We all want to do the best for our children. We know we will never be perfect parents but aspiring to raise our children to be God-conscious, purposeful Muslims is the standard we should never compromise.
Even if we hate it, our children are mini-versions of us. Their walk, talk, habits, and even eye-rolls are a reflection of their parents. It’s almost like Allah SWT sent these children to help us become better people by allowing us to see our good and bad reflected in these little people.
The least we can hope is for our children to be better than us.
To have stronger faith than us. To have more confidence than us. To be closer than us to Allah SWT and have His support. To be healthier, happier and more confident people.
In order to do this, we need to teach them somethings and avoid teaching them others.
In here, I will mention just a few of the things we should absolutely avoid teaching our children.
LESSONS NOT TO TEACH OUR CHILDREN
1. DO NOT SNITCH
“Nobody likes a snitch!”
We have heard this growing up and without realizing we say the same to our children when they come to us complaining or talking about someone else.
A child can’t always tell when they need help with something. They can’t determine whether something is a big deal or not. What might be insignificant and an irritation to us might be a big deal to their little minds and hearts. If you interrupt them, undermine what they say, or tell them to go work it out without giving them a chance to talk about what they want or a safe environment to share their feelings and thoughts, you are basically teaching them that they shouldn’t tell you what they went through.
Now imagine if they experience something major. What if someone bullied them? Someone touched them inappropriately? Or even abused them?
If you have conditioned them to think that when they talk about others it is actually snitching, then they may never come to you and share it.
What to do instead?
Create a safe space for them to express their thoughts and feelings. Let them talk to you about their day. About who said what and did what. It will do two things:
Bottom line: Let your children talk to you without telling them that they are snitching. As they get older, you can teach them to differentiate between backbiting and appropriate topics to discuss but until they have that maturity, be a sympathetic ear to them. Teach them to resolve their problems until they are able to do it themselves.
2. DO NOT EXPRESS NEGATIVE EMOTIONS
Don’t make a scene!
Boys don’t cry!
Good girls shouldn’t scream like that!
It’s easier to say these things when a child is emotionally distressed and we don’t know how to handle it. Instead of responding to the underlying issue which is bothering the child, parents often react to the behavior that inconveniences them or makes them uncomfortable.
If you react to your children’s negative emotions and scream at them when they are upset, you are basically teaching your children that:
This teaches the children to distrust their parents and by extension all adults. It also makes children emotionally complicated and they never learn to understand their feelings and resolve them properly. All they learn is to bottle up their feelings and dismiss them until they take on a more drastic shape like anger issues, chronic stress, depression, anxiety or self-harm.
What to do instead?
Teach them to express their feelings in a safe environment. Children’s brains are not equipped to process emotions properly. They also have limited vocabulary and they can’t express how they really feel. So they burst out crying, scream or throw a tantrum.
You certainly shouldn’t encourage this behavior but you should understand that there is an underlying reason for that occasional outburst. Talk to them about what happened. Let them know it is ok to be upset if they lose something or their favorite toy breaks. Teach them how they can respond to the situation instead. They need your guidance, not your anger!
If they are making a scene in public, remove them from the environment and take them to a private and possibly calmer environment. Talk to them in a soothing voice even if you think they are too young to understand what you are saying. Its ok. Children don’t need your lecture, they need to know you are there for them. In this case, body language and your ability to remain calm and in control is more important than what you say.
Bottom line: help your children find a solution by talking to them instead of reacting to them and throwing a bigger tantrum.
3. MAKE PEOPLE LIKE YOU
Sure, we all want our children to be accepted and have a happy social life. Yes, we want them to be well-liked but by who? And at what expense?
If we teach our children that they shouldn’t get on anyone’s bad side and if others are upset, it is somehow their own fault, then what values are we really instilling in them?
That being nice is more important than being right?
That being liked is more important than standing up for what is right?
Research shows that children who learn from an early age to please everyone often grow up to have low self-esteem and find it difficult to make decisions on their own. Their decisions and choices are based on whether it will get them the approval, rather than the actual meaningful consequences.
