Why am I Doing this to my Kids?
Sources of Negative Parental Behavior
Our behavior toward our children can be easily categorized into positive and negative parental behaviors. Positive parental behavior is every act a parent does that helps his child feel good about herself and her identity as a Muslim and, as such, makes her proud of who she is and brings her closer to Islam. On the other hand, negative parental behavior is every act a parent does that results in his child feeling bad about himself and his identity as a Muslim and, in turn, this specific action, when repeated, affects the child’s personality negatively and drives him away from Islam. In this article we will focus on the reasons behind negative behaviors of parents in an effort to help them recognize these reasons and try to avoid them when they interact with their children. This in turn will be of assistance to parents and help their efforts in raising Muslim children who are proud of their identity as Muslims and confident of themselves.
Here are some of the sources of negative parental behavior
- Lack of experience: This usually happens with the first child in the family. Both parents have no experience and have never been through this before and don’t know what to do. They may have learned some theory, but this is not enough; they need the practical experience. Lack of experience also manifests itself with every new situation parents face. For example, when they are blessed with a second child, this is a new position that they have never been in before. When the child goes to school for the first time, again, this is a new circumstance they’ve never experienced before. Usually the solution to such a dilemma lies in asking other parents who have been through this before and learning from their knowledge and familiarity. However, one has to be careful not to ask just any parent. Always try to find someone with a positive and successful experience in raising children.
- Only using inherited methods of Tarbiya: Most of us inherited certain habits and learned certain ways from our parents when we were young. These ways may have been suitable for our time and environment, but are not necessarily suitable for our children and their environment. As parents, we shouldn’t use all these inherited ways and apply them to our children without first ensuring that they fit their times and environment.
- Blind imitation of others: This is where some parents are affected by peer pressure and follow others without checking the validity of their tarbiya techniques. For example, a father may buy a car for his teen as soon as the teen turns 16 years-old just because he found out that his colleague has bought a car for his son of the same age. He may even say: “Why shouldn’t my son have a car? We are not less than them in anyway.” This is blind imitation and usually is not healthy. Children are different and what agrees with one child in a certain place may not agree with another in a different place. As parents, we always have to try to see what is the best way to deal with our children.
- Fulfilling unfulfilled desires through children: This is a common source of negative parental behavior. Some parents who couldn’t achieve certain goals during their youthful years tend to push their children to try to achieve these missed goals. A father who was hoping to be an engineer and couldn’t, for one reason or another, may force his son to study engineering even if it is against his son’s wishes. A mother who always wanted to be a medical doctor, and couldn’t become one for one reason or another, may push her daughter to study medicine even if it is not the daughter’s desire. This is a major source of negative parental behavior. If parents can convince their children that a particular field of study is good for them, and the child accepts it, that is all right. However, it is very wrong to push or force children to choose certain areas of study just because parents like them. Parents should not view their children as just extensions of themselves. They are complete human beings. They have their own personalities and their own ambitions.
- Day-to-day pressures and lack of skills: There is no doubt that Muslim families living in North America face a tremendous amount of day-to-day pressure; especially in their early years of settling here. These pressures manifest themselves in feeling homesick, especially among women, non-working mothers, who spend most of their day at home, without much involvement in community affairs. Fathers usually face the pressure of work outside the house and as soon as they are home, they don’t want to go out again. They feel tired after a long working day and if their spouse asks them to go out with them they usually prefer to stay home. This could be a continuous source of friction between parents, which compounds the problem and is reflected in how they deal with their children. This type of problem can be solved easily if the women we are referring to acquire certain skills, like driving a car. During the day, they can go and visit other Muslim families, socialize with them, and give their children the chance to meet other children of the same age. However, some Muslim sisters are handicapped by the traditions of their country of origin that don’t allow her to gain the practical skills needed for the survival of the family in the West. These continuous day-to-day pressures have a big negative impact on the way parents deal with their children. It leaves the parents with the feeling that their children are more of a burden than a blessing, and are just too difficult to handle in this so-called modern society, far away from the support of the extended family.
By identifying these various sources of negative parental behavior, it is our hope that parents will take steps to deal with them and thus avoid them in their interactions with their children.