we have got from our forefathers and society. You must be well acquainted with words such as: boys will be boys; and that, she is a girl, and it does not suit her. We are least interested in knowing and implementing the decorum of parenting and morals that is mentioned in Quran and Sunnah. In our never ending need to strive and compete for the materialistic things, we have surpassed many ethics and moral values that we need to adopt in order to weave those in our kids. The character we wish to see in them must shine brightly in our own personalities. James Baldwin stated “children have never been good at listening to their elders, but they never failed to imitate them.”
I found my toddler hitting and yelling on his younger sister. Raged with heightened emotions, I rushed to his side yelling not to hit. The reprimand was followed by a slap from my side. There was something in his eyes that really shook me down. A hidden complaint! As if he was asking, how come you get along fine with hitting and yelling at me when you disapprove of me doing the same? At that point on spot, I realized and committed to yell less often in order to totally eliminate it. What we need is mutual and shared journey- a consistent commitment!
Hence, prior to teaching our kids, we need to correct ourselves first. Learning and acquiring needs some efforts.
Elephants learn via muscle memory. How can we use this idea to unlearn the learned undesirable behavioural responses? Each one of us has his own style of doing any specific task. Let’s say cooking for instance- I would first arrange the things needed, wash and chop. Add to pot and then I do the dishes and other chores. In the meantime, when I am cleaning up and kneading, the meal will be ready. It is the same pattern that I follow every day, so it is now a solidified memory. Therefore, I need to switch the sequence in order to unlearn my muscle memory. It will cause some confusion in remembering and recalling what I have done and have not- but it will be fun! A general example can lead you to understand the technique, and hence, can be applied to various settings. The point is to break the same repetition that you are programmed to do. A conscious effort will help to build new muscle memory. This is how we need to unlearn the accustomed, biased, and hypocrite patterns of parenting.
We need to put a halt to our old set of beliefs and expectations that we hold towards our kids. Being a boy, does not grant your son superior rights to invalidate the rights and desire of other girls around. It is better to teach them young, when they are soft and can be molded in any way than to deal with a stubborn adult. Before our every step to alter their reactions and behaviour, we first need to stir our own cognition and put in action.
Here are the ten most important strengths to inculcate in your kids to remove the stigmatized belief systems.
1. Interim gaze vs. perpetual hell!
It’s a girl’s fault that she is displaying her beauty for us to stare; you just can’t say this and lay the burden of your sin on the one who is revealing herself. Remember the commandment to lower your gaze, and guard their chastity is prescribed for men first. Modesty is not just for girls to follow, and adhere to the rules of guarding gaze. Girls will be responsible for what they reveal and boys will be held accountable for what they see. Teach them from start to lower their gaze as it is a form of showing respect to other women, and to guard their own selves from displeasure of Allah (swt). Make your son responsible for his part of deed. In addition, when he catches his father staring at other women to satisfy his eyes, he will model the same.
2. Al Qawam
Men are responsible for their family. Abdullah Ibn Umar (ra) reported that the Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “Every one of you is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock. The leader of people is a guardian and is responsible for his subjects. A man is the guardian of his family, and he is responsible for them. A woman is the guardian of her husband’s home and his children, and she is responsible for them. The servant of a man is a guardian of the property of his master, and he is responsible for it. Surely, every one of you is a shepherd and responsible for his flock.” Man must be able to take responsibility and have a firm personality without being indecisive in nature. Despite of being a helicopter and over possessive parent, be assistive and give them opportunity to marvel their strength of taking responsibility and decisions. Being Qawam means you are in controlling position, don’t stampede on others. Be a just leader in front of your son as he will follow the same footsteps.
3. Gender equality
Equality is the root of Islam. Being a male does not make you superlative and something-out-of –the-world. Sisters are not lower in status; hence, being a son doesn’t mean you can have any supreme right. However, man has been given one degree higher status, but that is not to boss around and to be unfair.
“Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth…” (an-Nisa 4:34)
Kindly, don’t spoil their minds by giving them extra special treatment by making your daughters serve them; and by providing them with specific chicken pieces and meat loaf, while starving your daughters with vegetables. And again be a role model yourself.
4. Honour and Gheerah for your woman
As it goes- modesty dies in women, when jealousy dies in men. Men of today take pride in displaying their wives’ beauty in front of their friends and distant family members. By taking her to public gatherings and corporate dinners, men have reduced their worth to mere objects. Instill Gheerah in your sons at a younger age. Their mothers, sisters, wives are their pride- a pride to be protected.
