Synchronize Yourself – I See My Parents To Be A Parent!


Today, Muslim couples begin their journey together with the basic agreement that they want to raise children who are respectful and obedient servants of Allah (swt). Perhaps, this is why one of the thoughts that lingered on my mind after my Nikah was that of raising my ‘future’ children. With thousands of parenting books, guides, and other resources, I believed that learning how to raise children would be relatively easy if I followed the guidelines, but my opinions changed when my mother told me:

“My daughter, parenting is a skill that no one can teach you! It is something that you must learn.”

Many days after I had received my mother’s advice, I was left feeling confused and nervous. I felt unprepared because I did not know how I would learn to be a parent before I actually became one. I realized later that my mother was referring to the fact that no matter how many guide books I read and experts I talk to, bringing up children would be a unique experience for me; one that is different for every single person who becomes a parent. At this point, I pledged to myself that I would make Dua for children who would become the coolness of my eyes. I prayed that through the values, my husband and I would teach them to please Allah (swt).

Till today, one of the verses from the Quran that is very close to my heart is, “O my Lord! Grant me from You, a good offspring. You are indeed the All-Hearer of invocation.” (Al-Imran 3:38). It is a beautiful reminder that no matter where you look for techniques, praying to Allah (swt) will always be sufficient.

It was because of my Dua that I was bestowed with countless learning opportunities that made me realize that in order to learn parenting, I didn’t have to look that far, I simply had to observe my parents. As odd as it sounds, I received lessons from my parents as they interacted with, and took care of my grandparents.

It is a well-known fact that age changes the habits, physical and mental makeup of most people. Old age changes one into a child all over again; weak, feeble, and dependent on others for basic needs. Allah (swt) says in the Quran: “And he whom We grant long life, We reverse him in creation (weakness after strength). Will they not then understand?” (Yasin 36:68)

Thus, when they are ‘reversed in nature’, they require the same care, attention and love that we once did when we were children. And my mother and father both through their actions made me understand three important lessons that are integral to parenting.

  1. Give them attention

Every evening, after returning from work, my father goes into my grandmother’s room, greets her and asks her about her day. Although a simple gesture, it is probably one part of the day my grandmother looks forward to the most. It is truly heartwarming to see her delicate face light up, and this demonstrates a very important lesson.

The more attention one gives to children, and in this case, old parents, the more they want to listen to you, because they feel close to you. Many of us listen to young ones half heartedly, and when it is our turn to tell them something, they turn away. The attention that parents give to their children aids in developing a connection that is integral to parenting.

  1. Love them and show affection

Several times, I had observed my mother showing physical affection for her mother. When we visit my grandmother, not only does my mother spend time with her, but also hold her close, and remind her what her mother means to her. This uplifts the mood of my grandmother, and adds to her overall well-being. I have noticed that she becomes more positive about her surroundings when she is reminded that she is amongst those who love her and want to see her happy.

Like our aging parents, children also want to be loved; they want to feel special to their parents. They yearn for our closeness, just like a small child who does not want to leave his/her mother. Physical actions of love – such as hugging and kissing children – along with the expression of emotions is an important element of parenting as it serves as a method to make the child understand their place in the family.

It is narrated by Abu Hurairah (rta) that the Prophet (sa) kissed Al-Hasan bin Ali (rta) while Al-Aqra bin Habis At-Tamim was sitting beside him. Al-Aqra said: “I have ten children and I have never kissed anyone of them,” Allah’s Messenger (sa) cast a look at him and said: “Whoever is not merciful to others will not be treated mercifully.” (Bukhari)

  1. Respect them

Often, mistakenly we link the word respect to elders. And, it is true that elders need to be respected. No matter how old and weak my grandmothers are, my parents respect their wishes and opinions. Underestimating parents, taking them for granted because of their old age, and thinking that they know very little compared to us, are all forms of disrespect and should be carefully avoided.

But, this does not mean that children do not have a right to be respected. Rather, they have to be regarded as individuals too, and their wishes, of course within limits, must be noted. There are times when parents publicly humiliate and shame their children; make fun of their children with others; and underestimate the skills and talents that their child may have. This not only makes children distance themselves from their parents, but also, causes them to disrespect their own parents. Respecting children helps them learn how to respect their parents, and it also enhances their self-respect when they know that they are receiving respect from others around them.

Creating Win-win Agreements with our Children

27 win win agreements

There is a beautiful reality that we never reflect upon. It’s a message from the Creator (swt) for His creation: “Whoever brings a good deed shall have ten times the like thereof to his credit, and whoever brings an evil deed shall have only the recompense of the like thereof and they will not be wronged.” (Al-Anam 6:160)

Parents must understand what win-win is in Islam

What needs to be clearly believed by us and shared with our children is:

  1. Each and every one of us has a purpose in this world. Allah’s (swt) plan has no extras in it. We all fall into a jigsaw puzzle, the winners and the losers. Don’t forget that the Prophet (sa) also experienced the Battle of Badr and Battle of Uhud. The fate of both was contrasting, as were the lessons learnt.
  2. Allah (swt) offers abundance to His creations in terms of opportunities, resources, and choices. It is up to us to grab them and decide our future course of action.
  3. These opportunities come along throughout our lives. We need to be patient, alert, and positive. This is the toughest challenge most of us fail. The disappointed and hopeless one disgraces himself by his defeatist attitude and misses out on other doors opening for him.
  4. In Allah’s (swt) world, everyone can be a winner. But you need to see yourself from the eyes of the Akhirah. The parameters and standards of the world are changing, deceptive, and not necessarily correct.
  5. Allah (swt), unlike His creations, judges people by their genuine struggles and rewards accordingly the patient ones. People, on the other hand, reward on basis of performance and not the strife one has been through.
  6. Once a winner will not always be a winner, as it is Allah’s (swt) Sunnah that whatever goes up must come down. It is the nature of Dunya. Similarly, once a loser may not always be a loser provided he or she makes principled choices in life and perseveres hopefully.

