Parenting Can’t be Outsourced

Mirza Yawar Baig

Blog Pol­i­cy: This arti­cle is being shared from anoth­er site. The top hyper­link directs read­ers to the orig­i­nal source. It is being shared to stim­u­late dis­cus­sion on the top­ic and Wifaqul Ula­ma nei­ther endors­es the site nor nec­es­sar­i­ly agrees with the views expressed nor takes respon­si­bil­i­ty for the con­tent of exter­nal Inter­net sites. In some cas­es, read­ers send us emails to share their thoughts (anony­mous­ly) and in respect to their wish­es, con­tact details or Author infor­ma­tion will not be pro­vid­ed.

The biggest chal­lenge of par­ent­ing is to accept that we are fac­ing a world very dif­fer­ent from the one in which we grew up. This is true irre­spec­tive of which coun­try you live in, with the addi­tion­al com­plex­i­ty of a rapid destruc­tion of walls between cul­tures. The truth is that your solu­tions don’t work today and your chil­dren know this bet­ter than any­one else. Yet you still have the chal­lenge to inspire, sup­port and teach them. Your chal­lenge is to pre­pare them for a world that you know noth­ing about. This can be seen as pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive depend­ing on your point of view but one thing is cer­tain, it will not leave you untouched.

The major Glob­al Changes that we face are:

Information Exchange

Thanks main­ly to the inter­net and to glob­al TV chan­nels we are in an infor­ma­tion over­load age. We don’t suf­fer from lack of infor­ma­tion but from a sur­feit of it – eas­i­ly avail­able at the click of a mouse. What is miss­ing is the abil­i­ty to dis­cern, to sift, to pick the nuggets. What is miss­ing is the abil­i­ty to know what to do with what we read or see. What is miss­ing is the abil­i­ty to con­nect the dots to com­plete the pic­ture. What is miss­ing is the abil­i­ty to rec­og­nize the real­i­ty and to put things in per­spec­tive so that we can dif­fer­en­ti­ate between real infor­ma­tion and pro­pa­gan­da. What is miss­ing is the abil­i­ty to respond pos­i­tive­ly and pow­er­ful­ly to ensure that the dis­sent­ing voice is also heard in the cacoph­o­ny of the dom­i­nant dis­course.shutterstock_14799520

Easy infor­ma­tion exchange has also low­ered and, in many cas­es, wiped out the entry bar­ri­ers into tech­nolo­gies and busi­ness areas. This opens new oppor­tu­ni­ties for entre­pre­neurs pro­vid­ed they know how to use them. It is a chal­lenge for par­ents to guide their chil­dren in ways that enable them not only to make sense of what they see and read, but to actu­al­ly lever­age it for them­selves and oth­ers.

The infor­ma­tion exchange also has a dark­er side with every evil that hap­pens in the world get­ting instant lime­light. The con­scious self is bom­bard­ed dai­ly with images which at one time would have sent us into depres­sion, but leave us untouched and unmoved today. This desen­si­ti­za­tion of the heart, the dead­en­ing of com­pas­sion, mak­ing the hor­ri­fic mun­dane is the result of con­stant expo­sure to cru­el­ty, oppres­sion and blood­shed. Like the nurse in the oper­at­ing the­atre or the butcher in the abat­toir, the sight of another’s suf­fer­ing leaves us untouched.

The Salaf used to be very con­cerned with expos­ing one­self to things that hard­en the heart. Imam Al-Ghaz­a­li used to say that one should not men­tion death while eat­ing because if the heart is not dead­ened then you will not be able to eat. And if you are able to eat then it will become evi­dent to every­one that your heart is dead. I don’t think we both­er with such niceties any­more because the con­di­tion of our hearts is appar­ent­ly not of any The chal­lenge that par­ents have is to guide chil­dren such that their hearts don’t hard­en and show them how they can help those in need. Hid­den in this is also the real dan­ger of rad­i­cal­iza­tion of youth and their falling into the trap of those who seek to recruit them for can­non fod­der. It is our chal­lenge to help them retain per­spec­tive, show them how they can pos­i­tive­ly con­tribute and stay away from all extrem­ist posi­tions. But to do all that we need to check what state our own hearts are in, for only the see­ing can guide the blind.

