Sometimes the only parenting strategies that we use are the ones that we ourselves were raised with. Maybe they were the ones that were popular at the time and everyone was doing it with their children. More often than not, we employ certain parenting strategies without realizing if they are effective or not. To make sure we are raising strong future members of the Ummah, we have to reflect on our parenting and evaluate whether we are doing the best we can.
If you find yourself using some of these ineffective parenting strategies then read on to discover how you can change your parenting practice to be an effective parent.
1. Over-praising your child
This is probably the number one parenting strategy that most parents use. It came about in the 1980s as a response to the previous decades of strict parenting. Parents were encouraged to praise every little thing that their child did. Phrases like “Good job!”, “Well done!”, “Good boy!” and “Nice work!” were most common. It became a habit and they automatically rolled right off parents tongues.
You would think that praising increases children’s motivation to do things but, in fact, the opposite is true. Praising children demotivates them when it is used all the time; its value decreases. When children don’t want to be told that they’re a ‘Good girl/boy’ for the hundredth time then they will avoid doing the thing that is ‘good’ to do.
Another downside of over-praising is that children will get a false sense of self. If they’re told they’re great and good all the time and for every thing, they may grow up believing they are the best thing that ever existed. They will be over-confident and arrogant.
There’s nothing wrong with having confidence but over-confidence distorts their self-worth. It makes them think that they’re better than others and that they cannot fail in anything. Pride and arrogance are what you’d want to avoid as Luqman advised,
“And turn not your face away from men with pride, nor walk in insolence through the earth. Verily, Allah likes not any arrogant boaster.” [Quran: Chapter 31, Verse 18]
What to do instead
Use positive feedback. While praising is a general judgement of a child as a person, positive feedback is more specific to the child’s actions. It tells your child what he’s doing right and when he knows this he’ll be more likely to repeat it.
You can give feedback in two ways. The first is to focus on your child’s efforts. It doesn’t matter what the result is, it’s how hard he’s tried. This relieves your child either of the pressure to get a perfect result or the need to rush what he’s doing and concentrate on the process of doing it. You can say phrases like “You’ve tried really hard on that,” “You gave it your everything masha’Allah!”, “That was your best try,” “You’ve improved so much on this masha’Allah.”
The second way to give feedback is to highlight your child’s abilities. What is your child really good at doing? Be specific. “The way you wrote that made me think…”, “You’ve figured out how to do those math questions,” “You’ve helped so much by doing that!”, “You’re so caring when you play with your sister.”
Can you see how much more effective these phrases are than just praising with “Great job!” and “Good boy!”?
2. Giving in to your child’s every whim
There comes a time when whenever your child wants anything, all he/she has to do is cry or throws a tantrum and she gets it. This is also known as the ‘give-it-to-her-so-she-can-be-quiet’ strategy that some parents use to maintain peace. Parents here will do anything just to avoid confrontation and keep the child from making too much noise. Of course, it is difficult to deal with a child throwing a tantrum in a busy supermarket, or maybe when you have decided to take your children to the masjid.
The other reason why some parents use this strategy is because they like to over-indulge their child. They equate love and kindness with giving in and cannot deny their child, as it would equate to being mean-spirited.
In both situations, the child knows this and will use it to control the parent in giving in to his/her demands. This creates a selfish child who does not think of others and cannot empathize with them. If he/she cannot empathize with others then how can they be generous with them? We know that generosity is a character of a Muslim. Abu Huraira reported:
The Prophet said, “Generosity is near to Allah , near to Paradise, near to the people, and far from the Hellfire…” [Jami’ at-Tirmidhi]
The child is stuck in a ‘me-world’ where everything is centered around him/her. She will go through life expecting others fulfilling her needs and if they don’t, then he/she will go off in a rage. Needless to say, this is not good for them or their relationship with others.
What to do instead
Learn to say no and be fine with it. Be firm and consistent. If your child spots a weakening then she will grab onto that and won’t let go until she gets what she wants.
You’ve also got to know when to say no. If you say no all the time then it’s very disheartening for your child. Remember to say yes to what’s really important to aid personal growth and development, and to reward your child once in a while. Say no to material accumulation and selfish desires.
Also, teach your child to empathize with others. Point out that others have needs and wants too, with patience and consistency. Teach him/her to read how others are feeling as this is a quality of a Muslim. The Messenger of Allah said,
“The parable of the believers in their affection, mercy, and compassion for each other is that of a body. When any limb aches, the whole body reacts with sleeplessness and fever.” [Sahih Muslim]
To do this you can say to your child phrases like “You’re upset because you can’t have it”, “I feel sad when I can’t give you everything you want” and “It’s ok to be disappointed when you can’t have something but it’s not ok to scream”. Be aware of the emotions of other around you so that you can use them as teaching moments to say “She’s so sad” “He’s so happy to see you” or “The cat is so scared.” Your child will soon begin to understand that there are feelings and emotions that exist other than their own.
