We all realize that this world can be a better place, so we begin to fix what is wrong. Essentially, we start with others. Why do we do that? Why can’t we fix our own self first? It makes more sense to work within our ‘circle of influence’ rather than fret about our ‘circle of concern’.
Family life is no different. Something or the other constantly hinders it from attaining a beautiful ‘we culture’, where family members deeply, sincerely and genuinely enjoy being together and have a shared sense of beliefs and values.
Do you know how a Chinese bamboo tree grows? After you sow the seed of this tree, you see absolutely nothing for nearly four years, except a tiny shoot emerging from a bulb. But during those initial years, all the growth occurs underground. A massive and fibrous root structure spreads deep and wide in the earth. And take a guess at what happens during the fifth year? The Chinese bamboo tree grows up to eighty feet tall!
This is also how our family life works. We invest valuable time and tireless effort to nurture growth. But we don’t witness any results for weeks, months and sometimes even years. However, if we have patience, we will see phenomenal growth, change and results in the fifth year. The problem is that we don’t persevere long enough and abort our hopes long before our efforts can bear fruit.
Doesn’t the Holy Quran say that the road to Jannah is through Sabr and Salah? Then, how can we imagine achieving anything worthwhile in this world, without exhibiting patience? Especially as parents, doesn’t it mean to suffer inside, so that others can grow? It also facilitates the understanding of our inner weaknesses and true motives behind each action. Patience truly means faith in action and emotional diligence.
“Inside each of us is this deep longing for ‘home’, for the rich, satisfying relationships and interactions of quality family life. And we must never give up. No matter how far we feel we’ve gotten off track, we can always take steps to correct the course. I strongly encourage you: no matter how far away a son or daughter seems to be, hang in there. Never give up. Your children are bone of your bone, flesh of your flesh, whether physically by birth or emotionally by the bonding of the family commitment you have made. Eventually, like the prodigal son, they will return. You will reclaim them.” (Stephen R. Covey)
Means to Reclaim Your Kin
Principle of self-improvement
Sometimes, as parents, you have had no role-models, or worse, bad memories of your own parents’ fights. In such situations, you are either clueless or repeat the same mistakes they made with you. It is highly recommended that whenever you get into a frustrating situation, pause. Examine your tendencies. Compare yourself with your vision. Avoid speaking impulsively. Retire frequently to the solitude of your inner self to recommit to winning your battles. This will keep your motives straight. It will also give you a clearer perspective and greater control of your own thoughts and behaviour.
Principle of honesty
When implementing change, involve your family and honestly admit the mistakes you have made in the past. This does not mean that you compromise on your values or principles to please them. If you slip into your previous nasty behaviour – apologize. Also, never lie. Their young minds evaluate you on these supposedly insignificant gestures which, in reality, have a long-range impact on your relationship with them.
Principle of respect
Just because you are in charge, you do not have the right to be disrespectful to your children, even when they are off-track. Remember: your children will internalize the very modes you use to resolve conflicts. If that includes name-calling, yelling, threatening, using physical abuse or foul language, it is a clear violation of the principle of respect, whether you are in public or private, regardless of your child’s age. The Prophet’s (sa) winning card was treating others (foes or friends) with courtesy, respect and honour, all the time.
Principle of trust
Do not label your child. If he has been labelled in the past, now is the time to unfreeze it. Your child draws his security from you as a parent, and if you don’t trust his inner strength and capability, he has nowhere to turn for support. Never break promises you make to him. It is one of the greatest withdrawals from any emotional bank account. Weigh your words very carefully. If you are unsure, do not commit.
Principle of empathy
Listen to your child attentively and sincerely, without interrupting, passing judgements and accusing with curt remarks. One of the deepest hungers of the human heart is to be heard and understood. Sometimes, all that your kids want is your time and understanding to de-stress themselves. Give it to them. Your schedule, house keeping, guests, in-laws, etc., should be secondary in priority when your child needs you emotionally. A successful way to do this is to keep a one-on-one meeting/outing/leisure time (of your kid’s choice) at least once a week, so you can find out what’s happening in his life. Please remember this is not sermon time! This is just to figure out where your child needs help. Otherwise, just chill and have fun with him.
Principle of love
Lastly and most significantly, the primary laws of love mean love in its purest form, which is unconditional. It means acceptance rather than rejection, understanding rather than judgement and participation rather than manipulation. This is any parent’s pro-active choice. It is very much within your circle of influence. It is not dependent on anyone else’s behaviour, social status, education, wealth, reputation, etc. When you live according to the primary laws of love, you encourage obedience to the primary laws of life, such as honesty, responsibility, integrity, service, etc.
Most of us wrongly live by the counterfeit laws of love, which is being conditional. We will love him only if he “behaves”. We cannot separate behaviour from the individual and, hence, do not believe in the unseen potential. Goethe said: “Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can or should be, and he will become as he can and should be.”
Your greatest joys and your deepest heartaches surround what is happening in your family life. As someone said: “No mother is happier than her most unhappy child.” When you sense a gap between your vision of a rich and joyful family life you want to have and the reality of your everyday family life, you feel disappointed. But do not despair. There is hope, tremendous hope, especially if you have faith in Allah (swt). Just keep working at it and do not give up. The Chinese bamboo tree will eventually grow!