Technology Empowers and Threatens

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The sec­ond chal­lenge we face is that of tech­nol­o­gy. Like rain, it is a part of our lives. You either get wet or you learn to use an umbrel­la. The smart phone, the com­put­er, social net­work­ing and the ever present Google. Google maps auto­mat­i­cal­ly gives me dri­ving direc­tions to the masjid on Fri­days whether or not I ask for them. It tells me if a flight that I am booked on is late or not. It even tells me when I need to leave for the air­port, even when I have not asked for this infor­ma­tion or informed it about my present loca­tion. It knows with­out being told. So how dif­fi­cult is it to believe that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), who cre­at­ed the cre­ator of Google and his brain, also knows?

Tech­nol­o­gy takes away the drudgery and monot­o­ny. It adds val­ue and makes life easy. But at the same time it increas­es dis­trac­tion, cre­ates a false sense of sat­is­fac­tion and speed. Peo­ple feel sat­is­fied with post­ing likes on Face­book and mak­ing favorites on Twit­ter as if they actu­al­ly accom­plished some­thing. They for­get that a mil­lion likes don’t put a piece of bread into the mouth of a starv­ing child or save it from the bul­let of a sniper. Instant grat­i­fi­ca­tion – the most dom­i­nant sign of an imma­ture intel­lect – is one of the lega­cies of tech­nol­o­gy, albeit unin­ten­tion­al. We for­get that if you want results you have to work very hard at the right things; not mere­ly click a mouse or tap a touch screen. This results in unjus­ti­fied frus­tra­tion and the mil­len­ni­al per­son­al­i­ty is born: peo­ple who are lit­er­al­ly dis­in­ter­est­ed in the future. What can you hope for with respect to cre­at­ing a lega­cy from those whose main inter­est is the next sen­sa­tion?

We have a men­tal­i­ty that always seeks more and more excite­ment. Steve Irv­in (Croc­o­dile Hunter) is a good exam­ple of this and its unwit­ting result – tak­ing closer and closer chances with dan­ger­ous ani­mals until one day the inevitable hap­pened. But the result is that today if you want to make an ani­mal encoun­ter show, until you can put your head into a lion’s mouth and obvi­ous­ly come out alive, the pro­duc­ers won’t even look at you. The val­ue of doing so? Well, when you mea­sure every­thing in terms of TRP rat­ings, that is per­fect­ly clear, isn’t it?

The speed of respon­se that tech­nol­o­gy enables is both a com­pet­i­tive advan­tage and a threat. Our own respon­se to events has to be huge­ly faster than our par­ents’ need­ed to be because every event is instant­ly glob­al news. The reper­cus­sions of the thought­less words are also seri­ous and, in some cas­es, sev­ere. But what remains con­stant is that arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence is not the same as nat­u­ral, and tech­nol­o­gy doesn’t replace wis­dom. We still need the human intel­lect to inter­pret the event and col­or the pic­ture to see the whole scene.


A Wake-Up Call For Muslim Parents

Blog Pol­i­cy: This arti­cle is being shared from anoth­er site. The top hyper­link directs read­ers to the orig­i­nal source. It is being shared to stim­u­late dis­cus­sion on the top­ic and Wifaqul Ula­ma nei­ther endors­es the site nor nec­es­sar­i­ly agrees with the views expressed nor takes respon­si­bil­i­ty for the con­tent of exter­nal Inter­net sites. In some cas­es, read­ers send us emails to share their thoughts (anony­mous­ly) and in respect to their wish­es, con­tact details or Author infor­ma­tion will not be pro­vid­ed.

Bis­mil­lah

Out of all the hi-fi, over-hyped, glam­or­ized, over­paid and stereo­typed careers that make news today, pep­pered with exten­sive media atten­tion such as red-car­pet awards, talk-shows, exclu­sive inter­views and pho­to-shoots, the sin­gle most impor­tant and piv­otal occu­pa­tion a per­son – espe­cial­ly a wom­an – can have, is that of being a par­ent.

It is this behind-the-sce­nes, get-down-and-dirty, round-the-clock job that very few peo­ple can do well, and major­i­ty of those who do, receive lit­tle cred­it for. Par­ent­ing is the most exhaust­ing, ful­fill­ing, demand­ing and sat­is­fy­ing role, respon­si­bil­i­ty and full-time job any­one can ever have. Who­ev­er has become a par­ent would tes­ti­fy to its heady highs and, sad­ly, some­times mor­ti­fy­ing lows. The moment one sets eyes and holds in one’s arms a new life – a gift from Allah that is sent so mirac­u­lous­ly, after months of excite­ment and antic­i­pa­tion – one changes forever. The joy one feels holds no bounds. This new ‘baby’ life gives rise to new adjust­ments in all exist­ing rela­tion­ships, which change in order to accom­mo­date the new arrival. As many peo­ple will tell you, they also change once they have a baby.

