Raising Children with Kindness and Wisdom

How can we have good and obedient children without using harsh discipline?

Ustadha Zaynab, the daughter of Habib Umar, descendents of the Holy Prophet Muhammad ﷺ gives some amazing advice:

Her father, when seeing a child has made a mistake, instead of reprimanding them, would bring the incident up later, not mentioning who it was and advise what the correct action would have been. This is the kindest and most effective method. It's very important not to shame a child and this is an ideal way as they will definitely be listening when the subject is brought up and be very grateful for not being named, promoting more love, affection and obedience. He would also ask the children themselves what the answer could be.

This section is a summarised extract from a course, in March this year, where Ustadha Zaynab explains how to dealing with difficult behaviour and stubborn children.

Remember that the behaviour of the child is the tip of the iceberg. The part that we cannot see is much bigger and is a reflection of the problems the child may have so remember this when dealing with them: something bigger is happening.

When you see negative behaviour, see it just when she you see a fever in a child;you can take medicine to reduce the fever but until you treat the illness in the first place, it will keep coming back.

When trying to deal with the underlying problem, deal with one thing at a time. Don't make it a constant battle and anger by trying to fix everything all the time.

The way that you think and frame the problem is essential in how to deal with the problems. When a child makes a mistake, look at them as being human. Allah swt has made us for a lofty purpose and in the process, we're all going to make mistakes. Use the mistakes as an opportunity to learn and grow. Examine yourself as well, look at how you deal with things and your own mistakes and respond to your child just as you would want people to respond to your errors: with wisdom, a deeper approach, holistically.

Accept the mistake. Not by being pleased or ignoring it if it needs to be addressed, but accept that it's happened and you're going to try to correct it in a way which uses wisdom.

When you've accepted it, you're in a position to look and learn from the whole event, see the symptoms clearly to find out the reasons for acting in this way.

Most of the common reasons are: an unfulfilled need, they want to assert their importance and show their being is essential and vital to you.

One of the first behaviours a child does is attention seeking. From a young age for example, when a child coughs and you respond with alhamdulilah, they cough again to keep your focus on them. Attention seeking is just your child trying to get your attention but just not in the best way. The child thinks you're too busy for them or you've passed them on to someone else (another care giver etc) and that they're not important enough. The cure for attention seeking behaviour is by giving them extra attention noticing them when they're already involved in an activity. If you ignore, it will lead to them experimenting with other types of behaviour to get your attention- so give that positive attention first.

Get them involved in what you're doing even if it's small tasks, so they're involved in your world and not cut off from you when you're busy. Eg getting you a pen when you're working, helping you when you're doing work in the house. Speak clearly when you're busy, eg "I'm doing this now, what shall we do afterwards?" This will reassure them you're not cut off and will get full attention afterwards. You can allocate your child special duties to help them feel a sense of achievement and establish independent skills.

On stubborn children:

…. This quality is a BIG blessing from Allah swt. So be grateful for this nimah. This quality can help protect them from other people and situations which would weaken someone else. Do not break that stubbornness! Deal with it with wisdom, protect it and use it positively and for good.

Give them a role to play, get them to use their strength of character positively. Do not give them orders, instead present it as a choice to them to give them the impression that they're in control.

Persist in giving them choices and value their feelings. You can also replace orders with questions, e.g. what time do you want to do your homework? Again so that they feel in control.

Do not meet their stubbornness with your own stubbornness! This will only escalate things negatively and make the child not feel loved. When a child feels unloved or left out, they will make themselves feel better by seeking revenge. So we need to fix this problem quickly by always trying our best to understand the child's feelings.

Establish and build that positive loving emotional commitment to not allow bad behaviour to become fixed in. You need to also examine your child: is there any bullying which is happening? Think carefully about whether there could be negative behaviour from someone else which is affecting them on a deeper level.

Always, always avoid comparing your child to other people, no matter what. Tell them that you love them, use positive loving emotions.

A child can start feeling like a failure, either by being overly spoilt, or by being treated with too much harshness. This can then manifest in stubborn behaviour so it's important to remember that when we deal with them.

It's also important to have good role models in the parents behaviour and siblings, as however the child sees anger being expressed,