„Children are angels without wings“ says a proverb. We may differ on the answer to the question if this proverb is true. However, every parent knows that patience is one of the greatest challenges (if not the greatest challenge) of parenting.
Children are experts. They are born with the unique ability to convert a nice and neat nursery or children room into a theatre stage of a war show. They also have the natural inclination to put one thing into another thing like beads and pens into noses and ears or keys into socket-outlets . Their ability to ask curious questions like „Mom, why is this?“ and „Mom, why is that?“ and their constant reminders that you are the mother („Mom, Mom, Mom! Mooooom!“) seem to get never boring (for them). Last but not least, their imagination and creativity are unimaginably creative, like their new Picasso wall paintings and innovative self-cut hairstyles.
These and many more are some of the situations that may a parent want to yell at the child, hit the door, hide under the bed cover and just fall into a deep sleep until the children are finally old and mature.
However, as soon as the children are sleeping like angels without wings as if nothing ever happened, we miss them, want to cover them with kisses and not leave them alone in their bed.
What if I told you that there is an easy way (or two) to be calm with children? Imagine this: no yelling at the kids, no mom’s temper tantrums, no weekend spleen (mom’s freaking at the end of a weekend with kids at home), having fun in parenting. And all this without spoiling your children. Is that actually possible and realistic?
Yes, it is possible! And realistic! But not always easy.
Pearls of wisdom from the Sunnah
First, let us look at some lessons from the lives of Prophet Muhammad and his companions.
Umm Salamah was one of the earliest Muslims. She and her first husband Abu Salamah had 6 children. After Abu Salamah had died, she married the Prophet. The children of Umm Salamah we known in Madina to be the most disciplined and best mannered children. This was due to the unique parenting methods of the Prophet und Umm Salamah. These methods negated yelling, shouting and spanking.
Therefore, we see that we can raise our children in the best way if we implement the unique methods that were narrated to us in the Sunnah. However, the question that remains is how to achieve this ideal and peaceful parenting style?
Basically, there are two ways: the cognitive method and the behavioural method, combined they become the cognitive behavioural method.
The cognition of patience
There is always a reason why we act or react in a specific way. And this reason mostly is constructed in our minds; it is cognitive. In practical terms, this means that there is a greater reason behind our yelling.
Think of a situation where you found yourself yelling at your child. Recall the complete situation: what happened before, what happened at the time of yelling, how did you feel? Now, question yourself: what did you worry about, why did you yell? Did you worry about your child’s health? About his/her moral development?
When you have found the answer for this question, you can think about if it was really a valid reason to yell.
Generally, there are four possible answers:
1. Harmful behaviour
2. Mom’s temper tantrum
3. Green jacket vs. Blue jacket
4. Dysfunctional or irrational beliefs
Let us start with the easiest of them: children do something that harms themselves or others. Mothers and fathers should be quiet strict in forbidding this kind of behaviour. In this case it is very easy to avoid yelling as one can explain the harm behind, either verbally or visually. However, it is important to argue at the level of the child‘s understanding. (to read about moral understanding of children, subscribe to www.mirahmalaika.com and like the Facebook page www.facebook.com/mirahdaawah.)
Mom’s temper tantrum
Yes, also mothers throw tantrums, especially after weekends with quarrelling and screaming children or before/during their menses. In this case, we have very clear guidelines in the sunnah on how to calm ourselves down. These guidelines have been found by science to be the most effective in terms of anger management. I am going to briefly explain these guidelines at the end of this article.
Green jacket vs. Blue jacket
Sometimes, we just want our children to listen to what we say – without a specific reason. Sometimes, it really does not matter if the child wears the blue or the green jacket, eats the strawberry marmalade or raspberry marmalade. In these cases, we can give our child the space to chose. This gives them the feeling of having freedom of choice and the understanding that if you forbid something, it is really harmful and not serving your ego. Therefore, they are more content (because they can chose sometimes) and more likely to obey you.
Dysfunctional or irrational beliefs
This category may be the most difficult to handle. Some of these beliefs are „the child must not question the parents“, „if my kids don’t behave like adults, people will think that I am an awful parent“, „if the parent tells the child to do something, the child must obey immediately“ and „if I don’t spank my kid, I will spoil it“. These beliefs are taught to you over years or even decades. If you want to change these beliefs into functional and rational beliefs, you should visit a parental coach. I understand that most of them are really expensive (sometimes I wonder what is their intention of being a parental coach: money or helping families. However, you can find affordable coaching and counselling services at Al-Ansar - Islamic Services for Personal Development for 30-40% of usual fees of other coaches and counsellors. You can book a free initial session at www.mirahmalaika.com/book-online)
Behaviour of patience
If changing the cognition does not work, you may try to modify your behaviour in a solution focused way, i.e. you try to find a solution without looking at the problem. This may seem easier on the first sight but seems to be less effective in many cases.
There are two points that must be considered when modifying behaviour. Stopping vs. Changing and Islamic methods of anger management.
Stopping vs. Changing
We simply cannot just stop a certain kind of behaviour without falling back into the old pattern. We need to change our behaviour from dysfunctional behaviour to functional behaviour. This sounds quiet theoretical but is rather easy. The question that rises is „does yelling bring the benefit that you want to bring about in your child?“. Most likely the answer will be no. Therefore, yelling is a dysfunctional behaviour that need to be changed into a functional behaviour. You need to try something new over a long period of time that allows you to really judge if that new behaviour is more functional. For example, instead of yelling at your child for hours that it should finally clean his/her room, you can help your child by giving guidelines on how to arrange the room.
For our children, the same concept is valid. You cannot tell your child to simply stop a behaviour and expect that the child stops. Instead, you should change the behaviour. For example, instead of telling your child „stop jumping on the couch“, you say „the couch is for sitting, so you can sit down and read book“, or instead of saying „stop being so loud“, you say „let us make a whisper competition“. Maybe these specific examples don’t work with each and every child but they work with mine and my friends‘ and clients‘. I don’t want to teach you content but the process.
Islamic methods of anger management
Basically, the Islamic methods of anger management include seeking refuge in Allah from the shaytan (satan), changing one’s position to a lower one (sitting or lying down), making wudoo (ablution) and withdrawing oneself from the situation and induces anger. As this article is about parenting, anger management should be discussed in a separate article.
Reclaim peace of parenting
With only few modifications which sometimes need real effort and work, you can reclaim the peace and fun at your home. The dream of yelling free parenting is not as far away as you think. Grab the opportunity and change your parenting style to a more Islamic one – because we owe it to our children.