How­ev­er, after a few years pass, there are some typ­i­cal state­ments that par­ents of any age can be heard mak­ing: “Kids nowa­days are so ungrate­ful….”, “In our time, we were much more dis­ci­plined and obe­di­ent…”, “We nev­er shout­ed at our par­ents the way kids answer us back nowa­days….”, and of course, the ever-present “Because I said so!” Etc. I have hard­ly ever come across a par­ent who open­ly admits to hav­ing made a par­ent­ing mis­take e.g. say­ing some­thing like, “Had I not been lax about my dai­ly prayers when my chil­dren were young, per­haps they too, would be more reg­u­lar in their prayers today,” or “I should not have scold­ed my daugh­ter in front of her friends. I think she deserves an apol­o­gy,” More often than not, we find par­ents act­ing holier-than-thou and judg­men­tal in front of their chil­dren, dis­cussing their children’s weak­ness­es before friends and rel­a­tives, and detail­ing how dif­fi­cult their chil­dren can make life for them. How­ev­er, how often do we come across a par­ent who would read­i­ly apol­o­gize to their chil­dren for mis­treat­ing them? Or admit to being wrong in front of them?

On the con­trary, par­ents hard­ly ever pub­licly admit to mak­ing mis­takes in their children’s upbring­ing – at least, that is my expe­ri­ence. Once a young per­son becomes a par­ent, it’s all about enforc­ing rules, dic­tat­ing orders, and estab­lish­ing dis­ci­pline, which is admit­ted­ly a nec­es­sary part of good par­ent­ing, but you have to have some lee­way thrown in too. The young par­ent for­gets what it was like as a child, to be caught red-hand­ed, or worse, to be scold­ed or pun­ished. It seems as if, now that a cou­ple has become par­ents, they can get away with treat­ing their chil­dren how­ev­er they like. The moment the effect of their par­ent­ing mis­takes man­i­fests itself in their young children’s neg­a­tive behav­ior, the lat­ter are cer­e­mo­ni­ous­ly lec­tured or rep­ri­mand­ed. How­ev­er, do the par­ents pause and reflect about which actions of theirs might have been the cause of that behav­ior?

When I became a par­ent, I real­ized just how prone I was to mak­ing par­ent­ing mis­takes. For one thing, there are as many par­ent­ing styles as there are chil­dren. For anoth­er, you do not know which style will def­i­nite­ly work, until your child devel­ops his or her own per­son­al­i­ty. Third­ly, you keep going through phas­es in your own life which keep chang­ing your atti­tude and par­ent­ing style i.e. it’s a con­stant learn­ing process for you as well – you keep mak­ing mis­takes, and learn­ing from them. It’s a tri­al-and-error method­ol­o­gy. Both par­ent and child keep going through the­se tran­si­tions, and adjust­ing their rela­tion­ship accord­ing to them. To say the least, being a par­ent is a posi­tion of extreme respon­si­bil­i­ty and account­abil­i­ty before Allah – one for which one can be called severe­ly to rep­ri­mand, if one takes it light­ly. And here is why. Below are some ways par­ents are always at an advan­tage over their chil­dren, espe­cial­ly when the lat­ter are minors:

Physical and financial authority:

Par­ents con­trol their children’s move­ment with­in and out­side the house. They con­trol what they eat, what they wear, where they go, who they min­gle with and what toys or acces­sories they buy. This makes a par­ent very strong as opposed to their child, in the first 2 decades of the latter’s life. Plus, chil­dren depend on their par­ents for mon­ey. They do not, and can not, earn mon­ey. There­fore, par­ents have almost com­plete con­trol over how they bring up their chil­dren.

Having your own childhood buried in obscurity from your children:

Whether you were the nas­ti­est kid in your class, get­ting reg­u­lar deten­tion; or you inter­mit­tent­ly broke win­dows of every house in the neigh­bor­hood dur­ing ‘ball prac­tice’, trashed your mother’s dresser every week, stole mon­ey from your father’s wal­let, drove his car with­out his knowl­edge as a 16-year-old, applied Mom’s make­up when she was nap­ping, prank-called strangers on the phone at night, or lied about your tryst at some mall with a “friend” – every­thing seedy or shady about your own youth gets hid­den behind the hijab of time when you become a par­ent your­self. You get rid of all incrim­i­nat­ing pho­tographs, cor­re­spon­dence and videos. You don’t speak freely to your old friends in front of your teenagers. No one tells your teenager that you did not pray all the five prayers, wear the head­scarf, or go to the mosque. No one tells them that you danced to loud music in your room and lied about your clan­des­tine phone calls (“I was dis­cussing my project with [best friend]!”) when Mom walked into the room.

