You are not bad, you are just young!!!

Bismillah,

Alhamdulillah, it feels so nice to be back here, writing about the things that have been occupying my mind for some time now. I have realized that writing truly is one of my very few passions in life. So, here I am today writing about the important attitudes and skills essential to parenting.

I have been studying and working with children for over ten years now. Although it is not a long time, due to nature of our advanced society where different child development theories come and go each year, I feel I have been through various approaches, theories, attitudes as a teacher and a mother. Again, due to the nature of education evolving and developing so rapidly, we get at least 10 new books published each year somehow related to parenting. We read and drown ourselves in pool of information; all the way from potty training to getting kids eat their vegetables; from how to stop children telling lies to how to stop yelling. Whereas, in practice, I have come to believe, there are only a handful of attitudes and skills essential to successful parenting. And these contain the most profound task we ever set for ourselves- the willingness to grow, change and mature in every single day of our lives.

Nothing in nature is more complex or mysterious than a human-being. And yet we search for easy quick-fix solutions when dealing with our children. When patience is needed, we hasten; when kindness is needed, we spank, when empathy is needed, we shut down.

Self-awareness and Self-consciousness

Although we can influence it to a great deal, we can’t always control children’s action. However, what we can control is our own reaction. I have tested it over and over again- very often our reaction is not proportionate to how badly our children behaved. Our reaction is not in proportion to how big the kid-problem we face at the time. Sometimes, they may do the smallest things in the world like shutting the door harshly or talking loudly in a room and yet we lose control and start shouting. Other times, however, they may do the worst actions (I honestly couldn’t think of what could be the worst child action at the time of writing, throwing a tantrum, sibling rivalry resorting to hitting or child refusing to eat a meal you prepared with so much love), and yet we contain ourselves. The reason behind our varying reaction is how good or positive we are feeling in ourselves at the time of an assumed “mishap”.

On this note, I urge all the mothers to raise their own self-consciousness. Keep a diary or journal to write about your “trigger” moments. Or simply do a one-off reflection where you go somewhere green (local park or woodland etc) and write down your child’s worst behavior scenarios from the past and what your reaction have been, something similar to this.

Firstly, it helps you to understand yourself better. Secondly, writing requires to activate your thought process. When you are asked to sit down and write down those “trigger moments” and your reactions, you will realize how pathetic you can become sometimes in power struggles with your little one. Thirdly, as you are more aware of yourself, you can think of alternative strategies to blowing up, screaming and yelling. Perhaps, you can think of ways to make yourself happier in those moments. Thinking positively takes a lot of energy and training. For example, we have just come back from shopping. My 8 year old wanted to help put the shopping away. Accidentally she dropped a tray of eggs on the floor and all the eggs broke. You can either spank, lash out with “You are so clumsy. You couldnt even do that. Who asked you to put the eggs away anyway?” or think to yourself “At least she was trying to help.”

Love and empathy

As human beings, we all have an emotional tank and raising children can be draining at times. However, as an adult, we have to regain our posture and keep giving love to children even at times they don’t deserve. Perhaps, more so at times they don’t deserve. Unconditional love should be the foundation of everything.

Often, we look at our children as our own extended versions, rather than acknowledging them as a separate individual. Our actions reflect on them and theirs on us. We show our love based on their performance. We reward them when they behave in desired ways and threaten and fear them when the opposite happens. Our cuddles, kisses and hugs are plentiful as long as they accomplish their chores or do their homework. We often display love that is conditional, and just can not be bothered to display empathy when things are not going our way. We fail to attempt to understand things from our a child’s perspective and totally shut down when they need us. The time your child is told off because of her misbehaviour is probably the time she needs to be hugged most. Sometimes, one hug or showing physical affection can fix lots of whining and whinges. But, rather than connecting with our child, we do more correcting “You should learn how to talk properly. Stop whinging”,  “I am not going to listen to you until you stop whining.” or “You are old enough to ask for things in proper manner.” Thus we fail to meet our children’s need for love.

The problem is that, parents have not been able to make one simple distinction children need to hear often “You are not bad. You are just young!” (Eda Leeshan) If children feel genuinely loved by their parents for who they are, they will be more responsive to our guidance. It is only when they are emotionally secure, children are willing to cooperate. The first steps towards empathy is acknowledging their feelings “I know you are upset. Tell me about it” or “I know how you feel. Arabic can be too hard sometimes”. When you acknowledge their state without blaming them for how they felt, you take your first steps towards connection.

