Most children show tantrums when they do not get their way. When we were little, we would stomp and scream for being told “NO” by our parents. Unfortunately, as children transition into adolescence and then adulthood, there are times when they will still react to being told no. Is this a sign of disobedience?
According to Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development, children of age two to seven years are MEANT to be egocentric; thinking that everything belongs to them, and everything should go their way or else they will have a fit.
This is why you see children of a certain age finding it difficult to share their toys with others. It’s hard for them to express their emotions because they simply don’t have the vocabulary or logical means to communicate how they feel. So what do they do? Cry, scream, roll over, and drive everyone crazy. This is completely… NORMAL!
As we transition from infancy to toddlerhood, we begin developing socially and emotionally. The people that have the most impact on this development are parents or guardians as children spend most of their time with them. How can parents teach children to regulate their emotions?
They must first learn to regulate their OWN emotions. Just as the famous saying goes, “actions speak louder than words.” The key to parenting is to act in a matter in accordance with how you’d want your child to act.
Being a parent is a challenging feat. The responsibility that befalls them is immense because they are raising human beings and it is their duty to become role models for their children to the best of their ability.
Whether you’re a child or a learning parent, this article is for those who intend to mend relationships and foster a healthier and more loving environment at home.
“The Parent is Always Right” Conundrum
Before we get to the solutions, let’s analyze the root of the problem which is the parental misconception and misuse of Islamic teachings for self-interest.
As a child, and even as adults, we constantly hear how children should always respect their parents and be obedient no matter what the circumstances. We are told that those who rebel and raise their voice against their parents will be cursed by Allah (SWT,) and those who disagree with their parents are insolent. This is one way the “parent is always right” card is misused in an emotionally and mentally damaging way to the child.
For instance, a child may not be allowed to marry a particular person of interest just because the person doesn’t abide by the parents’ personal standards such as career, educational background, and more. Another perhaps extreme example would be honor killings. Women and children are being murdered for being a ‘dishonor’ to the family due to their “immoral behavior”, refusal to submit to an arranged marriage, demanding a divorce, perceived flirtatious behavior, etc. These cases can be linked to the ‘parent is always right’ card, except that the consequence of rebellion becomes far greater and in some cases, fatal.
What’s worse is that in these circumstances where parents use the card, they instill fear in their children that Islam is a restrictive and complicated religion. This indirectly repels children from wanting to learn and love Islam. Parents must understand that by making Islam difficult for their children, they are doing a great disservice.
The Root Cause: Failure of Emotional Regulation & Lack of Knowledge
Parent’s failure to regulate their emotions and the lack of parenting knowledge according to the Prophetic paradigm are the root causes of why parents so comfortably use Islam as a means to justify their unjust behavior.
Failure of Emotional Regulation
If you’re a parent, here’s a quick practice to identify your coping mechanism. How do you react when your child cries, yells, screams, and rolls over? Does their behavior trigger a response that involves hitting or yelling back? Do you have a mental breakdown or do you keep calm?
Your response to the situation is the answer to how well you regulate yourself emotionally when confronted with cortisol-packed situations. Unfortunately, many Muslim parents lack resources that educate them on parenting skills, especially on how to cope with children’s behavioral patterns. Although this is a setback in the Muslim community, progress is being made. Many Muslim, mental health advocates are educating the masses on how to regulate emotions the right way when we’re facing difficulties.
Lack of Parenting Knowledge
Being a parent doesn’t come with a manual, so some inexperienced parents are engaging in “trial and error,” especially with their firstborn. Again, similar to the failure of emotional regulation, parents have only their childhood experiences and parents’ advice to look up to, so they are not exactly well-equipped with the skills according to the Islamic teachings as prescribed in the Qur’an and Hadith. Moreover, many parents in underdeveloped countries only have prior traumatic childhood experiences to replicate.
The Prophetic Way of Parenting
Do we commend our parents for raising and shaping us into who we are today? Of course! Do we appreciate every single thing our parents do for us? Yes! We should definitely acknowledge the good that our parents have instilled in us but also recognize that they are humans and can be wrong in different areas as well.
If you’re trying to justify your bad deeds or actions just because your parents did them, it is time to put a stop to it. Mentalities like “I’m yelling at my child because that’s what my mother used to do” or “I’m punishing my child like this because that’s what my father used to do” is a sign of weak parenting.
Despite the oversaturated information we encounter on the Internet, we can never really know which is the most ‘ideal’ way of parenting unless it’s what the Prophet (PBUH) used to do. When you learn about the Prophet’s (PBUH) life, his relationship with his spouse and children, and his refined and sublime qualities, you will find yourself in awe and inspired to be a better parent.
Love and Mercy Overcome Wrath
Allah’s Mercy and Love always excel His Wrath, so it is important that you embody that principle not only spiritually but as a parent as well.
For instance, when your child throws a tantrum, you should be silent if you can’t come up with anything nice to say. Stay close to your child and provide them warmth and comfort. You will soon see that your child’s tantrum melts away when you radiate warmth and loving energy.
Parents, Don’t Give Up!
Remember, Allah (SWT) sees your efforts in everything you do, no matter how small. You should not give up! Being a parent doesn’t mean you should be perfect all the time, but try your best to do good even after those hard moments.
Sincere Advice for Children
You might be reading this article and nod by all the tips for parents that might be applicable to them, but here is some advice for you to cope with whatever you are going through, whether you are going through a rough patch with your parents or if you’re deeply connected to them.
Realize that Your Parents are Human
You have certain expectations from your parents, but do understand that at the end of the day, they are just human beings and are bound to make mistakes. This calls for treating your parents with love unless the pain they have inflicted is costing you your mental health. If you feel they have wronged you or their actions hurt you, it is best to sit down and communicate your feelings in a respectful manner.
Don’t be surprised if the anger, sadness, or disappointment you convey through your actions and words may come off as disrespectful to your parents. Try to practice healthy coping mechanisms to better manage your emotions despite the difficulties you go through.
If communication between you and your parents doesn’t work, try to find support from your relatives, friends, counselors, or therapists who can understand you and lend you a shoulder to cry on. We are all human and make mistakes. What differentiates us is how we get back up and learn from our past failures to become better people, and that includes becoming better parents and children.
In this day and age where the world is highly charged with temptations and distractions, it is important that we do our best to improve family institutions in Muslim households and live a life filled with barakah, Insha’Allah. May Allah (SWT) shower us all with His Divine Mercy, Blessings, and Heavenly Care.