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Weekends with Daddy

19 did you know

  1. Sports

This varies from simple skipping to more emotional cricket matches. We enjoy football, racing, and anything that gets the blood rushing and giggles going. Just for dads to be there rolling in the grass or competing like kids builds treasured memories for children. My 14-year-old son very proudly shared with his teacher at school: “My dad and I try to outplay each other on Sundays. I let him win. You should see his face.”

  1. Brain teasers

Board games, verbal math word problems, spellathons, Dua contests, Abacus, riddles, general knowledge trivia, science or geography quizzes, and so on. These are great when you are either on the road or cooped up at home with little to do. This is a parent’s smart way of teaching stuff without teaching it. And kids love to be able to prove their mastery over their favourite areas of knowledge and expertise. It is a big deal for them to teach their mom and dad. Our six-year-old has been giving me and my husband Qaidah lessons and enjoys it tremendously.

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At What Age do I Teach my Child?

teaching my child

Transcribed for hiba by Alia Adil

An awesome question came from a mother during the Gulf tour who asked: “My son is two-and-a-half years old. When do I begin to teach him Arabic grammar, Quran, Tajweed, and memorization because I want him to be raised with the Quran?”

What a beautiful concern you have with your child that you want him to learn the Quran, but he is three years old! What were you doing when you were three years old? You don’t remember! Kids are on the Fitrah – they are beautiful. Let them be. Teach them. Yes, teach them lovingly. Some kids have more aptitude and want to learn quickly, so you give them that opportunity. Some kids want play more – let them play more and take their time.

Parents have to be flexible with their children and not impose the same standards (on all of them). They should not compare one child to the other, especially in terms of their Quran. I have six kids; not all of them memorize Quran the same way. Not all of them study the Quran the same way. I have one child who memorizes something in five minutes – she’s so fast, amazing! I have another child for whom the same memorization could take a month. And I don’t compare: “Why don’t you do it like your sister, huh?” I don’t do that. This is Zulm, and it creates hatred towards Deen. “Because of this Book, my father likes my other sister more than me.” That’s wrong – stop it! Stop being so stressed over your kids. Allah (swt) doesn’t want your child to be a Hafiz; Allah (swt) doesn’t want your child to be an Alim (scholar). Allah (swt) wants your child to be a good Muslim. Allah (swt) wants your child to love his or her Deen. That’s what He (swt) wants.

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Top Three Reasons Why Children Fail


What are kids scared of in school? They are afraid to let down the anxious adults around them namely their teachers and parents. This nerve-wrecking fear hovers over their head like a dark cloud, chasing them to failure. What else is scaring the living daylights out of them? It’s the humiliation these children feel when they cannot learn well enough and are targeted by their fellow classmates, who mock them and turn them into a laughing stock. It’s the hurtful comparisons their own parents make to their other siblings or other friends cruising ahead in school.

The greatest gift a parent or teacher can give to a child is their confidence and faith in his ability to reach his potential. 

Fear is the greatest hurdle in the way of learning. A genius cannot live under the constant scare of defeat and the pressure of not disappointing others. For this very reason, inventors like Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein failed so miserably in formal schooling. Yet the minute they were pulled out of the pressure and allowed to create something of value, they rose from mediocrity to excellence.

Kids are also afraid to make mistakes because the grown-ups in their lives generally have little or zero tolerance for it. Whether it is a simple case of spilling milk on the table, a wrong answer to a math problem, or a misspelt word, children are taken to task for any error they make. It makes me wonder about the number of times Anas (rtam) must have blundered while serving our Prophet Muhammad (sa) as a child, and yet, in his own words as evidence, Anas (rtam) states: “Not once in nine years of my service was I ever rebuked by the Messenger (sa).” Muhammad (sa) understood and respected the tender nature of children, and he allowed them room to learn and make mistakes fearlessly.


John Holt states: “Except for a handful, who may or may not be good students, they fail to develop more than a tiny part of the tremendous capacity for learning, understanding and creating with which they were born and of which they made full use during the first two or three years of their lives. Why do they fail?”

A child does not need to be a jack of all trades. He will fare better if he becomes the master of one. 

They fail because the race to finish off school curriculum is on every teacher and parent’s mind in general. The stuff kids are expected to do in classrooms is dull and boring. It does not challenge their intelligence. So they desperately try to sail along, sometimes swimming and other times drowning.


What confuses children? It’s the contradiction between what they learn in their classroom and what the real world presents to them. It makes little or no sense at all. To dodge this, kids adapt many strategies to survive school too. At times, they will mumble an answer. At other times, they will stay silent. Some will give the most outrageously incorrect answer mainly so that they are left alone. Others will try to read the teacher’s face for clues and may get lucky.

The greatest gift a parent or teacher can give to a child is their confidence and faith in his ability to reach his potential. Allah’s (swt) creation is never faulty. Every child comes with his set of skills. Unfortunately, our schools and educational system has very little room to recognize and let that talent grow. A child does not need to be a jack of all trades. He will fare better if he becomes the master of one. This means the report card may show low grades in some places and a clear winner in the area of the kid’s interest and passion. Let that be!