The key ingredient here is being able to LOVE yourself. That’s right. Stop blaming yourself for every uncontrolled tantrum. Stop making yourself feel like a failure for an uncooked dinner once in awhile. Stop being control freak and analyzing everything in your head. We all have to change ourselves for the sake of our kids. Love yourself so you can give love those around you. Have some sympathy for yourself so you can empathize with your kids.

Patience is a virtue

How many times have we been ordered to remain patient as a Muslim? In Islam, patience is a multi-dimensional concept with several ranks and mentioned over 90 times in the Qur’an. If I had to choose one human attribute that is crucial to parenting, it would be patience. Because, even the simplest things may take a long time, especially when you are trying to grow human-beings who process things countless number of times in their head before it sinks in and reflects on their actions.

Parenting demands an enormous amount of patience from a person. And let me clarify as well, being patient is not remaining calm and collective because you have no other choice. Being patient is not suffering in silence. Rather, patience is acting calm and collective when you have the upper hand whilst you talk about things that have been bothering you. Patience is forcing a smile on yourself when you see your children jumping on the bed, no brushing teeth, no pajamas well past the bed time and being able to  remind them of their bed time routine without screaming. Patience is stop yelling “Hurry Up” every time you are out with four kids because they are too slow according to your standards. Patience is stop blaming everything around you but rather accept their state of being and trying to change through a gentle reminder each time. 

In a nutshell, we first need to raise ourselves in order to raise our kids. Because the moment you became a parent, God blessed you with the biggest chance to grow again. May Allah ease our hardships and make this journey easy for all parents.

Advertisements

Project: Islamic Parenting.

Bismillah,

Alhamdulillah, I am yet again convinced that there is nothing that we choose in order to seek Allah’s pleasure, He will surely make a way out of the situation for us. When I pulled Sumayya out of school I was still a little concerned about her need to mix and socialize with other kids, because of her English and also because she is very sensitive child. But, alhamdulillah, we have come to know some great families where I would be quite happy for our children to be friends with and inshaAllah they will influence each other only in a positive way.

It is through these families and other sisters I have met recently my original monthly Mum’s Discussion Group has really taken off and rolling into something bigger, Alhamdulillah. I encourage all the sisters reading this post to get out and get to know the sisters within their community and  initiate a similar groups in their own communities inshaAllah.

Below is the short talk I delivered for our first study circle (khalaqa) that was held on Saturday 3rd March at a sister’s house. It was followed by a discussion and Alhamdulillah, was useful and beneficial for all of us. If you initiate a similar project in your city/town, please feel free to use it as a launching talk inshaAllah. *smile*

For a long time I had wanted to launch a project called an Islamic Parenting. It is an ongoing project where all Muslim mothers of Bradford could come together to inspire each other, to motivate each other, to educate each other to be a better mom so that we could help our children to become someone better than ourselves, to be the real servants of God and to succeed in this world and the next, inshaAllah.

Why is there a need for such a project? We have a lot of problems with Muslim youth in Bradford (and worldwide as well). Our youngsters turning to drugs and smoking, adultery and robbery. We cant turn away from these problems. The only way we could change this situation is through education and getting more involved in our childrens’ lives from an early stages. Secondly, a lot of us have children at similar ages. So, by coming together discussing the challenges we have, we learn from each other’s experience whilst letting our children form friendship with each other.

Firstly, we have to conduct the needs analysis for out children. What is it we want them to achieve? What is our aim for them? We want them to be kind, just, honest, caring and the list is endless. But, ultimately we want them to love God and love worshipping the One God so that they become successful not just in this world but in the next as well. We want them to love the prophet saw and imitate his character and actions. But how do you embody the character of the prophet Muhammad (saw) on children? There is one simple formula for this: Example is the Best Sermon. We should be careful for children will always test us on everything we ask them to do. So it is very ineffective to ask them to be honest, humble, giving, sharing, noble, caring etc unless we strive to have all those qualities in ourselves first. We may tell them shouting is not good but we shout at them when they misbehave.

