Paying Attention to Our Children
  • Sun, 08/10/2014
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When we pay attention to our children, we learn a lot.

When a child exhibits aggressive or rebellious behavior, it is an act of self-assertion. When a child destroys an object, it may just be an act of exploration or play. Crying and shouting are a child’s arsenal used to get what is needed from parents.

When a small girl winds her hair around her finger, or puts her hair in her mouth, or stutters when she speaks, they are signs that she is under stress and unable to express in words what she is causing her distress. She may be scared for herself or for someone she loves.

The reason for the child’s distress needs to be uncovered in a calm manner. The child should be reassured of the parents’ love and support. Everything should be done to keep the child’s anxieties form becoming deep-seated, which will have negative implications for education and future social development.

Whether they are passive, obedient, nervous, or rebellious, all children have a tremendous capacity to learn, which is greater than at any other time in their lives. These are the formative years, and it is critical to instil good habits in our children.

We should get them into the habit of reading the Qur’an, remembering Allah, offering their prayers, making ablutions, and going to sleep in a state of ritual purity. They should be taught to respect their parents as well as others, and to say “please” and “thank you”. Parents should instill in their children a love of reading, teach them good study habits, and help them develop their skills.

Children should be taught proper hygiene. They should bathe every day, brush their teeth regularly, comb their hair, and make their beds. They should learn to take care of their own basic needs and get in the habit of sleeping early.

Lying to children makes them fearful and insecure.

Violence on television is a product of our society. It is possible to try a week without television, getting everyone agreed to it, and see what the affects are at the end of the week.

Superman is bulletproof, flies through the air, and has heat vision. Batman lives a clandestine double life in order to fight crime syndicates.

The imagination can cause a child to adopt a fantasy persona. At times, a child might not respond when called by his or her given name as an attempt to escape from reality and preserve the state of imaginative play.

Jealousy is a natural behavioral response when a child is not shown sufficient love, care, and affection. The child is forced in that case to attract the parents’ attention through negative behavior.

Our children should be allowed to interact with each other under our watchful gaze. Older siblings should be allowed to carry their little brothers and sisters and help out with their needs. An older child should not simply be punished for misbehaving towards younger siblings, since punishing them creates feelings of resentment. Instead, we should take the occasion to instruct and guide the misbehaving child.

Too much mollycoddling can be as bad as showing harshness. Both situations can hinder children’s abilities to develop healthy social skills and the skills they need to successfully cope with life’s challenges. Empathy, compassion, and mercy are essential to our children’s well-being, but in excess they can smother the children and have negative consequences on their development.

The time we spend with our children is far more precious and valuable then the money we lavish on them. They need our good example and our companionship. I know a case where a father gave his daughter a thousand riyals as a reward for her doing well in school. She returned the money to him and said: “Take this thousand riyals and give me an hour of your time.”

Being inconsistent with our children confuses them. They need to know what is expected from them and we need to make the boundaries clear. We need to explain the rules to them so they understand and accept them. This makes it easy for them to act as expected. We need to review our polices with from time to time, but it is crucial that we are consistent. We cannot enforce a rule on them one day and ignore it the next. This just makes them confused.

In some families, one parent is consistent at all times and the other is not. This causes stress for children and induces them to misbehave.

It is vitally important that we are just between our children. Allah says: “And be just among your children.” This applies equally to our sons and our daughters.

Giving preference to one child over another because of their intelligence, looks, school performance, or gender creates jealousy and resentment in the disfavored child. It causes the child to behave badly in order to get back at the adults.

We often find it funny when our small children say bad words for the first time, not knowing what they mean. We think it is cute and we may laugh or clap in response. When my son was small, he could pick up words very quickly, including insults and foul language. I did not allow myself to laugh when he said those things. Instead, I gently explained to him that it was a bad word.

We need to find the source from which our small children learned those bad words. They certainly did not think them up themselves. They either head them from a neighbor or relative or some other source. It is important to identify that source and prevent the children from hearing that kind of speech again.

We need to let them know that such behavior is wrong, while being calm, gentle and patient in our response. We should praise them for saying good things and speaking politely. If we punish them for using foul or rude language, we should do so by withholding from them something they want, like an outing or a trip to the store.

We need to raise our children with love, encouragement, consideration, and attention, not with insults and harshness.