This is the last article in the “Productive Parenting” series. Part 1 and Part 2 spoke about the need for spending productive time with your children and engaging them in reading sessions, respectively.
In this article, we explore how our conversations with our children could be more meaningful and what can be done to ensure we spend quality time with our children and our families.
Parents, especially fathers, tend to postpone quality time and are unable to set a routine to spend more time with their kids. This is also reflected in the conversations that take place between them, which can be likened to traffic lights.
What is common between a parent and traffic lights? Both give instructions, and they’re mostly red!
Our conversations with our children are abrupt and mostly monotonous. This instructional approach to upbringing is the ‘rules of traffic’ model.
Parents explain to their children how to behave, assuming that they taught them rules of behavior as they did the rules of traffic. However, what you try to teach a child doesn’t necessarily get through to them.
For example, a teenager was told countless times that stealing was wrong yet continued to steal. The problem of parenting in this case is not that they tried to teach him the right thing, but that they considered parenting a single, narrow-minded task without fulfilling the range of parental duties.
Be careful not to turn your words into a one-way road, with only you (the parent) speaking and no entry for the children.
Observe and React to Your Child’s Problem
Example: Qasim was always disturbed as a child. His attention span was short. Temper fluctuating. Mood swinging. Friends dwindling.
Mahir, his father, noticed that and saw how helpless his wife would be at times. This is when Mahir decided to intervene. He observed Qasim’s likes and circle of friends. He found Qasim reclusive but would get excited when alone in the woods or garden.
It was then that Mahir struck an idea: Qasim needs channelizing, his energy needs to be re-focused. Qasim first bought a jungle board game for his son. The father and son would be seen playing the game for over an hour. Then came the nature walks. Qasim would speak about his love for trees.
Next, Mahir enrolled his son in a trekking program. Qasim was afraid but excited. The three-day camp saw a new boy emerge. Qasim met others just like him. He spoke endlessly about the trekking program.
Both father and son soon started a group for forest conservation and Qasim’s circle of friends grew. His mood became more predictable and generally calmer, and you could see a smiling and satisfied mother.
Parental advice: Spend time studying your child, their likes and dislikes. Try to divert and channelize the child’s attention instead of highlighting and prohibiting his/her negative actions.
Break Out of the Myth Called ‘Tomorrow’
Much has been said about the mother’s role and that is why I keep talking about fathers. Perhaps you can call it bias, but as a father of three lovely daughters myself, I see an obligation first from myself to my family and would like to encourage other fathers too!
Some studies have estimated that working fathers spend an average of seven minutes a day talking to their children, which is alarming.
Here is a classic scenario: Dad gets up early, takes the long drive to work, gets off late, takes the long drive home, and gets home very tired. He just wants to have dinner, relax a little, and go to bed so that he can repeat the same routine the next day. Every now and then, he tells himself that he will spend more time with his children tomorrow.
How much time will you spend with your children today? Think of all these perks as you decide whether or not to leave work on time:
- Children will begin to enjoy and look forward to your company.
- Your words of advice will become credible.
- They will love to accompany you to the masjid, and not drag their feet like they are forced to.
- They will become more open and willing to share their fears, concerns or dreams.
- The family grows spiritually, with Qur’an tafseer sessions you conduct at home or the new Islamic conference you take them to.
In my parenting workshops, I always recall a song that talks about the sad story of a boy who always tries to spend time with his father, but always finds him too busy. When the boy grows up and the father gets older, the father always wants to spend time with his son, but his son always has other things to do.
The message is: Remember that today is a gift and tomorrow is a myth in the parenting cycle.
Finally, we return to wisdom inherited from Prophet Muhammad . The Prophet described his role simply and elegantly: “I was sent to perfect good character.” [Sahih (Al-Albani)] Is this then not my job as a father then? One needs to think.