Another simple example is I am always telling my kids to sit down and drink. However, when I am cooking and preparing things I drink and have little snacks on the go. So, they always catch me drinking standing and ask: “But, mom, why are you drinking standing. You should sit down”. Three things they are noting: I am not following the sunnah, I am contradicting myself by telling kids to do one thing and doing the opposite myself and thirdly I am not showing them the good example. Alhamdulillah, I sit down near the sink and drink my water now. So, if we want to teach our children we should never stop learning ourselves. We should act on what we say/ask our children to do as well.

Second, we should show love and compassion. The prophet saw said “He is not one of us who doesn’t show compassion to our little ones and recognize the rights of elders” (Ahmad/Hakim). Anas r.a reported that :”I have never seen anyone who is more compassionate to children than the messenger of God. Whenever he passed a group of young boys he would smile fondly and greet them” (Bukhari/Muslim) How often do we smile at our children? Sometimes when kids misbehave you can win over your anger/child with smiling. Remember, smiling has a psychological effect on yourself and on everyone else around you. It restores self-confidence in our kids and makes them feel loved unconditionally. Kate Samperi, author of numerous books on children said “Before becoming a mother I had a hundred theories on how to bring up children. Now I have seven children and only one theory: Love them, especially when they least deserve to be loved.” 

Show physical compassion. We should give them plenty of hugs and kisses.  Especially as they become teenagers. One day Bedouin came to prophet saw and asked him “Do you kiss your sons. Because we dont”. Prophet saw said “What can I do for you if Allah has removed mercy from your heart?” Abu huraira ra reported that Rasulullah kissed Hasan ibn Ali when Aqra b Hamis At Tamimi was sitting with him. He said I have ten children and I have never kissed any one of them. The messenger of God looked at him and said “Whoever doesn’t show mercy will not be shown mercy”. We should practise this advice at times of disciplining as well.

Third, we should listen to our children and spend a quality time with them. Catherine M. Wallace, another author on children have said
‎”Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.” 

Sheikh Yahya Adel Ibrahim said in one of his talks recently  “The greatest thing you can do for your children is to be around them and spend considerable quality time with them not just near them”. Spending quality time doesn’t take long and is not expensive at all. This is not just taking children here and there, to this playgroup and to that indoor/outdoor playing area etc. A fine example of spending quality time woud be reading aloud to them, ask them to narrate prophet’s stories, take nature walks and ask them to notice changes in nature whilst talking about Creator. It could be as simple as discussing family matters together and ask for their opinions. 

Fourth, Disciplining without spanking. Patience needed at all times but especially when disciplining children. Always remember Muhammad (saw) said “The strongest among you is the one who can control himself when he is angry”. So, we should try not to show our anger to children. And he (saw) said “Whoever controls his anger, while he has the power to show it, Allah (s) will call him on the Day of Resurrection before all creation, and reward him greatly.” Sometimes it takes ages even for one smallest habit to stick. Patience is key to success. We should read more on habit formation, establishing the routine and setting boundaries. If we train these three from young age, inshaAllah there will be no clashes as children become teenagers and beyond.

Fifth, we should stop comparing our children. Comparing the siblings to one another, comparing children to their friends, comparing their Qur’an hifdh, or math skills, it has to be stopped. We should let each of them be who they are. For each human being is unique and has their own strengths and weaknesses. SubhanAllaah. As they grow older we can introduce the concept of healthy competition, competition in good deeds. But, for younger children I have experienced that very often comparisons and competitions leave a negative effect.

To conclude, we should remind ourselves that children are amanah; a trust from God. So, we should raise them in a way that is in line with Qur’an and the Sunnah. If we succeed in doing so, then they will be the glamour of this world to us. If we raise them in a way that is in conflict with the Sunnah and raise them as hostile to the Qur’an, then they could be a source of trial and trouble. May God save us from such a trial.

On the day of Judgement we will be asked about the blessings we have been bestowed. And children are blessing. And Allah has asked us to protect ourselves and our families from the fire. Allah is going to ask “Did our children know Allah, did they know who the prophet was, did they know what the aqeedah meant, and did they know the lifestyles of sahaba?” And each of us should ask ourselves each day “Did we safeguard our trust or did we lose it?”