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How to Discipline a Stubborn Child?

Questioner

Anonymous

Reply Date

Oct 09, 2017

Question

Salam Aleikom. Islamically, what shall I do with my 5-year-old boy when he is rebellious? Should I always try explaining to him why he needs to do this or that, seeking a mutual agreement or shall I just tell him to do this because I am your mother and I said so? I know the first option would be more ideal, but what if he does not want to understand and repeats the same bad act over and over? Or in the supermarket when I say no we cannot buy this, he becomes hysterical. I cannot beg him all the time to please understand, please do this. He oftentimes becomes cheeky. I believe in this case a little spanking is necessary. What do you think?

Counselor

Answer


How to Discipline a Stubborn Child?

In this counseling answer:

“While he may seem like a little rebel, sister, he is merely testing his limits and has learned that his rebellious behavior either gets him what he wants or it gives him a lot of attention from you by your explaining, reasoning, and begging. In sha’ Allah, when you do not feed into the negative behavior and respond with a consequence, he will begin to change.”


As-Salamu ‘Alaykum sister,

This is a very difficult age with children testing limits and being egocentric.  Oftentimes parents see a rather well-behaved child turn into a little rebel at this age as the child is exposed to more and more stimuli that catch his attention. As his focus is primarily on himself, it often turns into a battle between what your child wants and what you expect of him.

At this age, children are in the “pre-operational” stage according to Piaget, a well-known child psychologist. According to Piaget, “At this stage, kids learn through pretend play but still struggle with logic and taking the point of view of other people. They also often struggle with understanding the idea of constancy”.

As stated, at this age children struggle with logic. For instance, if you say “no, you cannot have that cookie at the supermarket, you already ate 3”, he does not see the logic in that answer and only wants what he desires. He is also unable to understand your point of view. Thus, “begging” or “mutual agreements” will not work as he is not cognitively at that level of understanding quite yet.

While we try to explain our reasoning to our children in hopes they will understand and abide by our rules and wishes, often it is simpler than that. In fact, it can be as simple as structure and consistency.

I would kindly suggest dear sister that you set limits by stating in simple terms what it is that you expect from him. For instance, if he wants an item from the store, tell him no and leave it at that.  If he gets upset, tell him that unless he calms down you will leave. This may be hard especially if your husband does not do the shopping with you, but after a few times of being escorted out of the store to calm down, he will in sha’ Allah begin to associate his negative behavior with unpleasant results.

I remember I had that problem with my daughter when she was about his age. Every time we went to a store I dreaded it. She would carry on like an out of control child! I then asked my husband to step outside with her every time she acted up and after a few times of him doing this, she started to change her behavior for the positive as she really did like shopping.

This strategy would apply to other situations as well. If he has a playmate over and begins to act out, remove him from the situation until he can regain control. While he may seem like a little rebel, sister, he is merely testing his limits and has learned that his rebellious behavior either gets him what he wants or it gives him a lot of attention from you by your explaining, reasoning, and begging. In sha’ Allah, when you do not feed into the negative behavior and respond with a consequence, he will begin to change.

I would not recommend spanking him as it will not teach him responsibility for his actions. However, if you start replying in simple terms and remove him from situations wherein he is acting out, it will in sha’ Allah show him that you are in control not him and that there will be unpleasant consequences when he acts out. This will be a learning experience for both him and you. It will take patience and consistency on your part, but in sha’ Allah he will begin to restructure his behavior soon.

We wish you the best.

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Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

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About Aisha Mohammad-Swan

Aisha Mohammad-Swan received her PhD in psychology in 2000. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years for Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York with a focus on PTSD, OCD, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, marriage/relationships issues, as well as community-cultural dynamics. She is certified in Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, and Mediation, and is also a certified Life Coach. She is currently studying for her certification in Islamic Chaplaincy, and takes Islamic courses at SHC. Aisha works at a Women's Daytime Drop in Center, and has her own part-time practice in which she integrates counseling and holistic health. Aisha also received an MA in Public Health/Community Development in 2009 and plans to open a community counseling/resource center for Muslims and others in the New York area in the future, in sha' Allah.

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