Adapted from “How Children Fail” by John Holt

Handling my Teen’s Relationship with Allah (swt)

9 teens relationship with AllahI was sipping my cup of morning coffee when a glance at my watch told me it was already half past nine. I looked around but there was no sign of my ex-student Seema. She had called me last night, and had made a hurried request to meet her in a day or two. She had sounded very tense, and out of great concern for her, I had agreed to meet her the very next day. Our meeting was fixed for nine, and here it was a half hour past it and she was still not here. That was highly unusual since I had always known her to be a very punctual person.

A few more minutes passed. I looked around, and saw a young boy of about sixteen or seventeen years of age, sitting with a girl a few years younger than him. Not wanting to jump to any conclusions, I simply observed them talk and eat their breakfast, until the boy took out a rose from his pocket and presented it to the girl. I shook my head in disappointment and prayed for them to be shown the right path towards Jannah.

It was likely to occur to a person observing them that their parents had not taught them their religion or the teenagers belonged to a family with liberal beliefs, who did not consider pre-marital relationships to be unacceptable. But for me this perception was no more valid because I myself had faced this situation a few years ago when my own daughter had entered her teen years. It was one of the most devastating periods of my life because my husband and I were firm believers, and had always been conscious about not committing any sin. Yet our daughter was caught having a relationship with her class fellow; this was totally unacceptable and shameful for us.

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Words of the Wise – Luqman’s Advice to His Son

luqman's advice to his sonLuqman, the wise, is known in history for his understanding, knowledge, and eloquence. As the Quran states: “And indeed We bestowed upon Luqman Al-Hikmah (wisdom and religious understanding, etc.)…” (Luqman 31:12) He was a righteous servant of Allah (swt). His full name was Luqman bin Anqa bin Sadun, and he was a dark-skinned slave from Ethiopia. He was a carpenter by profession.

The name of Luqman’s son was Tharan. To Luqman, he was also the closest and most beloved of all people, who deserved to be given the best knowledge. Even today, Luqman’s wise counsel for Tharan is quoted and reflected upon for guidance. What was so dazzling about Luqman’s advice for his son? And how many of us impart the same to our offspring today?

“…Luqman said to his son, when he was advising him: ‘O my son! Join not in worship others with Allah. Verily, joining others in worship with Allah is a great Zulm (wrong) indeed.’” (Luqman 31:13)

This wise father attached his son to the mighty source of man’s ultimate success – His Lord. Luqman knew that if Tharan’s relationship with his Creator was firmly positioned, he would have few worries left. He also clearly stated the supreme oppression that man can commit, which is to associate partners with Allah (swt), and grant honour and obedience which is due to Him (swt) to others who are mere creations.

“And We have enjoined on man (to be dutiful and good) to his parents. His mother bore him in weakness and hardship upon weakness and hardship, and his weaning is in two years – give thanks to Me and to your parents. Unto Me is the final destination.” (Luqman 31:14)

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A Letter from Dr. Farhat Hashmi to Mothers


It was after listening to a lecture from the “Dawa-e-Shafi” series by Ustazah Dr. Farhat Hashmi that I decided to write to her. The lecture was related to homosexuality. My motive for writing was the sake of a grieved mother, a student of mine, who had recently discovered that her 22-year-old son is gay. Ever since her discovery, she had been trying to figure out a way to guide her son away from this act of immorality out of concern for his salvation.

With Ustazah’s permission, I would like to share what she wrote in response to my letter:

Wa Alaikum Assalaam Wa Rahmatullah,

It is very painful indeed to see children caught up in such acts, especially for mothers who at times are so helpless that they go into a state of despair and depression. Very often mothers approach me with various disturbing issues concerning their children. This has continuously played on my mind as to how these children can be helped and their mothers consoled.

It made me reflect as to why children suddenly take a turn towards the wrong; maybe they are seeking attention or are involved in the wrong company; maybe they are watching movies or wrongfully using the internet; maybe some major change in their lives has made them emotionally and spiritually weak; or maybe they were hurt by someone and the negative feelings were building up inside of them. There could be a number of reasons but what is the solution?

A mother generally faces many challenges and obstacles, when dealing with her children. This in and of itself is a learning experience and an adjusting process for both the mother and her child. No great change happens overnight. It is a slow and painful process. Being a mother of four as well as a ‘mother’ to so many students and their children has, Alhumdulillah, enabled me to learn a lot. I wish to share with you what I have observed, learned, and understood.

When faced with such an untoward or unfavourable situation, what should we do? How should we react? Below are some of my very humble suggestions:

