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Ask About Parenting Live Session

Question 1

How can I differentiate between religion and local customs for the children? They often come up with ideas nowadays that they want to go to a certain place I do not want them to go, or ask why cannot they sleep over their friends’ house? I find it very difficult to moderate between Islamic teachings and the stuff they bring from school.

Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatulahi wa barakatuh,

This is a challenge faced by us all as every culture, even those grounded in Islam has its own local customs. Depending on where you are residing the challenge in differentiating the 2 will be quite different.

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It is not uncommon even in majority Muslim countries, or regions for there to be cultural traditions that are actually not Islamic. In such cases, since the majority are Muslim, such practices easily become integrated into the culture and assumed to be part of Islam.

In this case, when its so widely practiced by Muslims, or even if only by a minority it becomes accepted as part of Islam. In this case, it can be difficult to educate children on the difference between what is acceptable in Islam and not as it would appear that what is being practiced is Islamic and perhaps sometimes, those who refuse to take part in such customs may be ousted by the community or family and perhaps seen as going against Islam.

This occurs in all Muslim cultures to some extent or another. When it comes to children, the danger is that they get sucked into believing that such traditions really are part of Islam. The key here is to be keeping a close eye on them and to have regular discussions with them to understand their own changing perspective as they get older. Also, be aware of their friends and the families that they come from to know if they are of those that strongly practise any such traditions.

On the other hand, for those living in the West, it can be quite easy to distinguish between what is Islam and what is local customs because many times these local customs are so far from being Islamic in the way they promote haram, whether it be in the way one dresses, free-mixing..etc.. Although easy to distinguish between what is Islamic and not, the difficulty then comes in going against the majority, especially when it comes to enforcing the same in children.

Children may have a hard time understanding that its not ok to join in with the masses when it comes to doing something against Islam, especially when it is something that encounter daily in school for example, as you’ve mentioned here. It can be incredibly difficult in such cases to provide the needed support. However, it is entirely possible. The key is to instill Islamic values in the home. Educate them from an early age.

Instill pride of Islam into them. This can be done through educating them at an age appropriate level, letting Islam be the thing that brings you together as a family and encourages open discussion. Allow them to ask questions. Don’t shun them if they question anything that they are struggling with. As parents as well, its important that you are educated about what is acceptable to join in with Islamically too.

Be actively involved with this and even involve your children in this. Learn together and allow them to be part of this. Doing this together will make it easy for you to explain things like why going to sleep overs is not ok and it will make it easier for them to accept it.

In addition to this, rather than just making the experience feel negative by always feeling like you have to say no, also provide opportunities where they can have their social needs met but in a way that is acceptable Islamically. Ideally, you can be proactive in this by actively doing this before they feel the need to ask to engage in other things that are not ok.

For example, actively engage with your local Muslim community and give your children the opportunity to mix with other Muslim children who share the same values that they do. This may not always be possible, and certainly its necessary to fit in at school with non-Muslims as well so do also support them in mixing with them in appropriate ways also.

It may be that you encourage them to invite their friends over for a couple of hours sometime, or if they are invited to a sleepover accept that they could spend time with their friends for a couple of hours but not sleep over (as long as it is not in a mixed environment of course). This way a level of compromise is reached.

Additionally, you can reach out to the parents and let them know yourself why they cant sleep over and outline things such as dietary requirements if necessary. This way they can accommodate your children without your children having to feel uncomfortable about doing the talking themselves at this stage.

Overall, the key lies within having an open relationship with your children and doing things together as a team whilst developing Islamic values in themselves through implementing them in the home.

May Allah reward your efforts to raise your children in the way of Islam and protect them from harm. May you see your children grow to be righteous pillars of the community.

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Question 2

Salam. How shall I react when I see my 2 years all is full of tension? For example, once he is sitting and all of a sudden he starts screaming. Or I am next to him and suddenly he grabs my arm painfully and snarls at me.

Or if o do not allow something to him and I am standing right next to him, he punches me with his wrists on my face. I am desperate. I know that aggression is not a good response to aggression, but it does not work that I firmly state to him I do not allow this to him, request him to stop doing this and I keep him away from me.

Wa alaikum salaam wa rahmatulahi wa barakatuh,

It is not uncommon for children of 2 years of age to be like this, however, this does not mean it is acceptable. It his behaviour is allowed to continue like this, he will come to believe that it is ok. It is a very tricky task and it can be easy to give in to quick solutions to put an immediate end to the behaviour, however, these do not work in the long run and can even cause even worse problems if not now, then further down the line.

