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Practical Tips for Parenting Children

Practical Tips for Parenting Children

In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful

Parents of young children (preschool age) should have few expectations in terms of behavior and acquisition of knowledge due to the cognitive limitations at this age. This does not mean that children should be allowed to run about and do as they please; they still require guidelines and boundaries. What it does mean is that care should be taken regarding the methods that are used to raise children and the values that are instilled from the very beginning.

It is interesting to note that the Arabic term tarbiyah, which is often used to mean teaching or training, generally refers to growth, increase, nourishment, and cultivation. This relates to the physical, intellectual, emotional, psychological, and spiritual aspects of an individual. When thinking of growth and cultivation this implies that something has already been planted or is already present (natural fitrah).

Tarbiyah then refers to the various methods that are used to watch over and attend to a child until he or she becomes prepared to take responsibility and behave in complete submission to and worship of Allaah, subhanahu wa ta'ala. The following suggestions are techniques that may be used for tarbiyah for early childhood.

Play, Play, Play: Play should be the primary emphasis during this time in a child's life since this is the means through which they gain an understanding of the world around them. Pretend or imaginative play is the most common type of play during this stage and this directly impacts cognitive, social, and psychological development.

Children will often mimic or imitate the behavior of adults or other children around them in their play, which is their way of preparing for their particular roles in life. Girls will most often imitate their mother, and boys will follow in the footsteps of their father. You will see girls playing with dolls, dressing and feeding them and boys in more rough-and-tumble physical types of play. These gender roles develop at an early age and are a natural part of Allaah's plan for the differentiation of responsibilities for men and women. These and other types of play should be encouraged and fostered in young children.

Prevention: The saying "Prevention is the best medicine" is true not only in the medical field, but also within psychology. There are many steps that parents can take to prevent misbehavior and avoid the disruption that this can cause within the family.

First of all, children need predictability, structure, and guidelines because this gives them a sense of security and a feeling that there is order in the world. When this is present they are less likely to feel anxious or stressed which, in turn, will decrease the likelihood of inappropriate behavior. Children will sometimes act chaotic if they are in a chaotic environment. Secondly, probably the most common reason for misbehavior is to gain attention from a parent or other adults.

A defining feature of being human is the need for social contact, approval, and attention that is already present at birth. When parents fulfill this need adequately, a child will feel content and be more likely to engage in solitary play. If a child is not able to obtain attention through positive behavior, he or she may utilize negative behavior for this purpose. Parents can fulfill this need by spending quality time with their child (e.g., talking, playing, reading, enjoying nature, and much more). Quality is often more important than quantity.

Rewarding Positive Behavior: The concept of rewards and punishments is an integral part of Islamic 'Aqeedah as there are natural consequences for each of our actions. This same wisdom can be applied to the area of parenting.

Rewards are effective in not only increasing the occurrence of positive behavior, but also in decreasing negative behavior and increasing a child's self-esteem. The most effective rewards for children are those that are the easiest to give: praise, encouragement, hugs, thanks, etc.

Ignoring Misbehavior: Many of the inappropriate behaviors of young children can simply be ignored or disregarded.
For young children, in particular, it is really counterproductive to berate, question, and reprimand when they really have little understanding as to why they acted in a certain way. Simply ignoring the behavior may be the most appropriate response. Another related technique is to redirect the child to something else in the environment to draw attention away from the undesirable.

It is important to realize that within these general guidelines there are about as many ways to parent as there are parents. Parents need to take into consideration the unique personalities, dispositions, and gifts of each child when deciding upon a particular approach. What may work with one child may not necessarily be effective with another. It is also imperative to remember that our children are one of the greatest tests that we have from Allaah, subhanahu wa ta'ala, and we need to continually ask Him for assistance and guidance for ourselves and our children. This is the most effective and powerful tool for tarbiyah. "When My servants ask you (Muhammad) concerning Me, I am indeed near. I respond to the prayer of every suppliant when he calls on Me. Let them also, with a will, listen to My call and believe in Me, that they may walk in the right way." [2:186]