3. Doing everything for your child
The strategy here is to treat your child like a king and you’re the subject. Your child just sits on his throne (TV couch or computer chair) while you run around doing all the chores to clothe, feed and entertain him/her.
It involves over-protectiveness. You love your child so much that you don’t want any hurt or harm to befall him/her. Since you are your child’s bodyguard, every bad thing gets deflected by you. You make sure that he/she goes through life smoothly.
The result of this parenting is a dependent child who is not self-reliant. The child is used to having things done for him that he does not know how to get on in life. He may seem selfish but that’s not the case, he just does not know what to do.
What to do instead
Firstly, teach your child to serve you not the other way around. Allah says:
“Worship Allah and join none with Him (in worship); and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, Al-Masakin (the poor), the neighbour who is near of kin, the neighbour who is a stranger, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (you meet), and those (slaves) whom your right hands possess. Verily, Allah does not like such as are proud and boastful.” [Quran: Chapter 4, Verse 36]
Now, this does not put parents in a position to abuse, but we have to raise our children with the knowledge that mistreatment of parents is a major sin. Doing everything for your child may be necessary when they are very young, but continuing this as they grow older will only lead a child to demand and expect their parents to cook, clean and serve them!
So begin by having some chores for your child to do. Not only will this teach your child some life skills but it’ll also teach him self-reliance. It is important to instill an understanding that keeping the home clean and cooking the food is a team effort. It’s never too young to start. Children as young as 3 years can be taught to clean up after themselves. As your child gets older, increase the number of chores and the type of chores. You can make chores fun and part of a game, which younger children will be especially receptive of.
Let your child make his own choices and let him experience the consequences of them. It could be that he has made a bad choice but by experiencing the natural consequence of that he will have learned a valuable lesson in how to make choices. For example, if he throws his dirty clothes on the floor then soon he’ll run out of clean clothes and won’t have anything to wear. If he doesn’t do his homework then he’ll get detention at school. Let him live and learn. The important thing to remember when doing this is to make sure that the consequences are not life-threatening. It won’t hurt him if he gets detention, but it will hurt him if he hangs around with the wrong crowd.
4. Being your child’s friend instead of a parent
Some parents like to be liked by their child. They want to be a fun parent that their child can easily get along with. They do everything they can to be their child’s friend. This leads them to avoid setting and reinforcing rules for behavioral conduct. They just want to have fun with their child at all times.
But children need to have an authority figure in their life to guide them to what’s right and wrong or what’s acceptable and what’s not. They also need to respect their parents, as parents have a special status in Islam. Allah says:
“And your Lord has decreed that you should not worship except Him, and to parents, good treatment. Whether one or both of them reach old age [while] with you, say not to them [so much as], “uff,” and do not repel them but speak to them a noble word.” [Quran: Chapter 17, Verse 23]
Friends don’t necessarily respect each other as both are on an equal footing. But with parents, a line has to be drawn. You can still be friendly with your child but you are a parent first.
Children who are brought up like this, lack self-discipline because without rules they could do whatever they want. They also lack the respect that they should have for their parents.
What to do instead
Set some rules that are consistently reinforced. When your child is young, choose a few rules that are important to you. As your child gets older you can adjust them or include more rules with your child’s help.
Some parents set rules but they don’t enforce them at all or inconsistently do so. If it’s too hard for you to enforce a rule then don’t have that rule. Choose a different one. Rules aren’t meant to be broken. Let your child know that there will be consequences if the rules are broken then carry through with the consequence when necessary.
When your child has a clear guideline of what she can and cannot do then she can be free to behave within those boundaries.
5. Being critical, controlling and harsh on your child
Believe it or not, some parents think that by being critical of their child they are helping their child to be better. They think that children learn to improve themselves by having their mistakes pointed out so they do not repeat them. But doing this continually will erode a child’s self-esteem and create resentment.
At the extreme end, some parents use punishment on a regular basis to control their child’s behavior. They believe that they have to be cruel to be kind. Likewise, this creates resentment and even loathing.
What to do instead
Be kind. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, was kind and he treated everyone with kindness, including children. Anas ibn Malik said,
“I served the Prophet for ten years. By Allah , he never even said to me “Uff!” and he never said harshly for anything, “Why did you do that?” or, “Why did you not do that?” [Sahih al-Bukhari]
If the Prophet never showed impatience or rebuked a child, how can you then treat your own child with harshness? So instead of pointing out your child’s mistakes, draw attention to what your child can do well to not repeat that action. It is also kind to reward positive behavior than to punish misbehavior. When you reward positive behavior, it is more likely to be repeated.
Are you using any of these five ineffective parenting strategies? Make the change now to what works better so you can start to see the difference in your child!
What are your effective parenting strategies for raising strong members of the Ummah? Share your thoughts in the comments below!