Certainly the first thing for him to know is that his behaviour is not ok. Even if he continues to lash out, never stop letting him know that it is not ok. Whatever step you take next, you need to be patient in getting this message across regardless of what his response is.

Aside from this, the first thing you might do is try to understand why he is behaving like this. Often in cases like this, it is because the child has an unmet need and they are simply not able to communicate this effectively. In fact, his way of conveying that he has an unmet need is through aggression because he doesn’t know how to express himself otherwise.

Sometimes this can be as simple as just needing some close one to one attention and what better way to do it than lashing out? If this is the case, make sure to give him that loving attention before he gets to the stage of lashing out. Take a proactive approach. To give him this attention during a tantrum would only let him know that this is the best way to get attention.

Instead, giving him this attention when he is in a calm state will meet his need and also reinforce to him that when he is calm, he will get the attention he is craving. Even if this is not the reason behind his attitude, it will reinforce a better behaviour. This approach probably wont work right away and will take time and patience.

Do also look for other triggers too. Is he getting sufficient sleep? Is he being given the opportunity to go out and play frequently, to the park or such? Is he getting the opportunity to mix with others? Spend time with family? Sometimes such tantrums can be due to something lacking that needs attention so its worth looking into such things that can often be overlooked.

Something else to consider is for your own wellbeing as much as his. You need to take time out as well. It may be that you are feeling so worn out that you cant see something very obvious that might be going on for him, and your fatigue is making it more difficult to respond to him effectively. There is not shame in this.

As parents, we all get worn out, even without the tantrums! So for you to be dealing with this type of behaviour must be very waring for you. Don’t be afraid to ask someone else to come and help out and take care of your child for a short while whilst you engage in some self care. Take some time outside of the house and away from the situation. If may even be that that short break away from each other will be enough to improve the relationship for both of you when you are reunited.

You will be feeling refreshed and better equipped to cope and he will be happy to see his mum again. It may even prove useful to have another person come in and put a different perspective on things for him too. He has been so used to dealing with you and responding to your responses to him that he will now be forced to take an alternative approach.

In sha Allah, with these considerations you will see some improvement in your son’s behaviour but will also help to put you at ease and give you confidence that things will begin to improve with patience.

May Allah reward your efforts. May He guide you to what is best for you both and may you find comfort in His remembrance.

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Question 3

Salam. What can I do if my toddler starts crying, how can I comfort him while showing understanding toward his emotions?

Wa alaikum salaam wa rahmatulahi wa barakatuh,

Toddlers are more aware than we give them credit for as adults. We tend to think of them of not being aware of their environment and especially people’s feelings. However, what we don’t realize is that they usually are more in tune with these things than we would realise.

Toddlers haven’t quite grasped their emotion regulation skills at this age which is why they often manage themselves by crying, because this is the best way they know to get attention when their needs are not being met and they can otherwise not express themselves generally due to the lack of language to do so. However, even if you feel that they are not understanding what you are saying when you are trying to assess their emotions, continue to talk to him as if he does.

It might feel a bit silly at first, but this is how he will come to understand the language to describe his emotions. Acknowledge his feelings and why he might be feeling this way. As his parent, he will be most receptive to you and will quickly take on the lesson from you and will learn far quicker than you would expect probably!

At this stage, he also needs to be developing his own emotion regulation skills and talking him through this out loud is one way to support him with this, that is by opening saying that you can see that he is upset because of X and that to resolve it you are going to Y together. He also needs to learn how to self soothe because you will not always be directly present.

This might involve leaving him to try and fix his own problem for a short time first before intervening if possible. This wont always be appropriate if it relates to something that actually needs your attention such as if he has hurt himself, needs help with toileting, or is hungry. This of course will require you direct attention.

However, if it is a matter that he can and needs to learn to master without you, then this is when you should try to give him a bit of space first. For example, if it is that he struggling with a game or construction, give him the space to try and solve the problem himself first before you intervene. This will give him the space to use his problem-solving skills himself and regulate his response to difficulties.

He may solve the problem himself and stop crying. If he is still struggling and crying after some time, you can intervene and try and help him. Verbally praise his efforts and acknowledge that this is a really difficult task and you can see is getting upset and then work with him to solve the problem. Then encourage him to do it again by himself whilst you watch.

Essentially, what it comes down to is understanding why he is crying and responding accordingly depending on the cause. You can then support him in managing his emotions through a process of acknowledgement and graded support depending on the cause.

May Allah make the task easy for you and may He make it a success in raising your son in the best way. May He reward your efforts and grant you a fruitful outcome.

Monday, Jun. 28, 2021 | 10:00 - 10:30 GMT

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