Have you ever felt that you didn’t handle a parenting challenge in the best manner? Or that though you are trying to raise your children correctly, you are frustrated with the results – or lack of them? Being a parent is one of the most difficult jobs in the world. Unfortunately, for this job, there are no degrees, and the baby doesn’t come with an instruction manual! We all try to do our best for our children, but often get caught in a cycle of reactive parenting. A situation comes up and we react, without realizing it’s repercussions in the long run! Taking a moment to step out to look at the long-term picture is a great way to get some perspective and to help head our family in the right direction.
Nagging, begging, bribing and threats. Most parents are guilty of using one of these reactive methods. They either nag their children, until they do what they’re asked. Some parents bribe their children: “If you go to school without crying, I’ll let you watch TV, when you get home.” Others resort to begging: “Will you do this for me? Please?” And, of course, the empty threats: “If you don’t clean up your room, I’ll throw all your toys away!” Saying such things and then not following through, teaches children not to take their parents seriously. With such methods, we almost force our children to tune us out, a phenomenon known as ‘parent deafness’!
Giving in. Most parents set up rules but cave in, when their children insist. If you say: “No snacking before lunch.” mean it! If you, however, let your child eat a piece of chocolate, you lose all credibility with your child.
Unclear expectations. Be clear about what you want from your children. Instead of asking them to ‘behave’, it might be a good idea to specify, what you mean: “Say Salam, when you go to Ayesha’s house” or “Share your toys, when Muhammad comes over.”
Being inconsistent consistently. Children don’t know what to expect of their moms and dads! At times, they can get away with being super-hyper, while at other times, they are scolded for making noise. Make clear rules and be consistent. Control the situation, rather than let it control you.
Lying. Parents don’t realize the small lies they tell their children. Hiding a toy and saying: “Oh, the birdy took it away,” is lying. Be the person you want your children to be. As Robert Fulghum says: “Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.”
Hitting. Some parents resort to hitting their children in a last desperate attempt to discipline them. What parents forget is that the only thing the child will remember from the incident is the hitting itself and not why he was spanked!
Being a proactive parent means that you think about what you want for your children in the long run and take every parenting moment that comes to help them towards that goal. Safaa Minhas, who recently conducted a workshop “Parenting: Proactive vs. Reactive” at “Hiba” office suggests the following ways, in which you can respond proactively to your child, Insha’Allah:
Working together. Work together with your child. Make rules and routines. Decide consequences. Let your child decide, how he should be punished, if he misbehaves. Become a team, and you will see a remarkable difference in the child’s cooperation.
Being prepared. The most important thing about proactive parenting is being prepared for every situation. If you know your child gets cranky when visiting friends or relatives, keep some of his favourite toys along. Also, talk to your child beforehand to help his transition to any change or event.
Positive statements. Keep the blame and accusations out of your tone. If your child knocks down and breaks a vase, instead of saying: “See, I told you not to run around,” use such positive statements as: “Why do you think the vase broke?” “Should we run around in the sitting room?” The aim is to make the child realize his mistake, so it doesn’t happen again, not to prove you were right.
Good compromises. Where giving in is a bad idea, sometimes parents do need to compromise. If your child makes a valid point, agree to change the rules.
Show empathy. Understand your children and relate to them. Not acknowledging their feelings leads to frustration and anger in children. For example, if your child exhibits rivalry towards his younger sibling, show empathy. “I know he takes your things, and I know it’s annoying. But it’s only because he loves you and wants to be like you.”
Use your imagination and humour. Parenthood should be a fun and joyful journey! Use your humour to help you deal with some situations, instead of flying off the handle! If your child fusses at bedtime and never gets to bed in time, use your imagination. Make her the mummy and have her put her fussy teddy to bed!
5-3-1 GO! Parents expect immediate obedience from their children and get angry, when the children don’t drop everything at once. Give children the time to adjust. Shouting: “We’re leaving in five minutes!” and then dragging a screaming child to the car is not a solution. Count your child down. Remind again in three minutes, then one minute and finally make it clear that it’s time to GO!
Ask helpful questions: Try to understand, why your child misbehaves, when he does. Uncover the problem and then make him understand that misbehaving is not the solution.
Saying sorry. Learn to say sorry. Everybody makes mistakes, and when you make a mistake, set an example by apologizing and owning up.
Punishment vs. discipline. “Discipline expresses a parent’s boundaries with the emotional volume turned down,” says Sharon Silver, founder of Proactive Parenting. Chalk out consequences, rather than punishments, to help your child realize his mistake.
Three golden tips for raising our little Mumins in today’s world!
Always think long-term! Instead of reacting impulsively, be proactive – use a situation in your favour by guiding your children to learn a lesson from it.
Don’t give freedoms that you know will eventually have to be taken away. With exposure to TV, the Internet and assimilation of western culture, we need to inculcate the Islamic spirit early on. If you say: “She’s too young right now and it’s okay for her to wear such clothes,” then be prepared for a rough transition.
Last but not least, make Dua for your children! Pray to Allah (swt) to make them leaders of the Muslim Ummah and to help us in our quest of being better parents!
The material presented in this article is based on a parenting workshop facilitated by Safaa Minhas at “Hiba” Magazine’s office.