By Lobna Youssef Mulla, National Tarbiya Director, MAS-Greater Los Angeles
Estimated Reading Time: 5 Minutes
And just what is a fair-weather parent, you ask? It’s the parent that wants to deal with their kids only when they are behaving, are cute, or are in a good mood. As parents, it is easy to love our children when we are in a pleasant state, but what about when times are not so rosy? We wish we had all the answers, or that we could solve our problems with a click of a button or with the swipe of a credit card. But the reality is, parenting isn’t easy and there are no quick fixes. So how can we push our parenting skills to the next level? The good news is, while implementation may not be easy, the concepts are simple. Quality input will lead to quality output.
One of the deepest connections you can make with your child is not only when you show love during fun times, but also by being there during times of difficulty. This is true even when kids are being difficult themselves; despite their pushing you away, even. Being there is patiently holding them while they cry or yell. Being there is sitting with them in awkward silence as you withhold the burning desire to lecture them, knowing it would only push them away. Being there is actively listening to your teenager talk about their frustrations, while avoiding the temptation to interrupt and prematurely offer solutions or judgment. Parenting through tough times is having the patience to remind them to do what is right even when you know the response will be a pushback, a rolling of the eyes, or an outright refusal. Children will remember the acts of kindness and the display of patience during turbulent moments, more so than the infrequent gifts or inconsistent displays of compassion followed by more frequent distance and tension.
Children pass through difficult phases, and one way in which we can successfully parent is to connect with them as much as possible. In search of being the best parent, we often overlook the everyday opportunities for connection. Such opportunities include driving them to practice, to the masjid, or to the movies with their friends instead of telling them to get a ride from someone else or telling them to stay home. Although we may be tired, moments in the car or in public transport together can lend themselves to great conversations. And these conversations can be more insightful or valuable than planning an elaborate outing that ends up becoming more frustrating than fruitful.
In an age of instant gratification, it is increasingly difficult for adults and children alike to forgo immediate pleasure in exchange for long term rewards. And in the case of parenting, the immediate comfort may be avoiding possible confrontation so that we can relax and watch TV instead. “You deserve to kick back and relax,” you think to yourself. But your instinct tells you that addressing the issue now would be more impactful and that much needed self care could come later that evening. These are the tough decisions that need to be made, and sometimes, they arise more than several times a day.
Difficult moments with multiple children, can be even more challenging. At times, we feel we had a long day at work or a long day at home with the little ones, but when the older kids come home, we want to be done. We want to crawl into a cave somewhere and hide. Let me be the voice of reason and remind all of us, that we can’t withhold fulfilling our responsibility just because our day was busy or particularly difficult. Sure, exceptions can be made, but what if parents feel this way frequently, constantly sweeping problems under the rug, and hoping they will just go away?
We shape our children’s sense of self-worth with each interaction. Constantly putting our children down, yelling at them, and avoiding them can lead to feelings of low self-esteem. This style of parenting tends to cause children to turn to other things or other people in search of connection. Parents who, on the other hand, connect, guide with wisdom and criticize the behavior and not the child will help shape children that have high self-worth. And as Prophet Muhammad said, “All of you are shepherds and each one of you is responsible for his flock.” (Hadith Sahih, Al-Albani). So how can we face tough moments with our children?
Six Steps Towards Healthy Parenting
1. Take a deep breath, and remember the words of Prophet Yaqub when his children not only lied to him, but put Yusuf in danger, “Patience is most fitting.” (Surah Yusuf, 12:18)
2. Pray, pray, pray. Ask Allah for guidance, not only for your children but for yours as well. Ask Allah to grant you patience and wisdom in how to deal with trying situations. “And seek help through patience and prayer.” (Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:45)
3. Attend family workshops on communication, connection, compassion, etc. Read books on parenting, and visit support websites like the Family Youth Institute www.thefyi.org.
4. Connect with your children in good times, so that you can weather the storms more easily during difficult times. “Connect before you correct,” as the saying goes.
5. Take care of yourself. When you are spiritually and physically nourished, you will be better equipped to not only be a better parent, but a better person in general. Self care not only includes a healthy diet, but regular exercise and getting enough sleep as well.
6. Seek support. You are not alone in this difficult world of parenting. Speak with trusted friends in your community who have experienced or are going through similar situations. Consider seeking therapy for you, your children, and your family. These forms of support can prove to be very beneficial and can lead to healthier relationships.