Positive Parenting

Positive Parenting for Muslim families is a new approach towards relating to your adolescent children.  After a certain point in a child’s life, various factors begin to influence and pull them in different directions.  When a young person is feeling frustrated usually they tend to bottle up what’s inside and the parents are the last to be informed.

Tips for positive parenting:

  1. Remember you’re a parent, AND a friend.

Your teenage children crave the security of knowing their parents understand them, appreciate them, and love them no matter what–so they do want the relationship to be a form of friendship. But they also need to feel like they have some independence, so sometimes you may feel a bit shut out. If you can navigate your closeness in an accepting way that doesn’t take advantage of your role as parent to tell your child what to do, he’s more likely to open up and share with you.

The Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) described this stage of upbringing for teenagers as follows:                                                                                 “The child…is an adviser for [the next] seven years.”

At the age of fourteen, fifteen and up, a Muslim child is expected to have become a responsible teenager. Therefore, the Prophet says that the parents should now treat him or her more like a ‘friend’.

At this stage, the parents should guide and help their teenage child in making correct decisions for themselves.

Does a close friendship erode your teen’s respect for you? No. Don’t you respect your friends, and treasure those who are really there for you emotionally? If you offer your teen respect, consideration, and authenticity, that’s what you’ll receive in return.

And as close as you want to be to your teen, sometimes you will have to pull rank and say No. If you’re doing it often, that’s a red flag that something is wrong. But sometimes your teen will be looking to you to set limits they can’t set for themselves. Sometimes you’ll need to stick by your values and say no, whether that’s to an unsupervised party or a very late bedtime. And, of course, sometimes your teen will be able to use your guidance to come up with a win-win solution that answers your concerns.

  1. Establish dependable together time.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) also said:

“Every one of you (people) is a shepherd. And every one is responsible for whatever falls under his responsibility. A man is like a shepherd of his own family, and he is responsible for them.”

(Bukhari and Muslim).

Be sure to check in every single day. A few minutes of conversation while you’re cleaning up after dinner or right before bedtime can keep you tuned in and establish open communication. Even teens who seem to have forgotten who their parents are the other 23 hours a day often respond well to a goodnight hug and check-in chat once they’re lounging in bed. In addition to these short daily check-ins, establish a regular weekly routine for doing something special with your teen, even if it’s just going out for ice cream or a walk together.

  1. Parent actively and appropriately.

A child is a blessing from God to the parents. A child is a one of the greatest gifts to parents, and that they should always be thankful to God. However being a precious gift, it is parents responsibility that they should raise the child according to the guidelines from Whom this gift has been given.

Don’t invite rebellion by refusing to acknowledge that your son or daughter is growing up and needs more freedom. But don’t be afraid to ask where your kids are going, who they’ll be with and what they’ll be doing. Get to know your kids’ friends and their parents so you’re familiar with their activities.

  1. Try to be there after school.

The biggest danger zone for drug use and illicit behaviour isn’t Saturday night; it’s between 3 and 6 pm on weekdays. Arrange flexi-time at work if you can. If your child will be with friends, make sure there’s adult supervision, not just an older sibling.  Spending time with your child is critical, take an interest in what they do and if you have to sacrifice your work, then make it a priority to spend quality time with your child.

  1. Keep your standards high.

Your teen wants to be his or her best self. Our job as parents is to support our teens in doing that. But don’t expect your child to achieve goals you decide for him or her; S/he needs to begin charting his/her own goals now, with the support of a parent who adores him/her just as s/he is and believes that s/he can do anything s/he aims to. Support your teen’s passions and explorations as s/he finds his/her unique voice.

  1. Make it a high priority to eat meals together

…as often as you can. Meals are a great opportunity to talk about the days’ events, to unwind, reinforce and bond. They’re also your best opportunity to keep in touch with your teen’s life and challenges, and to spot brewing problems. Finally, an important factor in kids’ happiness and overall success is whether they feel they get time to “just hang out and talk” with parents every day.

  1. Keep the lines of communication humming.

If you don’t know what’s going on, you lose all hope of influencing the outcome.

The best way to inculcate good behaviour in children is to behave with them with good grace. In this way, they will learn etiquette, good behaviour and noble character. The Prophet said (peace be upon him):

“Respect your children and teach them good behaviour, Allah will forgive (your sins).”