Children who learn not to let others take advantage of them turn out to be much more successful adults who are not distracted from their goals just to please others. They also tend to form more meaningful, lasting and happier relationships.
What to do instead?
Teach them to be respectful to others but be assertive and do what they believe is right. If you are raising your children with values like honesty, integrity, kindness, sticking up for the bullied and oppressed; also give them the confidence to uphold those values wherever they are regardless of what others think.
Don’t teach them to seek others approval. Teach them about sincerity and importance of niyyah (intention) from a very young age. If they learn that they should do things to make Allah SWT happy, they will automatically be saved from slipping into the trap of trying to make people happy with them.
And here is the catch! If Allah is pleased with them and they stand up for the right things, they will definitely be liked by other good people and be protected from the harm of evil doers, InshaAllah.
4. YOU MUST GET GOOD GRADES
“Do you want to flip burgers for the rest of your life?”
“Do you want to be a janitor when you grow up?”
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
When children get poor grades in tests, they hear comments like these. These comments are meant to be derogatory and convey some very wrong messages:
It teaches children that their worth is only as good as their grades. If they have good grades, they will be successful, otherwise they have no hope.
The other thing it teaches them that being a janitor or working at a fast food restaurant is somehow bad. As if these people are being punished for some wrong that they did as children. As if they are not worthy, valuable and respectable members of society!
I am sure this is not the intention behind these statements, but this certainly is the message these deliver to our kids!
There is another dimension to it. If your child learns to attribute success in life to good grades, is that a correct understanding of life?
Not at all. If they graduate high school with flying colors but don’t get accepted to the college of their choice, how would they handle this? If they graduate college with honors but don’t land the job of their dreams, then what?
How about if your child is not a conventional learner who performs well in test but is extremely intelligent in other ways? Is it fair to expect everyone to be brilliant test-takers? What about Multiple Intelligences?
Celebrate your child’s intelligence and achievement, not his grades.
What to do instead?
Encourage them to gain knowledge, but for the sake of knowledge, not for good grades. There is a great difference between the two. People who seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge are educated, become life-long learners, remain humble and have a growth mind-set and constantly improving themselves.
Whereas, those who gain knowledge for good grades are merely schooled, not educated. They never really learn how to apply the ‘knowledge’ they have and it remains ‘information’ only that they have memorized. They have a static mind-set and they look at things through a narrow lens.
Our Prophet SAW encouraged us to gain knowledge even if we have to travel for it. But what kind of knowledge? First and foremost, knowledge of the deen. If a person’s deen is intact, their duniya will come along fine. If they are good Muslims, they will know what kind of knowledge to seek, for what purpose, and how to utilize it properly. They will learn to gain knowledge and work hard for it, without wrapping themselves up in good grades.
5. MY BABY DESERVES THE BEST
Who doesn’t like to see their child’s face light up!
Of course, we want to do the best for our children and give them everything they want and more. But is it good for them?
There is a difference between giving our children what they like and what they need. One teaches them entitlement and the other teaches them value. If children get what they need, they learn to appreciate what they get. If, on the other hand, they get whatever they like, they learn to believe that they deserve everything they want. Then when they don’t get what they want, they become aggressive, angry, and unhappy.
Also, if they see you spending lavishly on unnecessary things, how can you teach them the value of money.
I saw a program once where a single mother works three jobs just to be able to afford her daughter’s fashion. The girl learned this lifestyle from the mother who worked hard just to get her the toys and clothes as a child that she herself never had. As the girl grew into a teenager, the expenses grew out of hand and now mom has to earn just for her daughter’s expenses!
What to do instead?
Teach children the difference between needs and wants. I am not discouraging an occasional present or treat. That’s fine! I am talking about habits here. As a habit, fulfill the needs and ignore their wants most of the time. This will teach them humility, respect for the money, and how to set priorities. These are lessons that will help them for the rest of their lives.
Children should love you for you, not for what you buy them. Earn your children’s affection and love, instead of trying to buy it with gifts. It is not a transactional relationship!