5. Be Humble
Sana: “Nadia why don’t you ask Ahmed to be polite with others. He is so boastful and ill tempered.”
Nadia: “He is a boy and boys are like this. Anger suits them, it’s in their blood. Would you like a lion without its roar?”
With this mindset, we are raising destructive souls who won’t be any good to the society.Being a boy does not give our sons license to be rigid, aggressive and rude. Let politeness and kindness be their trait. We shun our sons to play with dolls, thinking it might make them sissy and girlish; although, it would bring out his love and care for others. And perhaps, it might ring the sensitivity hidden in them. Thus, enabling them to maintain a healthy relationship with their wives and children. Being compassionate makes one priceless.
6. Combat peer pressure
What is Halal will always be Halal, even if no one is doing it; and what is Haram will always be Haram, when all are doing it. Instill the love of Allah (swt) and Sunnah so much in your children’s hearts that when they outgrow their childhood, they have firm belief in what is right and wrong. Staying out late at nights, honking bikes, and whistle to females; wearing spaghetti stripes, dating boys and having *serious relationships* will still be unacceptable even if your friends are doing it. Teach them that the friends you choose have a great impact on your personality, hence, choose wisely. If your children find you being a people’s pleasure, and one who surrenders lawful and right things just to gain social recognition and praise, then they will not be able to stand, and resist the peer and societal pressure on him- as they always look up to us.
7. It’s okay to be emotional
Crying is not a sign of weakness, nor is it a woman’s trait. Man has equal right to express and ventilate. It will not make him less of a man. We shun them from crying since infancy saying, “Are you a girl?” Every human being has a need to let go off the disturbing sensations happening inside.
8. Your wife is not your maid
Your wives are your better halves. She is not a maid to serve you and to be yelled at, nor is she a production machine. Apart from child bearing and breast feeding, man can train himself how to deal with colicky babies and teething phases. A girl is not innately trained to be a mother, she learns through experiences; however, a man on the contrary has to learn by practicing more and eventually he will. He is equally responsible for his kid’s well-being. Prophet Muhammad (sa) used to help in household, and would mend his clothes on his own. Hence, attain great honour by following this Sunnah.
Girls-You are an Amanah!
9. You are my gem- the most beautiful creation of Allah (swt)
Encourage your girls on their appearance and beauty so that they do not crave for the attention of any local guy on street, in neighbourhood or family. Nourish her heart and soul with praise so that she can value herself; and keep her beauty a mystery for all and reveal only to her husband-to-be.
10. Your status is much higher
Role of women in Islam is huge. She is responsible for her children’s nourishment with religion. Polluting their minds and making their hearts captives of the fairy tales and romantic scenes and weddings leaves our children bewildered in this world of deception. The real purpose of our existence is to earn Jannah by abiding to the rules set by Allah (swt). Being a girl does not make you weak. Your advice is valued. Prophet (as) emphasized on taking advice from each other. Come out of the kitchen and parties, and be a practicing Muslim first. It’s a very delicate matter- a mother can be a door to either hell or heaven for her child. Choose wisely.
11. Shop to treat idleness
Recurrent advertisements and jokes on women and their habit of shopping. Shopping mania is a sin in disguise. It eradicates depression. No woman is as fragile and irrational as shown. There are numerous examples in Islamic history where Muslim women participated in battles to look after the wounded companions (ra) and other Muslim soldiers. Do not run to branded shops always, and die after sale opportunities as if shopping is the only purpose to live.
12. Be a door mat, suffer in silence
We often laud women with phrases like home is made when a woman sacrifices her desires for the sake of children and family. Islam does not ask for such an endurance which destroys your emotional and psychological well-being. Neither does it hinder women empowerment. Don’t be submissive, be assertive, Hazrat Khadijah (ra) was a self-supportive widow, running her own merchant. Maintaining Islamic boundaries is crucial though. Teach your daughter not to dwell in hopelessness and depressive modes; rather stand up and shine for the blessings she has got, and make use of the space which Islam has allowed her.
13. Misogynistic myth
Women are created to be a means of extending the family by rearing offspring. They are obliged to look after infants, and fulfill their responsibility regarding home and other chores.Children look up to us. What we display in our actions, they will imprint that in their minds, and later use it when dealing with their own spouses. If you boss around your wife, or if you keep your husband under your thumb, then don’t be surprised to see yourself in them in future.