When the second child was 5 months old, I finally managed to leave the house and not return. Then I spent a whole year in conflict with my ex-husband, trying to get a divorce. Now I have married again, to, Al-hamdu lillah, a good, practicing brother who is very kind and patient. He takes good care of both the girls and I. The girls are living with us in a different county than their father. They have no contact with him (I got single custody). They are now five and two years old respectively.
I have overcome a lot of anxieties that developed in my first marriage, thanks to Allah and to the lovely nature of my present husband. However, I have one problem left, which I am not able to solve myself. I am still screaming at my children for things they do wrong, and sometimes I even beat them. I don’t beat them hard, but still, I find it unacceptable from myself to hit small children on the face or on their hands and arms. I don’t do this all the time, not when I am in the presence of others, and not for every mistake they do. It is in stressful situations that I lose control of my anger.
I take care to give them a lot of love and contact and I always tell them that I love them even if I get angry sometimes, and I say I am sorry. I have to say that I remind myself a lot of my ex-husband, who would beat me and say that he loved me. I don’t want to be like this and I don’t want my children to grow up with an abusive mother. How can I change this behavior in myself?
Please, I need practical advice on what to do with this anger directed at my children. I have never once become angry with my present husband, even though he can be annoying at times, and I never ever feel angry in any other situation to the extent that I shout or become physical. So why do I do this to my sweet children whom I love? I sincerely hope you can help.
In this counseling answer:
“Listen: Learn to ask your children why they have done what they have done, which you perceive to be wrong. Ask in an open-ended way, showing that you really want to hear their thoughts, their opinions, and their perceptions. By listening, you might find that your perception of what is wrong might evolve to recognize that this is part of the process of their growing up.”
As-salamu `alaykum sister,
First, thank you for sharing the details of your story, which we will not recount here. You should be proud of yourself and realize that you have done much to heal from your previous marriage and, Al-hamdu lillah, Allah has compensated you by providing the opportunity to marry a good, practicing Muslim, subhan Allah.
The problem you are concerned with here is the learnt behavior of psychological and emotional oppression inculcated over a period of time, rendering you powerless to reach your potential as a) a human being and b) a good mother.
Prophet Muhammad said: “Let not any one of you belittle himself. They said: O Messenger of Allah, how can any one of us belittle himself? He said: He finds a matter concerning Allah about which he should say something, and he does not say [it], so Allah (Mighty and Sublime be He) says to him on the Day of Resurrection: What prevented you from saying something about such-and-such and such-and-such? He say: [It was] out of fear of people. Then He says: Rather it is I whom you should more properly fear.”(Qudsi #22).
Out of his own weaknesses, your ex-husband stripped you of your right to be a part in your own life, the marriage, and the proper raising of the children. It was unfortunate that he could not correct what it seems he knew to be wrong behavior, because essentially, I think he was a decent man.
“Whoever has oppressed another person concerning his reputation or anything else, he should beg him to forgive him before the Day of Resurrection when there will be no money (to compensate for wrong deeds), but if he has good deeds, those good deeds will be taken from him according to his oppression which he has done, and if he has no good deeds, the sins of the oppressed person will be loaded on him” (Al-Bukhari 3:43 # 629).
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All being equal, when one is being wronged, one is able to help the person to correct his or her ways, but unfortunately, we do not always employ—or we lack—the means by which to improve the situation to the benefit of all those involved. You did not have the means to help your ex-husband correct his ways and he gave you no scope to do so. This may be the reason why you feel unable to remedy the situation now.
Remember, this inner tension that you feel when you reach a conflict situation with your children is learnt behavior, and being hard on yourself, with the best of intentions, will increase the anxiety. Even in this, Islam is forgiving, as Prophet Muhammad stated:
“Allah has pardoned for me my people for [their] forgetfulness and for what they have done under duress” (Qudsi #39).
For whatever reason your husband did what he did, your current situation provides a medium by which to understand his actions better. At the same time, this behavior is not a natural part of who you are, so there is hope.
“I don’t do this all the time, not when I am in the presence of others and not for every mistake they do.”
So, if you reaction is likely to be less in the presence of others, then realize that Allah is All-Seeing and All-Hearing. He is closer to us than our jugular vein the Qur’an reminds us. That means where you are, He is, and therefore, you are never alone. He is your final judge, and as much as other’s will judge you, it is Him we are accountable to. As humans, we see ourselves as alone, and therefore not accountable, we separate ourselves from Allah and from what we are accountable for:
O you who believe! Ward off from yourselves and your families a fire (Hell) whose fuel is men and stones, over which are (appointed) angels stern (and) severe, who disobey not, (from executing) the commands they receive from Allah, but do that which they are commanded (At-Tahrim 66:6)
Listen: Learn to ask your children why they have done what they have done, which you perceive to be wrong. Ask in an open-ended way, showing that you really want to hear their thoughts, their opinions, and their perceptions. By listening, you might find that your perception of what is wrong might evolve to recognize that this is part of the process of their growing up.
A process that requires your love and mercy, not in words, but in action, otherwise, they too will learn to control others. You are their role model. After your children have shared their thoughts with you (and consultation on all sides is an essence of Islam) if their actions are quite clearly wrong, then discuss with them, at their level, why it is wrong.
Come to a common agreement, so that the next time, they will have a better understanding. Of course, they will repeat what has become a habit, but with each repeated action ask them why it is wrong and then they will remember and eventually cease to carry out that behavior.
Distraction: Sometimes, negative behavior is born out of boredom, so distract them. Develop activities with them and, if possible, encourage them to participate in activities at a local center or club. Children with hobbies learn to develop their level of concentration, direct and develop their imagination and creativity, and develop a broader perception of the world around them.
Also, depending on the hobby, especially if it is creative, they can develop the skill of reflection, stilling the mind long enough to realize certain things that they may have taken for granted.
No matter what age they are, once they are walking, you would be surprised what little tasks they can carry out in the home, which can develop into a duty that they are responsible for. This helps them to learn a sense of responsibility and helps them to help you and to take less for granted what needs to be done in the home.
“And Allah has made for you in your homes an abode…” (An-Nahl 16:80).
So realize and remember that Allah is where you are. You are the responsible adult, so protect the home by seeing it as a place of worship. Have the Qur’an playing in the background as a reminder, and if it is a recitation with good tajweed, the calming effects can always be felt.
If, there are times when it is improper to play the Qur’an due to the conversation, as the Qur’an should be listened to, then play nasheeds (Islamic songs). I view cleaning my home as an ablution, in which the process of cleaning also unburdens the chaos of the outside world.
In this way, one can release much tension and pray with more dedication as well as speak to the One Who is always present.
These are just a few ideas, and I am sure that once you think about your home and your interaction with your children, you will be able to develop a workable scheme of your own.
With patience and perseverance, may Allah Most High grant you His blessings, in sha’ Allah.
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