“I Don’t get Obedience from my Child unless I am Strict”
There are innumerable Islamic teachings that give guidance on child upbringing, and today’s psychologists are reaffirming them. Do take interest in your children, since they are the future,
By Dr. Ali Khwaja
Some parents still believe in “Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child”, and use force, slapping, hitting to make the child obey.
As a family counsellor, I deal very often with parents who come with very similar experiences – their child is becoming increasingly disobedient, and no amount of pleading, cajoling, explaining, rewarding, ignoring, or applying logic, has helped. In exasperation, the parents have started punishing the child. The punishment has been steadily increasing, and the parents are caught in a trap that without their strictness they feel that they are losing control over the child. “I don’t get obedience from my child unless I am strict” they say with exasperation.
They are very loving, sincere and dedicated to their child. They want nothing but the best for him. Yet to the child they appear to have become demons who are constantly trying to control, curb and punish him at every move. In turn parents feel that their lovely little obedient child of yesterday now seems to be determined to go on doing wrong things leaving them with no choice but to punish him repeatedly. I ask such parents whether their strict punishment has achieved results, and the answer is mostly “no.” I even ask them if they would like to go on increasing the punishment or strict control, and they obviously do not wish to. But they feel so trapped and insecure that even with such strictness the child is going astray, imagine what would happen if they were to be lenient!
Increasing strictness does not get the desired results. Good intentions alone are not enough for good upbringing of a child. What is needed is a change in approach.
NO SHORT CUTS
To come out with better alternatives, the first thing the parent has to acknowledge is that there are no short-cuts. Parenting is an ongoing long-term process that ends only when the child grows up and becomes independent. Getting sulking compliance or forcing the child to score a few extra percentage points in the next exam, are not end results. The most effective parenting methods have only slow, but long term and permanent, effects.
“Prevention is better than cure”. Effective parents anticipate the issues they are likely to face. At every growing stage children develop temptations, curiosity, rebelliousness, at least temporarily. Also, a child who watches anger, conflict or unpleasantness in the house, will inevitably pick up aggressive postures some time or the other. These are only some of the issues that need to be tackled before they become problems. Just expecting them to be disciplined since they are being brought up in a respectful Islamic atmosphere is not enough.
Proven constructive methods of enforcing discipline in the right way to get good long term results can be listed out as follows:
Consistency: Both parents (and also grand parents if living together) should have the same level of strictness, and the same rules should apply at all times. Changes in discipline norms from time to time create a lot of confusion in the child.
Never compare: Use each child’s own abilities and past behavior as a yardstick. Never compare or point out what others are doing or not doing. If you feel that he is too young to get pocket money, say so directly to him, but do not give examples of others, and do not allow him to get away by saying that his friend is getting money.
Immediate: Both praise and criticism should be immediate, and specific. Explain his action (good or bad), how it affects you or others, what you feel about it, and why you are convinced that a particular rule should be followed. Even when citing Islamic teachings, emphasize on their practical usefulness.
Constructive: All punishment should be constructive and for his benefit. Make him do some work, contribute to others’ welfare, help out in family matters. The punishment should be for the bad action done by him, and should never hit the self-esteem or individuality of the child e.g. “you are good for nothing, you don’t deserve to use the phone and waste money on calls to your useless friends.”
Follow it with a reward: It is absolutely essential that punishment should be balanced with rewards — even for the smallest nice thing done by the child. A child who never experiences praise or rewards from his parents, does not understand the significance of doing good deeds. This not only helps in building the self-esteem and confidence levels of the child, it also motivates him to do good acts on a continuous basis.
There are innumerable Islamic teachings that give guidance on child upbringing, and today’s psychologists are reaffirming them. Do take interest in your children, since they are the future, and they will be your caretakers in your old age.
(Dr. Ali Khwaja, a perpetual student, shares from the heart his three decades of experience in counselling and observing human behavior. He is also a proud parent of two children who are grown up and leading happy lives. He is open to interactions on [email protected])