How­ev­er, if you are an Allah-fear­ing par­ent, have you real­ly for­got­ten all those mis­deeds?

The gift of forgetfulness (nisyaan) from Allah, that wipes out your early mistakes from your children’s memories:

Whether it was a nasty dia­per-rash that made your infant scream in agony – one that was caused by your neg­li­gence in chang­ing her dia­per on time – (“Well, I was tired, so I fell asleep and for­got to change her dia­per! I am her moth­er. Jan­nah lies at my feet. Lay off!”), or whether it was that tight slap on the cheek of your ‘ter­ri­ble-two’ tod­dler when he yanked a food-laden plate off the din­ing table onto your lap – one that left him bawl­ing; or the time when you didn’t wash your 3-year-old’s plates prop­er­ly and she fell ill with diar­rhea for a week; no one will be able to tell your chil­dren whether you were a lousy par­ent when they were babies, or an effi­cient one. Allah hides all your mis­takes – whether unin­ten­tion­al or delib­er­ate – behind the veil of the past. Your tod­dlers and minors are too young to remem­ber when they were spanked with­out rea­son, humil­i­at­ed or scold­ed for no fault of theirs [they were scape­goats to the mood swings or stress-highs you suf­fered as a result of your demand­ing job], or when their mat­tress stank because you didn’t both­er wash­ing their leaked exc­re­ta off it [“I’ll just throw it away and get a new one! What’s the big deal?”].

As a par­ent, you will always have the upper hand with your chil­dren, because Allah will hide your mis­takes and mis­deeds from them, keep­ing up your impres­sion of fault­less­ness before them, mak­ing you their role-mod­el – an ide­al per­son free of human errors or weak­ness­es.

Having the Islamic injunctions regarding kind treatment of parents on your side as a perpetual trump-card in any argument:

The great­est “advan­tage” Mus­lim par­ents have over their chil­dren is the exis­tence of Quran­ic ayaat and Prophet­ic ahadeeth that remind the lat­ter of how their par­ents are the most deserv­ing of good treat­ment from them. Sad­ly, how­ev­er, some­times par­ents use this as the most effec­tive way of – excuse the terms I will use – emo­tion­al­ly black­mail­ing or manip­u­lat­ing their chil­dren to achieve their own desires and whims.

To the boy who refus­es to mar­ry the fash­ion­ista, insist­ing that he wants a hijab-and–abaya-wear­ing wife:

Is this how you repay your moth­er, after all the years I have tak­en care of you? What will my rel­a­tives say, when they see this par­dah-clad girl as my daugh­ter-in-law?”

To the boy who refus­es to pur­sue a job deal­ing direct­ly with riba:

Had you lis­tened to me, you would not be sit­ting job­less today. Why not take up that bank job, albeit with dis­like in your heart? At least you’ll get the perks. You have to sup­port us both finan­cial­ly now that I have retired. It is your Islam­ic oblig­a­tion.” [Notwith­stand­ing the hefty retire­ment prov­i­dent fund invest­ed in a riba-based bank, which gets month­ly “returns”!]

To the girl who insists on con­sid­er­ing pro­pos­als only from men who are reg­u­lar in prayers, who earn halal income and who will let her do hijab:

You will then get pro­pos­als only from “mul­lah” fam­i­lies, who are not very edu­cat­ed or well-estab­lished in soci­ety.”

A par­ent who real­ly and tru­ly fears Allah will usu­al­ly be a believ­er who focus­es on giv­ing oth­ers their rights instead of demand­ing their own. Hence, just because Islam has exhort­ed Mus­lims to be kind to their par­ents, doesn’t mean that par­ents use the­se injunc­tions to unjust­ly demand favors and servi­tude from their chil­dren. Rather, the Quran­ic vers­es and Prophet­ic nar­ra­tions remind­ing Mus­lims about their par­ents’ great rights upon them are to be read and heed­ed more by chil­dren who have par­ents; not by par­ents who have chil­dren!

