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These notes are the continuation of the Tarbiyah lecture by Sr. Iman Badawi. This section is much more fleshed out than the first one, because I had access to the replay and put more information in. The recording of the lecture is available at this link.

Tarbiyah Mistake #4: Making Sure that 90% of What You Say is Commands, Prohibitions, and Threats

  • We think that leadership = commands, prohibitions, threats
  • Children don’t like being ordered around all the time any more than we do
  • Imagine if our spouse or boss was constantly giving commands, prohibitions, and threats–how would we respond?
  • We have a lot of fear, stress, and we take it out on our children when we constantly snap at them
  • There are two issues involved in a child’s behavior:
    1. The child learning and knowing what to do
    2. The child having the self control to implement what they know
    • A child may, at a certain age, have the first, but not the second. They know what to do, but don’t have the self control to be able to follow through on their knowledge
    • Children learn through example and instruction–this is how we teach them the “dos” and “don’ts” so that they know what to do
    • Children develop through relationships, and that is how they develop the self control over time to regulate their behavior.
    • It is problematic when we have an eye on compliance rather than relationships

  • The real message we are sending: “if you don’t obey me, one of us is going to collapse.”
  • “I am the older one, therefore I am going to subdue you.”
  • We do these behaviors supposedly because we love them
  • So, what do we do? == Build a relationship out of love
  • If someone you love and respect asks you to do something, do they have to threaten you to do it? No, we will do it lovingly, effortlessly, voluntarily.
  • This is what Allah wants from us. “Laa ikraaha fid-deen.” There is no compulsion in religion.
  • Yet Allah gives us commands. We enter in Islam of our own free will, we obey Allah out of our own inner desire to obey him.
  • Imagine that the government/sultan put a soldier over every citizen commanding them to pray–this is not what Islam orders. We pray out of our love for him.
  • Allah is exalted over all examples, but this is what we want with our children, that they obey from a desire and love to obey him.
  • This is why the Prophet had the best tarbiyah–Allah is the one who developed his character. Hadith: “Addabanee rabbee wa ahsana ta’deebee” My Rabb taught me manners and perfected my manners.

  • We don’t want everything to be a confrontation
  • We want the obedience to come out of the love
  • Is this idealistic? We think it cannot be done but we have to change our way of thinking
  • “But it’s my right that my child obey me”
  • However, the right of the child of the parent comes before the right of the parent over the child.
  • If the parent doesn’t fulfill the child’s right, how can they expect that the child fulfill their right?
  • Tip: Quality Time
    • The best quality time is sharing a task and cooperating to complete it. This develops relationships and shows the children their dependence on the family unit.
    • The idea is not that we always have to be looking for “fun” and “entertainment.”
    • The antithesis of moral development is the child’s attitude: “I don’t need you, I can do anything I want.” This breeds arrogance and builds the confrontational attitude.
    • Sometimes we ask for it when we thrust independence on the child too early–then when they demand premature independence, we get upset.

Tarbiyah Mistake #5: Assuming Your Child Thinks Like You

  • You assume that they can maturely rationalize everything that you can maturely rationalize.
  • Ex: Father tells very young son who is bike riding, “don’t go around the corner.” When son repeatedly disobeys and finally father yells and explodes, son tearfully asks, “dad, what’s a corner?”
  • This goes back to the last point–if we are commanding all the time, where are the times where we sit down and just make them understand?
  • “I didn’t understand what you meant”– we should take the statement at face value, don’t assume child is lying to you. If you do that and assume they are a liar, they will eventually become a liar.
  • “Ok, what did you understand?” — when you ask that, it will become clear what they really understood.
  • Negative attitude–“I understood what I ordered you, if you didn’t understand it, then it’s your problem.”
  • Understand their developmental levels, and develop realistic expectations
    • Sometimes we set our children up for failure because we give overly high expectations (i.e. things that are beyond their developmental level)
    • Sometimes when we are patching up wounds of previously detrimental failure, we might want to set the bar a little lower so that we set them up for success instead of failure.
    • This relieves our own stress–because the more we are negative with our kids, the more negative we feel, and so therefore the more positive we are with our kids, the more positive we are in ourselves.
  • We sometimes end up as a blown fuse–we have no energy left, and our kid may only be five.
  • Tarbiyah has to be dynamic to fit the different stages of development.
  • e.g. responsibility is developed slowly over time, and we develop it slowly over time
  • One of those aspects of development is that attachment should be at its peak when the child is an infant.
    • e.g. Dr. Sears
    • Unfortunately, when we talk about attachment, people may think we are “hippies” but in reality the focus these days on attachment is a backlash against the previous advice
    • separation anxiety–it’s like a message to the parent, don’t push this child away, they are designed to be attached to you at this time.
    • One form of trauma occurs when there is a premature reaching of stages, so a premature detachment from parent before it is developmentally appropriate.

Up next insha Allah… Tips 6 & 7…

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I just attended a fantastic halaqah… and those sisters who know me personally may feel free to email me and request that it be sent to them insha Allah, but the topic was:  Top Ten Tarbiyah Mistakes. Tarbiyah, as you may know, is the process of character development that we engage in with our children. So before going to the class, my thought was–Ouch!–we get to hear 2 hours of the ten biggest things we do wrong every day with our kids?

