As we all may know, there’s really no one way of being a good parent. There’s no parenting book that outlines all details about how to deal with each and every individual child from birth to adulthood. Yes, there are some general guidelines that advise us on what is recommended and what NOT to do. In Islam for example, we know that Allah has given parents some freedom on how to parent their children, but He also set limits. Sadly, many parents (especially in certain countries) tend to focus more on their rights rather than their children’s rights as well.
The middle ground is very important as it allows parents to not only be the disciplinarians when needed, but also the encourager, the source of comfort, and NOT be abusive. Let’s not forget that parents could also earn sins by mistreating their children just as they would with any other human being… YES! There’s a limit in everything.
Before proceeding, let me just mention that I am not an expert; I’m just sharing my opinions from my limited experience, what I’ve learned from others, and from reading. Now on with the tips.
1. Be a disciplinarian, NOT a punisher!
OK, I know that those two words can sometimes be used interchangeably, but I’ll tell you what I specifically mean here. Often times, some parents feel the need to constantly punish their children for almost any mistake; and sometimes those punishments can be very rough. I believe that there’s a fine line between disciplining and abusing altogether. Some parents sometimes forget that children are a gift from Allah who shouldn’t be taken for-granted. Many people live and die without ever being able to have children while some who do take it for-granted and feel the need to impose their power on their children even when it’s not necessary.
How you choose to discipline your child is completely up to you (as long as it doesn’t get to abuse), but remember that the goal is not the discipline in of itself. The goal should be to prepare children to cope with the rest of the world as decent human beings with moral values and a focused purpose. As Muslims, that purpose is to worship Allah in whatever we do with the right intentions and actions to go along. Disciplining comes to play when children try to test certain limits set by parents; and that’s completely natural because children are experimenters by nature.
I understand that it can be frustrating sometimes, but let’s always go back to our goal and also remember that children are learners whom we have huge amount of influence on by our actions and how we make them feel. Besides, I’m sure you wouldn’t want your child to think that the ONLY way to learn is by being punished. That creates fear, not necessarily respect. Children should learn behavior and use it even when parents are absent.
2. Don’t be afraid of change.
Most of us behave with others around us the same way we saw our parents and primary caregivers do. In the same way, we also tend to parent our children the way our parents dealt with us. You may have heard some people say, “My parents did such and such and I’m still alive and healthy, so they must have done something right.”
Although it is praiseworthy to appreciate the efforts of our parents, we must remember that people do the best they can with what they have at the moment. It does not mean that there isn’t room for improvement. And acknowledging that there is room for improvement does in no way mean that you are downgrading your parents’ efforts. We are all human beings who are absolutely prone to making mistakes, so we learn from our mistakes, others’ mistakes, and hope to continuously get better.
Perfection is something we will never attain, but working towards it (improving) is all that’s required of us. So don’t be afraid of not parenting exactly the way your parents did. Take the good and learn from the mistakes. Just because you were hit with a belt or a shoe across your face every time you made a mistake for example does not mean that it was the right thing to do or that you should do the same.
3. Don’t be afraid to admit that you are wrong when you are!
Children pick up most of their behaviors from imitating rather than being told. So if you show humility, your children would also most likely do the same. Don’t make your children think that as a parent you are always right no matter what. You are human, so you will make mistakes sometimes. When you do, please do not be afraid to apologize to your children when you hurt them for example. I know that some parents find that hard to do because they want to always feel respected and looked up to. Actually, your children would most likely respect you more if you show them that you are as human as they are. Apologizing is not a sign of weakness; the contrary.
4. Praise and encourage your children.
Now I’m not taking about excessive praising that would give them a big head and lack of humility. Since you discipline or correct your children when them do wrong, you should also do the reverse by praising/encouraging them when the right thing is done. Let your child know how proud of him you are and be specific to what exactly he did at that moment to make you proud. Knowing that doing such and such would make her parents proud would encourage her to keep on doing that. Children are in constant need of their parents’ approval, so take advantage of that in the best ways possible.
5. Strive to be what you want your children to be.
As I’ve said before, children learn more through imitation than merely being instructed. If you do not want certain behaviors from your children, then obtain from them as well. Don’t just talk while you’re doing the exact opposite. If something is important to you, show it in actions and your children would follow.
If you want your children to pray five times a day on time and read the Qur’an often, don’t expect them to do it when you barely pray or never open the Qur’an. Chances are, they won’t. There are always exceptions to rules, but don’t rely on the exceptions; be realistic and proactive. It makes sense. For example: If you tell someone not to smoke because smoking is bad for the health while you do it, how do you expect the person to take you seriously?
6. Work as a team with your spouse
If you are parenting your children with your spouse, please work as a team. Children know how to test limits as they are experimenting and learning what they can or can not do; as well as how to get their way if possible. To work as a team, you would need to communicate with your spouse. Make sure that you are both on the same page as to what is important to you and what is an unacceptable behavior.
If you argue in front of your child when he asks you for something, that may confuse him or even give him the idea of asking one parent when he wants something and the other parent for something else. Try not to say yes while the other parent says no. If you try hard to be the “cool” parent, well, that may very well go against you (as a family) sooner or later. Your child needs to know that no matter which parent she asks, the answer would be the same. If you are not sure about something, either discuss it with your spouse, or ask the child to ask the other parent. Be consistent!
7. Always pray and make du’a (supplication) for your kids
As Muslims, we know that the du’a of a parent is very important. Throughout your journey as a parent (even before), always remember to to make du’a for your children. Please, don’t be the parent who makes du’a against her children when she is upset with them! That would take you nowhere except probably give you more stress and anger. You want your children to be successful in this world and in the hereafter, so be patient with them. This world is already full of challenges, so try not to add up to it.
I wish everyone a happy and successful parenting journey. I know that it is not always easy, but it is always worth it no matter the challenges. Enjoy every moment and appreciate the blessing. NEVER take your children for-granted.
Please comment if you have any tips, advice, or suggestions.
BarakAllahu feekum for your time.