  1. Turn to Allah (swt). Offer extra prayers especially at the time of Tahajjud, seeking Allah’s (swt) help and guidance. Allah (swt) states in the Quran: “And seek help in patience and As-Salat (the prayer)…” (Al-Baqarah 2:45)
  2.  Make Dua. Especially when you unexpectedly wake up at night, make Dua, because that is the time of acceptance. Recite: “La ilaha illallahu wahdahu la sharika lahu, lahul mulku wa lahul hamdu wa huwa ala kulli shai’in qadeer. Alhumdulillahi wa subhan Allahi wa la ilaha illa Allahu wallahu akbar wa la hawla wa la quwwata illa billahil aliyil adheem.” And make your Dua.(Bukhari)
  3. Continuously seek forgiveness.This is a solution to the problems of this world.It is related that a man came to al-Hasan al-Basri and complained to him of poverty. He said to him: “Ask forgiveness of Allah (swt).” Another man came to him, complaining that he did not have any children. So he said to him: “Ask forgiveness of Allah (swt).” A third man came to him, complaining of the barrenness of his garden. So he said to him: “Ask forgiveness of Allah.”
  4. Give in charity.Allah (swt) will give to you. The Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “Allah (swt) said: ‘Spend, son of Adam, and I shall spend on you.’” (Bukhari and Muslim) Sadaqah gives protection against all kinds of evil. Sadaqah wards off affliction in this world and punishment on the Judgment Day.
  5. Turn your attention to the situation at hand and rationalize. Reflect upon your routine and your child’s routine. Are you spending enough time with your child and is it quality time? If not, then set aside a portion of your day for your child – just you and your child. Sit with him. Talk to him. Even if your child is busy with something else, be present for them. Be around. Be available. So that when they need you, you are there.
  6. Bond with them.Take them where they would like to go. Do things they like to do, while keeping within the limits of the religion.
  7. Travel together. If possible, travel to another city or country for a short duration (e.g., a month or two) just so that you are alone with your child – only you and your child. No siblings, no one else. This will give you a chance to bond with and understand your child.
  8. Listen.Listen. Listen some more to them. Make them feel important and that you care for them. Be a friend.
  9. Trust them and keep them in your trust. Do not discuss your child’s problems or behavior with others, especially in front of your child. This can have a negative impact on the child and, in some cases, may also lead to severe retaliation.
  10. Be positive.Avoid a negative reaction and always speak positively. Acknowledge the good that they are engaged in and encourage them.
  11. Try to offer prayers in different Masajid. No matter where you are and what you are doing, instill in them the importance of prayer. Visiting different Masajid, even if it happens to be in a mall, will help to keep them focused.
  12. If needed, change your child’s circle of friends, because a person is known by who he befriends.The Prophet (sa) said: “A man follows the religion of his friend; so each one should consider whom he makes his friend.” (Abu Dawud)
  13. Introduce them to good company. Introduce them to youth engaged in welfare work. Also, look out for gatherings where they can learn from the company of knowledgeable and experienced people.
  14. Again I will say: Duas. Continue making Dua to Allah (swt) for help and guidance. Allah (swt) states in the Quran: “And when My slaves ask you (O Muhammad (sa)) concerning Me, then (answer them), I am indeed near (to them by My Knowledge). I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls on Me (without any mediator or intercessor). So let them obey Me and believe in Me, so that they may be led aright.” (Al-Baqarah 2:186)

Insha’Allah, with the help of Allah (swt), you will see your child confiding in you slowly and gradually. You will see them turning towards the right path, even if very slowly. In the process, do not make them conscious about this change but at the right moments show your appreciation for their efforts.

I do hope that the above will be a source of support and guidance. May Allah (swt) make all children a coolness of their parents’ eyes. Ameen.


Most common errors in bringing up Muslim children

generic-familyParents go through many hardships raising their children. Needless to say, they try to do their best to inculcate good values in them. However, in spite of all the effort, it is witnessed that conflicts accompanied by harsh behaviour become part of the day, especially after certain age. Parents love for their children is so over-powering that at times, the smartest of parents make the silliest mistakes. These mistakes are very common and can easily be corrected, Insha’Allah.

Right step at the right time

Introducing important things at the right age is extremely important. Times have changed drastically. Children grow up very fast. Islamic practices that are of paramount importance, such as offering Salah, wearing a scarf, covering of private parts, reading and understanding Quran and doing good deeds should be exercised as an integral part of growing up. Conflicts arise when a child is alien to Islamic practices and is told to make a 180 degree shift upon reaching puberty. It is a gradual process. Training children begins at the age of seven. It becomes gradually more intense between the ages of eight to eleven. The child must be a practicing Muslim at the age of eleven.

Actions speak louder than words

Parents teach good things to their children, such as controlling anger and respecting everyone, but fail miserably doing so themselves. Children will not do what they are told; they will always do, what they have witnessed. Parents need to become good Muslims first. Good practices by elders always bring good results in youngsters. Good can never come out of bad.

Wise selection to avoid rejection

Selecting the right resources for children is critical. Many kids find the conventional “Maulvis” and “Bajis” unimpressive. Once repelled, are very difficult to put back on the track. Hence, it is very important for a child to get impressed first in order to respect, understand and follow a teacher. Selecting a teacher, who is educated and also empowered with knowledge of Quran and Sunnah is a tricky part for parents. It is very easy these days to acquire lectures in English language on CDs or by downloading MP3s from the internet. There are several good scholars all around the world. Alhamdulillah. Any scholar, who speaks in the light of Quran and Sunnah only, is good.

Turning over a new leaf is not a cup of tea

At certain point in life, some parents are blessed with Hidayah from Allah (swt) and become religious. A person newly reverted to Allah (swt) is generally over charged with Iman. If reverts are parents, they would expect the children to become religious, too. There is nothing wrong in that, but it should be realized that it cannot happen overnight. This would be a gradual process, which would require a lot of patience. Parents should act intelligently, instead of emotionally.

By giving a good Tarbiyah, we equip our children to handle the burdens of life, and they have the tools they need to have for a successful afterlife. Parents must make prayers to Allah (swt) for children. They must realize that our work is making continuous efforts without losing hope, and Hidayah and results can only come from the Creator – Allah (swt).

How to Raise our Children

serviceLife is a precious gift from Allah (swt) to all human beings. It is upon us as to how we spend this gift, whether we earn the blessings of Heaven or the torment of Hell fire. The truth is that we all should spend our life according to the Quran and Sunnah in order to make our life, our homes and our society- peaceful.

As parents, we have a huge responsibility on our shoulders to raise our children and so we put in endless efforts to bring them up in an Islamic manner. But the question is that even after all the efforts put in by the parents, why don’t our children learn good Islamic manners?  After a session of contemplation and thorough survey, I ended up with the answer that since we as elders are not implementing those things that we teach our children in our lives, then how can we expect them to act upon them. And if we just say something that does not reflect through our deeds and actions, then how will our kids learn the application of those teachings in their life? It’s basically “Walk the Talk Rule” that should be followed! Hence, before anything else, we have to take care of this issue.

