When one sees a happy family living in harmony, with a peaceful and relaxed home environment, and (above all) well-adjusted, pious children, this is not the result of chance. It is the result of hard work and effort to develop good parent-child relationships. Good parenting is a long-term investment and is the key to great success in the emotional, psychological, and physical development of children.
In essence, good parenting provides a warm, loving environment in which children can flourish. Such an environment is essential for forging relationships that improve communication and bring children and parents closer together. Successful communication requires positive attitudes, not harsh or judgmental ones, that encourage children to strive for excellence.
Muslim parenting today is quite problematic. Most parents do not take courses in parenting and they lack knowledge, experience, and parenting skills. They rely solely on instinct and common sense, which is usually outdated and inherited from ancestors who are either uninformed or for whom parenting has a different cultural meaning. There are others who are educated but imitate Western cultures blindly. Parents may also follow other ill-informed parents and neighbors. Some parents try to fulfill their unfulfilled wishes through their children. There are some who neglect or postpone parental duties. Owing to a lack of understanding or lack of time they delegate parenting to babysitters, schoolteachers, relatives, television, and computer games.
This is particularly a feature of some oil-rich countries where the “malpractice” of importing babysitters has impacted negatively on children’s characters.
We aim to help parents rectify all of the above, and to eliminate or reduce their innocent mistakes. In a sense, we offer a good “insurance policy” against most of the common pitfalls parents are likely to encounter.
Unfortunately, parenting today is largely taken for granted with little thought given to what this tremendous role entails. In fact, how many of us parents have ever thought seriously about the task we are entrusted with? It will help if we do so, for we will come to realize that parenting requires its own set of skills, strategies, and planning.
Think about it: we do not hire mechanizes, plumbers, electricians, or doctors unless they are qualified for the job, yet the majority of us become parents without any training. We study for 16 years to earn a college degree, yet can easily become a teenagers, without even preparing for great responsibility that lies ahead. Again, although we know that we must have a license to drive a car, to hunt for deer, or fly a plane, we do not feel that it is necessary for people to be trained for parenthood.
So what is it that the majority of us, of course meaning well, do when raising children? Although numerous parenting theories and good advice are available to parents, they are generally ignored and parents blithely carry on hoping that everything will turn out for the best.
They may exert some effort, attend parent-teacher Association (PTA) meetings at school, keep a general “eye on things”, worry about grades, attend family outings for the sake of being there, and make other superficial efforts. But aside from this, parents tend to do little else.
Although there is no all-encompassing fast-track model we can use, there are procedures that can be implemented to help us achieve our goal. Along the way, we come to realize that the road to good parenting is always under construction, and that although we may make improvements, we cannot expedite the process. Do not look for “short cuts,” to successful parenting because they do not exist.
Phases of child development
Let us begin by first understanding that children go through different phases of development. It is beneficial for parents to familiarize themselves with these stages, for in each stage the requirements and demands of parenthood change. The phases of child development can be divided as follow: Infants, toddlers, and preschoolers (ages 0-7); pre-teens (ages 8-11); young teens (ages 12-14); and young adults (ages 15-22). In each of these stages, children require different physical, emotional, social and psychological resources from parents.
Ultimately, the child grows from a state of total dependence to one of nearly total independence. It is important for parents and offspring to negotiate these transitions successfully. Conflict theories note how parents and young adults compete for power and resources. Each wants to control the other, and they often have different ideas about how resources (money, space, and time) should be allocated. As children become adolescents and adults, parents need to redirect their energy away from their children toward their own lives. Then the equation reverses when the parents become old and possibly dependent on their children. Independence translates into interdependence, where there will always be mutual advice, consultation, and sharing and caring between children and parents.
The Way We Raise Our Children: Different Parenting Styles
Let us also recognize that there are four broad parenting styles that many parents adopt (of course parenting styles do not always fit into these categories).
1) Authoritarian / dictatorial: Parents demand obedience, and severely punish disobedience.
2) Authoritative: Parents expect their children to be responsive to their demands, yet they are also responsive to the demands of their children. These parents explain their rules clearly and provide different well-considered reasons for rules and regulations, so the children realize that the parent’s demands are not haphazard, arbitrary, or meaningless.
3) Permissive: Parents allow their children to do as they please. There is little conflict, because permissive parents defer to their children’s wishes.
4) Democratic: Parents try to negotiate with their children, and include their children in decision making.
This is the first of an excerpt from a book on parenting which will be serialised every Friday.