Teach them to utilize money for something better. Something far more valuable. Something that is not selfish. Teach them to help others. Sponsor an orphan. Buy clothes for needy children. Buy toys for less privileged children. Feed the homeless. Teach them to think as responsible Muslims and responsible citizens. Teach them to be people who make a difference in other’s lives and lead by example.
6. YOU DESERVE PUNISHMENT BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T LISTEN TO ME?
“My children should obey me whether I am right or wrong!”
As a parent, your responsibility is to raise informed, intelligent, fair-minded adults. If you teach your children that they need to obey the authority whether it is right or wrong, you are actually teaching them to be defeated and ignorant people who submit to the stick and have no backbone to stand up for what they believe in.
Sure, you want your children to obey you. But don’t demand absolute obedience. Children will challenge your authority, especially as they begin to grow. Understand that, and expect that.
What to do instead?
Talk to them when they don’t obey you. Tell them why they should. And if you have asked for something wrong from them and realize it, don’t hesitate to apologize. Teach them to obey when it is good and refrain politely if they don’t think something is good.
7. CHILDREN SHOULD NOT BE BORED:
This is a major parenting problem of the modern era. There is nothing wrong with children being bored, in fact it is good for them. Extracurricular activities are good. It is great to expose your children to sports and various other activities but please don’t overdo.
Busy-ness is not a sign of success. In fact, research proves otherwise. Children who are always busy and involved in too many extracurricular activities tend to be more stressed and less creative.
Children need to be bored in order for their creativity and craftiness to spring into action. When children are bored, they invent their own games. They discover new hobbies on their own and learn to find their interests. This is the time they can think and learn to focus. These are all skills of highly successful people.
What to do instead?
Involve your children in one or two extracurricular activities but not more than that. Don’t enroll them in every program they show any interest. It would be a waste of time and effort. Start with things you know are beneficial for them like swimming, martial arts, language classes etc.
At the same time, give them time to be on their own. Provide a good library for them at home and take them to the local library at least once a week. Let them get books of their interest but under your supervision to make sure they are developmentally and Islamically appropriate books.
Don’t over indulge your children with toys. Let them create their toys using recycled material. Your children can amaze you with their creativity if given the chance, the right tools, and an uninterrupted environment.
8. CHILDREN SHOULD ALWAYS SHARE THEIR TOYS
Responsible, adults don’t like sharing things so why force children? Encourage them to share, to be kind and considerate, especially to those who have less than them, but don’t force it. Talk to them about WHY they should share. Teach them about empathy, fairness, compassion, and responsibility towards those who don’t have the blessings that they have.
But don’t let them associate sharing with rewards or being liked. You don’t want your children to learn that they have to share in order to make friends or in order for people to like them.
What to do instead?
Lead by example. Share what you have with others. Talk to you children about the importance of helping those who don’t have and being kind to everyone around them. Don’t force them to be people pleasers. If they are not ready to share, don’t obsess over it. Don’t get angry at them or force them to share when they are playing with other children. Ignore the incident and let them sort it out with their friends.
Talk to them later on about the incident and show them what they could have done differently. Work on teaching them compassion and kindness, instead of forcing them to do things they don’t want to.
This issue is also related to development of the child. Children 4 years and younger of age have difficulty sharing their things but they get better with age. If you are familiar with their developmental stages then you will deal with their behavior accordingly.
Our children are entrusted to us by Allah SWT. They are not here to serve us or please us. Instead they are given to us so we can raise them to be God-fearing, generous, kind, just and productive people who leave a legacy of goodness behind them.
Parenting is a never ending educational experience. Every day we learn as much, if not more, than our children. Sometimes we do things right, sometimes we stumble and make mistakes. The struggle is to reset the niyyah, correct the wrong, and try again.
May Allah SWT allow us to be role models that our children are proud to follow. May we leave behind us a legacy of goodness, kindness, and a progeny that is better than us. Ameen.
We believe the nucleus of a nation is the family. The success of a nation depends on the strength of its families. You develop a family, you develop a nation and we hope to do just that!