Children are great imitators. Therefore we should give them something great to imitate. And the most important point to remember in raising kids is that we should not scold them if they do any mistake. Instead we should stay calm and try to teach them with great love. This will build our respect in their mind. And if they start respecting us, they will respect other people also.

A mother is better than a thousand teachers. It is said that home is the first school of a child. So we should make our home the house of Allah (swt) by instilling Islamic teachings in it and inculcating them in every single aspect of our life.

When a kid is in early childhood, he or she is very sensitive and is building a whole personality which thoroughly depends upon what environment he or she gets at home and what lessons are being taught. So we should give them self confidence by treating them nicely in front of others. We should trust them so that they never lie to us and make ourselves their best friends so they love us. And whenever we do something for them, our intention should be that we are doing for the sake of Allah (swt) and not to receive any kind of future reward from our kids. As a result, you will see how Allah (swt) helps you and makes life easier for you.

There is no better companion for a kid than a mother- the most pure and sincere relationship in the world. And there is no better guide and mentor for a child than his father, but everything should be done in a limit and only for Allah (swt).

We must appreciate kids when they achieve something. This will make them happy and give a robust to their self-esteem and help them put trust in their own abilities for further achievements.

Little angels are interested in stories so we should tell them the stories of our prophets, his companions (Sahaba) and the Islamic history so that the love for Islam nurtures in them.

These are the little things I feel that if we implement and apply them, our lives will be very peaceful and our kids will Insha’Allah become good human beings and true Muslims.

Language That Can Either Build or Break Your Child

language for kids

Imagine that your teenaged son made it to the national cricket team. He was on cloud nine, of course. You felt proud of him and couldn’t stop singing praises. As he headed for his first practice session beaming with eagerness, everything changed unexpectedly. After the match, the coach called him aside to inform him that he was rejected due to inadequate performance.

Your son comes home and tells you the ill-fated incident. As a parent, you try to cope with the bad news. The following are seven typical responses that parents, teachers or adults usually adopt when addressing issues of children:

  1. Denial of feelings

“Oh, come on. You are fretting about nothing. It’s not the end of the world, just because you didn’t make it to the team. Forget about it. It’s not worth your time.”

  1. The philosophical response

“You see dear, that’s what life is all about. It’s never fair. But you have to face it bravely.”

  1. Advice

“You can’t let this failure hold you back! You must try for another team.”

  1. Questions

“Oh, honey, why do you think they dropped you? How did the other players perform? What will you do now?”

  1. Defense of the other person

“Well, the coach does have a tough job. He can only hire the best to create a winning team after all. Try to understand his point of view.”

  1. Pity

“Oh, my baby, after all the hard work you put yourself through, you just weren’t good enough. Imagine! When this news spreads, you will feel so embarrassed in front of your friends.”

  1. Amateur psychoanalysis

“Did you analyze the real reason for this failure? Maybe your heart was just not in it. I believe that on a subconscious level, you never wanted to play cricket, so you messed up deliberately.”

For a minute, try imagining that you were in your son’s shoes and it was your parent telling you any of the above. How would you have felt at that moment? Would any of the above responses console you? Most probably not.

As parents, we might wonder what is wrong with some of the above reactions. Undoubtedly, we mean well for our kids. However, often unknowingly and sometimes purposely, we start building walls around us, rather than bridging the gaps. And it is simply due to the language we speak.

In response to your above reactions, this is how your son might feel about you:

  1. When you deny his feelings, he would think: “Don’t tell me how to feel.”
  2. When you respond philosophically, he would think: “Don’t tell me what to do.”
  3. When you offer advice, he would think: “You will never understand.”
  4. When you begin to interrogate him, he would think: “You know what you can do with your questions!”
  5. When you pick sides, he would think: “You’re taking everybody’s side but mine.”
  6. When you sympathize with him, he would think: “I’m a loser.”
  7. When you take up the role of an amateur psychoanalyst, he would think: “That’s the last time I‘ll ever tell you anything.”

If not all this, then what? What else could you tell your son as a parent? Talk to him in French? No, it’s much simpler: just acknowledge your son’s distress. You could say: “This must have come as a shock and a big disappointment for you.” And let him respond further. If he does, fine. If he doesn’t, don’t pester. If some of us wish to talk about the pain, expecting the other person to listen and understand, then others might prefer to grieve in silence and solitude. A warm hug or holding the hand gently might work better than a speech or worse, a tirade.

Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish introduce the above strategy in their book “How to Talk so Kids Can Listen”. They explain what makes perfect sense: “There is a direct connection between how kids feel and how they behave. When kids feel right, they’ll behave right. How do we help them to feel right? By accepting their feelings!”

However, since we are products of the past, as parents, we keep repeating the same script that was read to us. The adults in our life were not sensitive enough about the words they chose for us, thus, naturally we are clueless about their impact on our children.

Consider the following situations, and common responses of parents versus creative ones. Notice, how each one of them produces unique feelings in kids.

No Common response Kid’s feelings Creative response
1. Child: “This book is stupid!”

Parent: “No it isn’t. It’s a classic and very interesting.”

Child: “I hate reading.”

Parent: “No you don’t. You’re a good reader.”

Child: “It has too many words!”

Parent: “Now you’re being silly. The words are all easy.”

Child: “It’s too hard.”

Parent: “You’re not even trying. You’re just being lazy.”

