Will I be a good parent?
Am I a good parent?
These are questions that become a constant hum in the back of our minds as soon as we know about the new addition to our lives. Giving them a better life—a life of meaning, comfort, and purpose—becomes a top priority for any good parent.
From a young age, the role and impact of a parent’s choices build the foundation for a child’s future. In fact, research shows that the first five years of a child’s life are crucial for their brain development. In the first five years of their lives, the experiences and relationship dynamics that a child encounters cause the fastest development of neural pathways in their brain than at any other moment in their life.
As we age, it is our lived experiences that help us accumulate knowledge, values, attitudes, and beliefs that help us construct our future thinking and behaviour. Though in reality, there are a lot of risk factors involved in shaping our adult thinking and behaviour, the primary and main influences come from positive and involved parenting during our childhood. Research shows us that poor parental supervision and parenting skills are associated with a young person’s lack of productive habits and involvement in negative life choices . Hence, it is more important than ever for parents to provide undivided attention to nurturing the moral condition of their children.
Constructing a Foundation to Withstand the Test of Time
Good moral training helps children acquire attributes such as patience, humility, and self-reliance as they mature. The religion of Islam teaches us that the moral training of a child is of utmost importance. According to Islam, the moral training of a child starts when parents decide to conceive a child. The idea is that if we desire our children to be any good, then our own thoughts must be pure as well. Hence, it is advised that during the moment of consort, parents should supplicate by praying:
“Shield us, O Allah, against Satan. And keep Satan away from whatever Thou might bestow upon us.” (Way of the Seekers, Pg:47)
The substance of the prayer is that we say to God: O Allah, sin is a filthy thing. Save us from it and also safeguard our children against it.
The Holy Prophet (on whom be peace and blessings) has also said:
The meaning of this is that a child as a child is at the mercy of his parents. He absorbs what he hears them say and does what he sees them do. The child is a great imitator. If the parents do not set before children a proper model to copy, the child will go elsewhere to find a model that they can copy.
Three Building Blocks that Ensure a Solid Foundation for Kids at a Young Age
When parents model appropriate behaviour in their children at a young age, children develop the ability to do things and make decisions for themselves, which strengthens the parent-child relationship. Parents, as teachers or role models, need to respect their children, and acknowledge their efforts, even if they don’t meet our expectations. Instead of getting frustrated with the child, we should respect their own innate learning ability and appreciate the child’s effort. These are the exact moments where composure will serve us well. When we look back, we will see that these were opportunities to build connections through example and be that role model that is patient and kind.
The Holy Prophet (on whom be peace and blessings) said:
Meaning, when a kid is told it is terrible, it creates an imagined picture in which it figures itself out as bad and becomes bad.
Another way to instil self-reliance in our children is to not over-indulge them. Regarding this matter, The Second Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community writes,
The simple habit of self-reliance encourages a child, as they mature, to not live their life to satisfy others or to meet other people’s expectations. They learn how to be independent and not only do things for themselves, but also think for themselves.
Children need to learn from right to wrong, and they can only do this successfully in a loving environment with rules that are easy to understand and which are consistent, and this enables them to actually become self-reliant. Parents who continually change these rules or give in to persuasion are likely to create confused children who are unsure of how to act. Set your rules and stick to them. Allow your children to be self-sufficient, and avoid frequently changing your decisions or allowing your child to win you over just to keep the peace. Allow your children to learn from their mistakes as they grow and begin to recognise right from wrong and make better decisions.
Food consumption that is consistent leads to the development of habits such as punctuality and self-control. Children who are raised to share their meals are less likely to be egocentric. Food delivered in predetermined amounts and at predetermined times guarantees that the youngster makes the most of what he or she has and does not waste it.
Regular eating habits will lead to the following positive habits: punctuality, self-control, and cooperation in terms of health. Because they have learned to eat with others, such youngsters will not be egotistical or selfish. Frugality The harmful habits of wastefulness and luxury will not affect such a child. If a child is allowed to eat at odd hours, he or she will eat less and waste more. However, if they are fed consistently and at consistent times, they will make the best of what they have and will not waste anything. For example, a child wishes to possess anything that piques his interest when walking down the street. If you don’t reward them with it, they will learn to resist temptation later in life. If we tell our children to wait until mealtime if they want to consume something that is sitting around the house, this will strengthen their willpower and allow them to exercise restraint.
Many parents have told their children a white lie or two, usually with the best of intentions. Research suggests 45% of parents tell their children white lies at least once a week, and a fifth (20%) tell them well-meaning untruths daily to satisfy their curious minds. However, when we impress this habit of well-intentioned lies on our children, we are actually hindering their growth both mentally and in interpersonal relationships. Lying leads children to lose their capacity for self-reliance and, in turn, leads them to find unsuccessful means to justify their weakness rather than accept their own self, which then inevitably leads to anxiety and depression.
On lying, in the Holy Quran it is stated:
“O ye who believe! Be strict in observing justice, and be witnesses for Allah, even though it be against yourselves or against parents and kindred. Whether he be rich or poor, Allah is more regardful of them both than you are. Therefore follow not low desires so that you may be able to act equitably. And if you conceal the truth or evade it, then remember that Allah is well aware of what you do.” (Ch 4 V136).
What can we do to better inculcate truthfulness in a child
Make it a habit for them to admit their faults. A parent should not keep their child in the dark about their faults. Be that role model once more. If a parent makes a mistake, rather than lying or hiding it, they should publicly admit it. When a child makes a mistake, be empathetic. A child must feel safe and secure in their relationship with you as a parent in order to be comfortable enough to tell the truth. As a result, when they realize they’ve made a mistake, we must teach them that their actions have resulted in some sort of loss and that their actions have repercussions. This will prevent repeat occurrences of the same mistakes and also will promote accountability.
To instil the importance of trust within the parent-child relationship, the Second Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community states in his book, Way of the Seekers, “If you want to reprimand a child, do not do it before others; do it in privacy.” This will enable the parent to establish a relationship of trust with their child.
In conclusion, we can all agree that to ensure a better future for our children, we must focus on building strong interpersonal relationships in their youth. The moral training of our children must take precedence over any other material necessity, and this can only happen when parents set a moral obligation on themselves to lead by example.