Family relations can be the most difficult of all of life’s challenges. Your son at 15 months is in an environment where he is apparently being pulled into two different directions. There is a struggle going on in your home between you and your husband, and your in-laws, and the child is at the center of it. If things do not change, he could become the victim of it.
I think your child reacts to the tension between his parents and his grandparents who want different things for him and disagree on what is needed for him at this point. For one, as the boy is only 15 months old, there is nothing wrong with letting the child have fun, and in fact, it is encouraged. Children must be allowed to be children, as long as it is within the bounds prescribed by Islam.
Healthy development means that at each stage of life, the individual is able to experience what is appropriate for that particular stage of life. On the other hand, TV itself is not good, and we should limit how much our children watch it. It is an artificial world (with no values) in which the viewer becomes passive to whatever is being shown, contributing nothing to the emotional, psychological, and social development of the child. However, as we are not living in one’s own home, we then need to try to find ways to limit it and/or view shows that have some value to them such as cartoons that have positive moral messages and/or are not excessively violent.
A good way to get children away from the TV is for the parents to spend time with them doing activities that are better and more fun than TV. Alternatively, it is much more productive to do activities with the children (indoors/outdoors) or to set activities that gain their attention.
There is no such thing as forcing children to be good. They are good by nature, until we, the adults of the world, turn them away from their pure state or by not guiding them in a way that will allow them to retain that inherent goodness.
“We have indeed created man in the best of molds.” (At-Tin 95:4)
There is no fault in Allah’s creation; to man, Allah gave the purest and best nature. Our duty is to preserve and nurture the distinctive character that Allah has created.
The Prophet (May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) said:
“No child is born but upon a fitrah.” (Muslim, 033# 6425)
You do not become good by trying to be something you’re not, but by remembering your God-given fitrah, and allowing it to emerge. Don’t put this enormous pressure on yourself to make your child good or into something that you want him to be. Nurture him, love him, guide him, and teach him to be exactly as was created to be, i.e. the highest of creation.
The most effective way to teach anything to anybody is to be a role model. This is why Allah sent human beings as prophets to all peoples. If you do not model love for your child, how do you expect him to ever love Allah? Discipline is fine, but the fact that you are hitting your 15-month old and he is hitting you back is a grave concern.
The child who errs is forgiven by Allah, and if he dies in childhood, he automatically goes to heaven. This mercy of Allah should guide us as we guide our children. It is not right that you always teach the child to fear Allah without teaching him to love Allah first.
Try to describe Paradise to him as much as you can, mentioning Hell only (especially to young children) is counterproductive. It often achieves the very result we are trying to avoid. Stressing the negative and the punishment makes the child want to avoid anything to do with the religion. He or she grows up thinking that it is the religion that keeps him from enjoying life.
Be patient with your child. Let him see you love him, his father, your family, Islam, the Prophet, the Qur’an and others, and he will learn to love as well. Don’t force things on him, but teach him through your actions. You can preach and force all you want, but if your child does not see the joy that Islam brings to your life, then why would he want it for himself? Then, he might mimic the religious acts just to please you and fulfill your goalsfor him, but what good is it if it’s not genuine? Surrender to Allah must be with the heart, voluntarily.
It cannot be forced. Allah judges our deeds and hearts. If these two things are not in unison, there’s a problem. Forcing our children to be things that we want will only end up making them hypocrites, acting one way to please their parents, while in their hearts will be disdain for it. Allah created each of us for a purpose. Let that purpose arise naturally by nurturing and guiding to what is good, rather than just keeping them away from what is not good or scolding them every time they do something that does not hold up to our ‘image’ of what is good.
Every time we deal with our children, we are teaching them, whether we intend to or not. There is a famous poem by Shamma that depicts this vividly. It begins:
- If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn.
- If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight.
- If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy.
Therefore, we must examine carefully how we deal with our child in order to have a desirable end result. This same poem continues:
- If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient.
- If a child lives with fairness, he learns justice.
- If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith.
To teach your child to love Islam, we must show them that Islam is peace, balance, moderation, tolerance, respect, and all else that is good. You are currently raising your son in a hostile environment. That means that he will probably associate Islam with hostility unless things change. The environment in which we raise our children is of the utmost importance.
However, I think I agree with your parents to an extent in that a child must be allowed to be a child. Yes, he understands what he sees and hears which is why you must try to limit his TV or at least watch programs that are wholesome. But what’s worse than TV is that he is engaging in violence with his own parents!! That is by far worse than some dancing on TV.
Allow the child to have fun, and have fun with him. Love him and don’t force your goals and desires for him. You want him to choose those things for himself. If you want your child to become a Hafiz Al-Qur’an, then you must show him what it means to love the Qur’an and put him in an environment where people love the Qur’an. If your child sees you reading and learning the Qur’an often – and practicing it –, he will learn to value it and hopefully, in sha’ Allah, someday, he will love it.
With all that said, however, I must agree with you that spoiling children is a big problem. It is inevitable for most grandparents to want to spoil their grandchildren. You have to find ways to limit this, however. Perhaps, you want to explain to your in-laws of the harms of spoiling children. Perhaps, once they understand that their actions are not as harmless as they think, they will do otherwise.
In addition, there has to be some boundaries in the sense that they have to understand that you and your husband are the child’s parents and are ultimately responsible for his welfare. They need to respect that as it sounds as if they are not allowing you to ‘do your job’.
Perhaps, as your husband is the son, he would be more appropriate to have these discussions with your in-laws. You and he must work together as a team to address this situation. Of course, if possible, it would be best to have your own place to live so that you could have more control and say over the home environment, but it is not clear to me whether this is an option for you.
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