When a child’s feelings are denied, he can easily become discouraged. Child: “This book is stupid!”

Parent: “There’s something about it you don’t like.”

Child: “It’s boring. Who cares about Tom Sawyer?”

Parent: “Oh, the character doesn’t interest you.”

Child: “No, I liked the last story we read: the one about the horse and dog.”

Parent: “Sounds as if you prefer books about animals.”

Child: “Yeah… I guess. After I finish this, I’m going to get    another book about dogs.”

Parent: “Okay, I’ll help you look for one on our next trip to the library.”

2. Child: “I lost my watch.”

Parent: “Again! Where was it?”

Child: “Right here in my pocket!”

Parent: “No wonder. I told you last time that your watch needs to be on your wrist not in your pocket.”

The child stares silently.

Parent: “You need to be more responsible about your belongings.”

Child: “I try to.”

Parent: “Well, try harder. Money doesn’t grow on trees that we can buy you a new watch every other day. You better be careful in future, young man.”

Child thinking to himself: “I am dumb and cannot be trusted.”

When a child is bombarded with criticism and advice, he finds it difficult to think about his problem or take responsibility for it. Child: “I lost my watch.”

Parent: “Oh, no!”

Child: “I had it right here in my pocket!”

Parent: “Mmm…”

Child: “It must have fallen out in the bus maybe.”

Parent: “You think so?”

The child stares silently.

The parent consoles him by patting at the back. “So, what are you going to do?”

Child: “I’ll call the bus driver to check.”

Parent: “Seems like a good idea. What about next time?”

Child: “I’m not taking it off.”

Parent: “That will be very responsible of you.”

3. Parent: “Hurry up! Get changed!”

Child: “I am.”

Parent: “No, you’re not. You’re just sitting there. Let’s go! We are visiting Aunt Sakina today.”

Child: “I don’t feel good.”

Parent: “That’s what you always say, when we visit her. She is our relative.”

Child: “It’s too boring at her house.”

Parent: “It’s not boring for others. Now, get going or we’ll be late.”

Child: “I’m feeling sick.”

Parent: “Oh! Quit making excuses. How do you expect to learn social skills, if you remain cooped up in your room all day?”

It’s frustrating when a child refuses to respond to reasoning. Is there a better way to help children overcome their resistance to a task?


Parent: “We’re leaving in 15 minutes.”

Child: “I know but I just don’t feel good.”

Parent: “I’ll bet that you wish we were going anywhere but to Aunt Sakina’s.”

Child: “It was so boring last time at her house.”

Parent: “I remember there wasn’t anyone your age.”

Child: “I’ll be dozing off right in the middle of the party.”

Parent: “Wouldn’t it be great that Aunt Sakina actually threw a slumber party and you could just crawl into one of the beds there and drift off to sleep!”

Child: “Right mom! Well, I’d better change.”

4. “That’s mine!” 1st child. “No mine!” 2nd child. Parent: “Wait a minute, you two, that’s not nice! Samiya, give the pencil back to Ali this moment. And wait for your turn.”


It’s hard for children to change their behaviour, when their feelings are completely ignored. “That’s mine!” 1st child. “No mine!” 2nd child.

Parent: “Samiya, I can see how much you want to use the pencil. Right now it’s Ali’s turn to write. I’ll give it to you after five minutes. And your time starts now.”

If we want to free our children’s minds for thinking and learning, then we have to deal respectfully with their emotions. Most importantly, if we want our kids to be caring individuals, we have to deal with them in more caring ways. The point is you don’t teach swimming to a drowning person. With the right intentions, we generally opt for the wrong language and bad timing. As parents, we have to learn to handle them with dignity and acknowledge their feelings. Sermons and lectures make children more irresponsible.

Look how the Prophet (sa) dealt with people. He did so in few, crisp and clear words. Whether it was a teenager seeking permission to commit Zina or an infant urinating on the Prophet’s (sa) lap, or the rowdy youngsters of Taif pelting stones at him, the Prophet (sa) never verbally abused children. As parents, teachers and adults, we are answerable for using foul or inappropriate language, or belittling and demeaning the emotions of children.

Connecting with Children – Handy Tips for Dads

In today’s globalized society, we often see that upon entering teenaged years, kids become strangers to their parents, especially the father. This was not the case in the past, as demonstrated by the relationship between Prophet Yusuf (as) and his father. We see that even as a youth he confided his secrets to him and came to him for advice. Why are our teenagers ignoring their fathers today? Perhaps it is due to some deficiencies in the ways fathers connected with their kids in their early years.

Listen to Them

Perhaps the most important factor is for a father to listen to his children. He must try to understand their psychology and unique personality. He should endeavor to understand what motivates and discourages his child. By doing so, the child will develop a trust for his father. He will see him as someone he can turn to for comfort, advice, guidance, support and empathy.

Play with Them

As many of us grow old, we lose the zest for life that is a vital characteristic in children. Fathers should attempt to regenerate that enthusiasm, while interacting with their children. While visiting a public park in New Jersey, I read a sign, which said: “Families that play together stay together!” Play can be traditional games like Oonch Neech, Baraf Pani, Aanch Macholi, four corners, tag or regular sports, or such board games as chess, scrabble, snakes and ladders, etc. By playing with children, fathers are strengthening their relationships with them.

Teach Them

Part of considering a father as a source of knowledge and wisdom comes when the father regularly engages in teaching children. He should not only help them with homework, but read to them beneficial books, and take them to museums, science centres, libraries, book fairs, planetariums, zoos and botanical gardens. When the child asks him for something he does not know, he should admit his ignorance and research the topic with his child using references and the internet. Among the subjects he teaches, he should not neglect religious subjects, as most answers to difficult questions that a teenager goes through are found in our beautiful Deen.

