In this counseling answer:
” When a child realizes that they can always have their own way, then naturally they will make more and more demands. If you are embarassed by your child’s behavior, and the child knows it, and also knows that they can get your attention in this way (even your negative attention is better than no attention), then they will behave badly.”
As salamu ‘alaykum dear father,
Does your son behave like this at other times, or is it only when you are in the restaurant? In fact, is your son used to be taken out, and do you treat him the same whether in public or private? Consistency is all important when raising children, and if one behaves differently towards them when in public, the child will definitely behave differently too.
Prophet Muhammad said: “He who does not respect our elder, or is not merciful to the young, or does not feel indebted to the scholars, is not of my Nation” (Abu Dawud, No.4921)
Mercy and compassion are essential components of building a Muslim society, and it starts with how we raise our child, who afterall are the future. When we only expect obedience, we treat our children as extensions of ourselves to do our bidding, and to be who we want them to be.
Their character, their feelings, and their needs are denied, because we are essentially treating them like slaves, which in Islam, was not how slaves were treated in the time of Prophet Muhammad, but is how slaves are still treated by and in the secular world (yes it still exists in one form or another).
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By showing respect to our children, and with that the compassion of mercy, we develop emotional ties, which all humans needs regardless of age, and in so doing we establish a loving, caring relationship that is reciprocated. In this way, the child learns love, learns compassion, learns to give and learns to listen, because we too listen to them.
Anas (RAA) tells us: “I never saw anyone who was more compassionate towards children than the Messenger of Allah (PBUH). His son Ibrahim was in the care of a wet-nurse in the hills around Madinah. He would go there, and we would go with him, and he would enter the house, pick up his son and kiss him, then come back”(Muslim, 15: 75)
All human relations provide an opportunity to learn about ourselves because each person is like a reflection. Given that how a person relates to you is not always determined by you, but maybe due to someone or something else, but still there is a certain level of give and take in the interaction between two people.
This is even more so with children, because they have come into the world through the mother, and are being raised in a social environment that will have the strongest influence on that child’s perception of self and perception of human relations.
Therefore how a child relates to you, is much more related to you and the environment that you have helped to create. If you demonstrate for example:
- Love as a convenience
- Breaking promises
- Deafness towards anything that your child says
- Being treated according to ones personal needs and not the needs of others
Then these are the qualities that a child will learn from you. When a child realizes that they can always have their own way, then naturally they will make more and more demands. If you are embarassed by your child’s behavior, and the child knows it, and also knows that they can get your attention in this way (even your negative attention is better than no attention), then they will behave badly.
“Best behaviour is that which you yourself start to practice.” ‘Ali ibn A bu Talib
A child who is nurtured amidst faith and with that faith, mutual trust, mutual respect, mutual love, and mutual compassion will naturally develop a sense of belonging as well as a sense of self. They will develop skills and abilities according to their inclination. With a sense of belonging, comes taqlid – emulation, and in sha ‘Allah the child will have good role models to emulate.
A three -year old child will:
- Still has some degree of self-centeredness
- Is learning and enjoys being part of a group
- Needs social interaction with peers
- Needs to increase vocabulary in order to communicate needs and socialize more
- Is learning about rules and limitations and will make mistakes, so kind reminders are helpful especially if the reminders do not undermine the child’s self-esteem or embarrasses them
When your child does not accept “No” for an answer.
- Do not lose your temper
- Do not bribe with sweets – your child will learn deception and manipulation
- Do not give in – otherwise your child will become more demanding.
- Listen to any explanation of why they are angry
“Reprimand and punishment in excess might make one stubborn,” – ‘Ali Ibn ‘Abu Talib.
Some restaurants are not child friendly and are not as family friendly as those in the Middle East. Restaurants can be too formal, and not allow a child to feel comfortable and relaxed. If your son has previous experience of eating at restaurants, maybe those experiences were bad ones. For instance, maybe he did not like the meal, or a particular type of food, and he was forced to eat it. Maybe he was forced to eat more than he could. Maybe your son feels that you are not interested in his needs.
This and other reasons could contribute towards his dislike of restaurants or public spaces with his parents. Your wife did the right thing by talking to your son about his behavior, but it might have been embarrassing for your son to be marched out of the restaurant because of his behavior, and so he challenged his mother’s authority by marching right back in!
Your son has feelings too, and if you want him to behave and to be polite, then be the example of what you want him to be. Make your son feel a part of the family when you are out, make sure from beforehand that he is aware of what he can and cannot do and why, and do expect to remind him, but in a loving way.
Last but not least, make sure that the food provided by the restaurant (not too much) is the kind of food that your son likes and is presented in a way that he can feed himself and that there is room for dessert!
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