  1. Encourage good self-care

…such as the nine and half hours of sleep every teen needs, and a good diet. Coffee is a bad idea for early teens because it interferes with normal sleep patterns. Too much screen time, especially in the hour before bedtime, reduces melatonin production and makes it harder for kids to fall asleep at night.

  1. Continue family meetings.

Held regularly at a mutually agreed upon time, family meetings provide a forum for discussing triumphs, grievances, sibling disagreements, schedules, any topic of concern to a family member. Ground rules help. Everyone gets a chance to talk; one person talks at a time without interruption; everyone listens, and only positive, constructive feedback is allowed. To get resistant teens to join in, combine the get-together with incentives such as post-meeting pizza or ice cream, or assign them important roles such as recording secretary or rule enforcer.

  1. Keep kids safe and connected to the family by keeping computers in your common space.

It can be hard for parents to track what teens do on line because they usually know more about the computer than we do. But research shows that he’ll be less tempted to spend time doing things you’d disapprove of if the computer is in a common space, where you can walk by and glance at what he’s doing. Kids live online these days, but he can still stay connected to his family if online is in the heart of your home.

Monitor respectfully and openly your teen’s activities on-line and what they are reading or viewing on the internet.  It has to be done with mutual respect and with permission and any issues should be raised and resolved together.

  1. Don’t push your teen into independence before he’s ready.

Every teen has his own timetable for blossoming into an independent person. Real independence includes close relationships with others, and it never needs to include rebelliousness. It is NOT healthy for your child to feel that you’re pushing him into independence — that only leads to him becoming overly dependent on the peer group for validation. If he isn’t ready to go to a sleep-away camp for a month, then he isn’t ready. Sooner or later, he will be. Respect his timetable.

  1. Make agreements and teach your child to make repairs.

If you’ve raised your child without punishment, he will almost certainly be close to you. Because he doesn’t want to damage the trust between you, he won’t lie to you, and he won’t usually infringe on your limits. If he does, ask him how he can make repairs, including repairing your trust.

  1. What if you’ve raised your child with punishment, and now s/he’s breaking your rules and lying to you?

It’s never too late to help him/her learn to take responsibility, but to start, s/he has to value his/her relationship with you. That means you need to stop punishing, and start listening and connecting. You also need to insist that s/he find ways to make repairs. That’s a tricky dance, because punishment will make things worse, so s/he has to choose to the repair– and yet you are still insisting that s/he do so.  No, it’s not a punishment — it’s a way for him/her to make things better when s/he messes up, which is what all adults need to learn to do. But s/he’ll only understand it this way if s/he wants to please you, so if you need to go to counseling together to create that relationship, don’t hesitate.

  1. Stay connected even as h/she moves into the world.

If we’ve accepted our child’s dependency needs AND affirmed her development into his/her own separate person, s/he’ll stay fiercely connected to us even as his/her focus shifts to peers, high school and the passions that make his/her soul sing.

It’s appropriate for teens to want to spend more time with their peers than their parents as they get older, but kids who are well grounded in their families will respond well to parents’ efforts to stay connected. And parents who have bonded adequately with their children at each earlier stage will feel invested enough in their teens to stay connected, even if a lot of effort is required.

It’s critical, during the teen years, for parents to remain their children’s emotional and moral compass. Kids will begin to experiment with intimate relationships outside the family, but to do that successfully, they still rely on those intimate relationships at home remaining solid. That means that a 14 year old who focuses mostly outwards is probably looking for something s/he wasn’t getting at home.

We need to invite our children to rely on us emotionally until they’re emotionally ready to depend on themselves. Too often, in our culture, we let teenagers transfer their dependency outside the family, with disastrous results. Teens often give up a great deal of themselves in pursuit of the closeness they crave, only to crash against the hard reality that other teens aren’t developmentally able to offer them what they need to flourish as independent young adults.

You may not be at the top of your teen’s list nowadays, but work like the dickens to stay close, and don’t take it for granted that your child will now push you away. That’s a sign of a damaged relationship. Don’t give up. It’s never too late in your relationship with your child to do repair work and move closer.