Take Them Out

Fathers should take children outdoors to beaches or parks on a weekly basis. This not only refreshes the children, who are cooped up at home throughout the week, but also makes them realize the handiwork of our Creator all around us. By sharing their amazement of marvelling at flowers, birds, trees, sea, sand, shells, stones, fish, animals and changing seasons, a father implicitly emphasizes his natural relationship with his children.

Worship with Them

Lastly, a father should establish worship with his family.  He should regularly take his children to Masjid for prayers, and make them participate in the Friday prayers, Takbeerat of the Eids, the Taraweeh prayers, Qiyam al-Lail, Salat ut-Tasbeeh, lectures and Halaqas. He should sometimes pray at home as the Imam of his family. By doing so, a father sends the message to his family that although he is in charge, he is also ultimately answerable to Allah (swt).

We do not know what destiny Allah (swt) has written for each child, but by taking the above steps, fathers will be assuring themselves that they have attempted to fulfill their responsibilities in the child’s early years. The only recourse left after that to fathers is to make supplications for their children, as the supplication of a father for his child is accepted.

Ask The Savvy Parent: Overcoming Shyness

handholdingMy son aged 5 years is very fussy with eating. Secondly, he is very, very shy and reluctant at school. Kindly suggest some ideas that can be helpful in resolving these issues peacefully.

First off, you are not alone in this. There are many parents who face similar challenges. We have covered fussy eating last week; you can check it out here: Mealtimes are Wartimes.

Here is the answer to the second part of your question. Shyness is a personality trait/temperament. There is nothing wrong with being shy. First, recognize that you are blessed with a sensitive, deeply caring, reserved child, who is slow to warm up to strangers, approaches social relationships cautiously, but generally seems to be a happy person. It is very common for parents to respond very apologetically to excuse their child by saying, “He’s shy,” especially in front of your child. This is the first thing one should stop doing; in many ways this makes you an enabler vs. empowering your child. Here are some tips:

  1. The more you push the more he will retreat: It is natural for a child to feel socially awkward when meeting adults and especially new people/children. It is a very common practice amongst parents to try to coerce a positive response from the child but in doing so, it is more likely he will retreat and clam up. It is best to help create a comfortable environment that lets his social personality develop. For example, if you are going to visit a friend and you want your child to make a good impression, avoid the standard: “Don’t be shy; say Salam to aunty.” This is guaranteed to make him even more recluse. The child is already self-conscious and this will make him even shyer. Talk to him beforehand about what is expected of him and keep your expectations reasonable, for example, a simple ‘Salam’. Another option would be to have him bring along a toy or activity. This can act as a communication bridge with aunty. It essentially distracts the focus and attention off him, allowing him to ease into the situation and get comfortable on his own.
  2. Avoid putting him on the spot: Your relatives are visiting and you are excited to show them that your son has memorized a short Surah, for example. Rather than putting him on the spot when they arrive, prep him beforehand. Talk to him in a gentle tone saying, “You recite the Surah so well. Can you please recite it for grandma when she visits today?” Some children are natural born performers; others are cautious and need time to become comfortable. Think about, for example, if you were put on the spot to recite Surah Yasin you just memorized in front of a group, with all eyes on you, how would you feel? Even for a social person like myself, it would not be easy; so cut your child some slack.
  3. Create smaller social settings: As a teacher, I have discovered that it helps for parents to have one-on-one play dates with fellow classmates. Are there any children that your child seems to gravitate towards or you feel would be a good companion for your child? Ask the teacher for suggestions. This allows your child to form bonds with other children in a more intimate setting and will help him come out of his shell at school.

How do I know if it’s just shyness or something more?

Mostly, shyness or quietness is not a serious problem. However, in some rare case, it may indicate that your child needs professional attention. Ask yourself the following questions. Does your child cry or throw a tantrum on a regular basis before or at school? Is he significantly withdrawn most of the time, making little eye contact? Does he act violently in school, hitting other kids or teachers? If the answer to these are no, you have nothing to worry about.

Insha’Allah, I hope this helps. Happy Parenting!

The Savvy Parent

Catch more tips by Farah Najam in her article: Working with Shy Students.

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Ask the Savvy Parent: Mealtimes are Wartimes

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Dear Savvy Parent,

How do I get my 4-year-old son to not be such a picky eater, and also eat on his own without my husband or I having to feed him?

Dear parent,

First off, you are not alone in this. There are many parents who face similar challenges. It is important to remember that picky eating is temporary. If you don’t make it a big deal, it will usually end before school-going age.

Change will not happen overnight. It will take some time for you to see any changes or improvements. Don’t give up and always be consistent. Relax and take it easy. The key is consistency.

Here are some proactive things you can do to deal with fussy eating and help your child learn to eat on his own and try new foods:

  1. Offer the same foods for the whole family. Don’t be a “short-order cook,” by making a different meal for your child. Never cook something for your child that you would not eat yourself. Most children like to eat the meals their parents are eating.
  2. Make sure your child eats with the whole family. There is no point making him or her sit and eat, while no one else is. You would end up fighting a lost battle.
  3. Most kids like to try foods they help make. Encourage your children to help you prepare meals and snacks. Let them help you with the grocery shopping. Teach your child to tear lettuce or add veggie toppings to pizza, for example. You will be surprised what you can get children to eat if they have helped to prepare it.
  4. Try to make meals a stress-free time. Talk about fun and happy things. If arguments often happen at mealtimes, your child may develop unhealthy attitudes toward food.
  5. Offer two choices. Rather than asking “Do you want broccoli for dinner?” ask: “What would you like for dinner: broccoli or cauliflower?”
  6. Use the Bowl of Bites Method to decide the number of bites the child must eat.  At times, trying to negotiate the number of bites can be never ending and lead to arguments. This is where the bowl comes in (explained below).
  7. Your children will be okay even if they don’t eat a meal now and then. Children never starve themselves. If they are not eating, leave them be. Make sure snacks are out of reach, though. Carry on with your meal. Eventually when they do get hungry and want food bring out the plate of food that was not eaten during mealtime. Eventually they will give in and eat it. At this time, give them verbal reinforcement.