Learn the Lessons of Fatherhood in Islam
Prophet Muhammad was a role model as a father. When his own daughter would come to him, he would stand up out of respect for her. This is the magical bond which fathers need to re-create at their homes.
An absentee father spends long hours working or engaged in voluntary community service, at the expense of time with his family. Rather, aim to spend a balanced time at the masjid or da’wah centre and at home.
For example, sit with your child and talk about maths in football. Yes, talk about the new goal line technology or how the speed of Messi is equal to distance and time taken in shooting the goal!
Ali Ibn Abi Talib was raised in the household of the Messenger of Allah and he was Ali’s father figure. Ali accepted Islam at the age of 12, not because he had to, but such was his intellectual upbringing that he knew what to do.
Similarly, Zayd Ibn Harithah was also raised by the Prophet in such a compelling manner that when Zayd’s biological father came to take him back home, he refused to go with him.
When Zayd’s father and uncle came to claim him, Zayd informed them, “I have seen from this man (Muhammad) such amazing things that I could never prefer him over anyone else.” [Ibn Hajar]
In a commonly cited anecdote, Umar Ibnul-Khattab summed up some of the rights of children when a man went to him complaining about his son’s disobedience: “To choose a good mother for him, to select a good name for him and to teach him the Qur’an.” The father hadn’t done any of the three and Umar blamed him instead of blaming his son.
This is a powerful reminder for parents to hold themselves accountable and change, where needed, the way they treat their children.
Messages to Consider While Raising Your Kid
- Have a dialogue with your kids, not a monologue.
- Explain the reasons for a ‘should do’ or ‘should not do’ task.
- Break free of your office routine to spend time with your children.
- The first recipients of your good conduct should be your family.
How to Get Active with Your Kids
- Go cycling, head for the woods, or drive to the nearest masjid with your kids.
- Ensure you call your kids every once in a while for a surprise, “I was missing you” conversation. It would make their day and yours!
- Let Fridays or any one day of the week (depending on where you live) be their school pick-up day with you. They would skip the school bus and you drive them home, but not without stopping over at Baskin Robbins for a lovely father-son ice-cream treat!
- Instead of that one big vacation, take short walks every alternate day. Have a family restaurant day once a week; those stick. Note: the dining together evening should be a no-mobile affair. Switch off phones or at least turn the Wi-Fi off. Look into your child’s eyes as they speak of their dreams and become a child with them once again.
Gem: That night you might get to understand what the poet meant by, ‘the child is the father of the man!’
By all means, this series is not over. As a matter of fact, it is from here that we go ahead and keep learning with our children. In this series, we tried to cement that special bond between families, especially the father and son/daughter relationship.
So, here are four lessons we can sum up from this series and take forward, In sha Allah:
1. Faith: Trust that when Allah has blessed you with an offspring, He will also give you the ability to train, teach and tutor them.
Productive tip: Do tafseers of short surahs with your children at home or tell them stories from the seerah.
2. Dedication: A good father knows that with little effort, family comes closer. Women value acknowledgement and men value accomplishment. Keep that in mind and you will have a successful family.
Productive tip: Appreciate the small things your child does like learning to speak new vocabulary and soon he will amaze you with greater achievements like learning an entire language.
3. Time: Quality time and quantity time are both necessary, so while we want quality time with our children, remember that taking them out for a short grocery trip or a long drive are equally important.
Productive tip: Give your children ‘time cheques’ which they can cash in exchange for 15 minutes, 30 minutes or 45 minutes of quality time together. The children will then learn to feel in control of their time and they will grow more appreciative to the value of time.
4. Perseverance: Successful parents, especially fathers, are the ones who have shown persistence as they sought to fulfill their children’s dreams. It could not have been an easy task, but they persevered and succeeded.
Productive tip: Know that you too can do that, In sha Allah!
After reading this series, what have you decided to change in the relationship between you and your child/children? What are some tips that have worked for you and techniques that you feel were not as successful? Please share your ideas for the benefit of other parents.