There are par­ents who, when they do not get along with their daugh­ter-in-law, oth­er­wise a good girl whom their son is pleased with, use the “proof” of the Prophet Ibrahim [علیہ السلام] and Caliph Umar [رضی اللّٰہُ عنہ] telling their sons to divorce their wives, in order to twist their son’s arm to do the same. There are par­ents who are inse­cure in their old age and when­ev­er a vis­i­tor comes to see them, com­plain about how their off­spring with their spous­es fall short in ful­fill­ing their rights. There are par­ents who are adamant that spank­ing is a very effec­tive dis­ci­pli­nary method for minors, being ful­ly aware that the Prophet Muham­mad [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] nev­er struck a child (he was father of 7) – “I do not know of any moth­er who doesn’t spank her child.” Birds of a feath­er flock togeth­er. Please look beyond your cir­cle, Ma’am. 🙂

Here are a few tips that might help Mus­lim par­ents in gen­er­al.

Apol­o­gize when you hurt them: Say­ing sor­ry for your mis­takes will exalt your ranks, and teach your chil­dren to do the same. For exam­ple, say­ing to your tod­dler: “I’m sor­ry I yanked your arm so hard on the road. I was afraid of the cars pass­ing by you and was just being care­ful. I did not mean to be so harsh, beta,” would take a load off your back and make you feel bet­ter your­self.

Admit it to your child when you’re wrong and they are right: Chil­dren can help their par­ents a lot, espe­cial­ly when the par­ents are over fifty. The for­mer are in touch with the lat­est trends and news. If the par­ent has a hum­ble atti­tude instead of a “know-it-all” one, they can pave the way for pos­i­tive learn­ing on both sides.

More impor­tant­ly, though, win­ning an argu­ment should nev­er be your goal just because you have rights over your chil­dren. Say “You are right” to them when they are. That way, you will be teach­ing them by exam­ple to give you the respect which you sup­pos­ed­ly deserve as well.

Remem­ber every day that you will be called to account for even the slight­est dis­crep­an­cy left in giv­ing them their dues (“dhulm”): Just like all oth­er rela­tions in this world, chil­dren have rights upon par­ents, which they will be asked about. Just being con­scious of this impend­ing real­i­ty will enable par­ents to fore­go their children’s mis­takes and short­com­ings, and focus instead on their own method of upbring­ing their chil­dren – whether it will be accept­ed by Allah or not.

Seek for­give­ness from Allah dai­ly for your short­com­ings as a par­ent: In Islam, any posi­tion of author­i­ty is a posi­tion of account­abil­i­ty before Allah, includ­ing par­ent­hood. The more pious a per­son is, the more he fears Allah regard­ing the high posi­tions he occu­pies in this world. That is why our pious pre­de­ces­sors would – lit­er­al­ly – run away from the posts of judges and kings that were offered to them. Sim­i­lar­ly, a Mus­lim par­ent keeps track of their short­com­ings as a human being, and seeks Allah’s for­give­ness for their mis­takes.

It is obvi­ous that – after hav­ing gone through the pains and strains of rais­ing young chil­dren – par­ents are enti­tled to high rights over the for­mer. This is Allah’s own com­pen­sa­tion method of pro­vid­ing world­ly “perks” for this tough job. How­ev­er, focus­ing on what rights of yours oth­ers have to give to you, instead of what rights of oth­ers you have to give to them, is not the way of the earnest believ­ing Mus­lim. If your chil­dren respect you, obey you and even­tu­al­ly, take care of you in your old age, they are doing them­selves a favor. You, on the oth­er hand, should not con­sid­er them an ‘invest­ment’ for this world – desir­ing sons more than daugh­ters because they earn mon­ey; mak­ing them mar­ry into afflu­ent fam­i­lies and push­ing them into high-fly­ing careers so that you get to choose which “big house” with the most ser­vants to reside in, in your old age. Rather, you should con­sid­er your chil­dren an invest­ment just for your own Akhi­rah. By that, I mean that you should just do your job in instill­ing Islam­ic val­ues in them, by impart­ing Islam­ic knowl­edge to them and mak­ing them live an Islam­ic life. After that, what they do is between them and Allah and you are essen­tial­ly a val­ued con­sul­tant in their lives.

I once heard a very pious and hon­or­able Mus­lim advise us: “From birth to age 13, be strict in dis­ci­plin­ing them; from 14 to 20, be their friend; after they are 21, let them go.”

Wise words, indeed.

Allah knows best and is the source of all strength.