Bowl of bites
For some parents, establishing a required number of bites can help. Select a reasonable number of minimum bites, for example, five. Two or three bites are not enough. In a bowl, keep about 10 pieces of small paper, folded in half, with a number written inside them. Have a variety of numbers ranging from the minimum (in this case, six) to about nine. During mealtime say, “Let’s see what the bowl of bites decides for us.” Allow your child to pick out a piece of paper and read the number on it. Whatever the number says is the number of bites that are required to be eaten. If your child is the type to go back and forth negotiating to get his way, the best way to get around such a situation to remove yourself out of the negotiation. These “bowls” can also be adapted to be used in many other situations.

For a child who will not eat on his or her own, the bowl of bites can also help by establishing the number of bites the child has to eat on his own. In this case, the numbers could start smaller such as three. Alternatively, taking turns can help. Your child takes a bite on his or her own and then you feed them the next bite and so on. Eventually, as they get comfortable with this, you can feed less and less bites.

Change will not happen overnight. It will take some time for you to see any changes or improvements. Don’t give up and always be consistent. Relax and take it easy. The key is consistency.

Insha’Allah, I hope this helps. Happy Parenting!

The Savvy Parent

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Ask The Savvy Parent: Aggression in Toddlers

Dear Savvy Parent

My 2.5-year-old son is unable to express himself. He hits continuously till others respond and others think he’s a bully. All I want is to help him but how? How to stop him and what should I do to help him express himself with words, not actions?

When he’s not bothering others, give him lots of attention and praise so he eventually learns that negative behaviour will not work and will not get him any needed attention.

Dear parent

First off, he is not a bully. He is just 2.5 years old and is still learning. He’s not trying to be mean; rather, it sounds like attention-seeking behaviour. If this is the case (and you know best), one should not give any attention when he behaves this way. He seems to be doing it because he can’t get the attention he wants by behaving well; so he misbehaves to get attention. Children will get attention any way they can. They prefer positive attention, but if negative is the only way to get it, they will purposefully do perform actions to get that negative attention. The way to nip this in the bud is to give no attention when he misbehaves. He knows he is doing something wrong; use minimal words and remove him from the situation. When he’s not bothering others, give him lots of attention and praise so he eventually learns that negative behaviour will not work and will not get him any needed attention.

If you are in a public place, such as a park, you have to be more mindful and keep an extra eye on your son. Intervene if he starts to hit another child. Use language such as “Be gentle” and show him how. Sometimes children at a young age don’t mean to be aggressive; sometimes they touch out of love and because they are still learning to control their body it can be rough. So give him a chance to be gentle. If he is really being disruptive, redirect him away from that area of the park to some other area. If he has had several chances and is still not listening, then it’s time to let him know that if he cannot behave, you will take him home. Making sure you follow through with this.

If he is hitting without any reason, then you need to take him away from the child or children he is hurting and find something else for him to be busy with. 

As far as hitting or bothering other children, since they are also young, the adults (you in this case) need to intervene and may need to remove your son from this situation. First of all, try to identify why he is hitting. Did the other child do something? Did he hit him first? If this is the case, then you need to teach your son the appropriate language, such as “Please stop!”, “I don’t like that” and resolve the situation together.

If he is hitting without any reason, then you need to take him away from the child or children he is hurting and find something else for him to be busy with. Have a brief and calm conversation and let him know that this is not kind; if he hits someone again, you will remove him and he will not be able to play with the other children. Don’t elaborate any other reminders; when it happens, you can simply say, “You are hurting (name of child), so now you have to leave and do something else. Redirect him towards something else that he can be busy with. The next time after that, you don’t need any words. After a few times of doing this, he will learn that you are not giving him attention for this negative behaviour.

Yelling at your child will not resolve the issue. One has to be calm and level-headed. 

Remember to give him LOTS of positive attention when he’s not doing this. This way he learns that he gets attention ONLY when he’s behaving well. When he’s misbehaving, don’t say anything and don’t make eye contact because all of this is attention and the point is to NOT give attention in ANY FORM when he’s trying to seek it doing something inappropriate. Depending on the situation you either need to help resolve the conflict or redirect the behaviour. Be mindful of your reaction and tone as well. Children learn by example. Make sure you are using a calm manner to discipline your child. Yelling at your child will not resolve the issue. One has to be calm and level-headed. It is difficult, I know, but take a deep breath before you act and Insha’Allah, it will get easier to handle.

With regard to your son learning to express himself, he is still young and learning language. Teach him appropriate words and the correct language. Be a role model of positive language and help elicit the words from him. For example, short phrases like “Milk, please” “I don’t like that”, “No, thank you”, “I want ____”, “More, please” etc. Have him repeat after you before you do what he wants. Do this throughout his daily route; this way he will begin to pick up the language. Encourage him to use the language and reward him when he does. It is even more important to make sure he at least attempts to use his words, when upset.

Insha’Allah, I hope this helps. Happy parenting!

The Savvy Parent

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