But as Allah (swt) says: “And remind, for verily, the reminder benefits the believers” (Adh-Dhariyaat: 55). Sometimes a swift kick in the proverbial arse is what we need to make a firm commitment to change, and boy was this a kick.

I really would like to take the time to type up my notes, but until then I will leave a teaser–I’ll put the ten points she mentioned, then come back with the notes as I can get them out (maybe 3-4 at a time). If you would like to get this and other blog updates straight to your inbox, feel free to add your email address in the box at the top of the right column and you will get the posts as they are published. In the future if you would like to unsubscribe, you can easily do so through the emails themselves, or just post a comment and I’ll unsub you.

Here goes, Letterman style—

The Top Ten Mistakes of Tarbiyah

  1. Choosing the wrong spouse–someone who differs with you on the fundamental issues of life and parenting.
  2. Considering tarbiyah as beginning at a later stage in life
  3. Letting the children control you and run the family
  4. Making sure that 90% of what you say is commands, prohibitions, and threats
  5. Assuming that your child thinks like you
  6. Using injurious and harmful words
  7. Never explaining anything and expecting immediate and prompt blind compliance
  8. Comparing your children to each other (in looks or behavior) and show favoritism
  9. Lying to your kids
  10. Assuming that you are the source of guidance for your children

Now…I don’t like leaving things hanging like that, because some of these are not clear in what they mean and I’m sure leaves the person scratching their head and saying, “but…”

However, the notes are long, I’d like to do them justice, so they will be back another day bi ‘idhnillah.

As a clue to some of the points of the halaqah, I’ll say that some of the topics mentioned include Steven Covey, Dr. Sears, racism, totalitarianism, family mission statements, principle-centered leadership/parenting, and punishment.

Ready? Check back soon! In the meanwhile, feel free to discuss the points so far…

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I want a ScreamFree life.

Funny that I was just thinking about that this weekend and today I came across this via facebook: Screamfree Muslims. In particular, the founder sr. Olivia is having a webinar course on screamFree parenting. I was just thinking to myself this weekend that me and the Man (aka Baba A to Z) need to work on cutting out the scream when it comes to the kids (sorry, Baba, I’m including you too!).

I’ll give myself some credit–I don’t justify screaming. I should say “emotional reactivity” instead, since that is the word that the ScreamFree program uses, and it’s a term that encompasses so much more than screaming. I know that it’s senseless to react, to blow up, and to say dumb and hurtful things in a moment of anger instead of logically handling a situation. But guess what…I do it anyway! I’m sure most parents do, it’s just a basic failing in human nature that we lose our temper. “Laa taghdab, laa taghdab, laa taghdab.” … “Do not get angry, do not get angry, do not get angry.” We’ve heard that hadith a million times.

And seriously? We know deep down that screaming.doesn’t.work. End of story. It just becomes a crutch–child doesn’t listen until screamed at, so parent screams all the time, leading to screaming not even working, and an escalating cycle of screaming between parenting and child. It takes a big leap, however to go from the acknowledgement that something is wrong, and actually learning and applying techniques on how to fix it.

I’m not sure I’ll spring for the webinar–it’s close to a hundred dollars, and I think I can check out some books and handouts and get the gist. For me, the issue is keeping my mind focused on the goal of mindful parenting, and reading books helps me to focus on that. When I found the book Raising Your Spirited Child, it really helped me improve my parenting while I was reading it because I was suddenly more aware of what my child was like and what he needed. The reminder benefits the believers–no matter what the subject is, deen or dunya (and this is akhlaaq-related so it’s definitely deeni improvement).

My current mental exercise is–why not scream? What are the harms of screaming to one’s child? (or student, I should add, for I am also guilty of that one)

  1. Raising one’s voice is explicitly condemned in the Qur’an via the words of Luqman al-Hakeem as he advises his son: “And be moderate in your walk and lower your voice. Indeed, the harshest of voices is the voice of the donkey” (Surah Luqman: 31:19). From now on, I will tell myself–“Mama, when you scream, you sound like an ass.” And it will be true, because Sadaqa-allahul-Adheem.
  2. “Emotional reactivity”, i.e. getting angry, is explicitly condemned in the Sunnah. “Do not get angry, do not get angry, do not get angry.”
  3. Getting angry is in direct contradiction to the very character of RasulAllah (sallAllahu alayhi wa sallam.)
  4. You can’t impart something you don’t have yourself. The Arabic proverb goes: Faaqid-ush-Shay laa yu’teeh…the one devoid of something cannot give it. How do we teach good-manners if we are ill-mannered? I see my son scream at his little sister and know that my own screaming is what set the example. And God forbid that our children go on to scream at their spouses, destroying their marriages and family lives, simply because we set the wrong example from the beginning.
  5. Screaming tears apart relationships. Think about a time you have been screamed at. It doesn’t even take a full-blown scream to deeply wound a person. You know this when you are having a strained conversation with your spouse–it doesn’t take much of a raise in voice and tone from the other to feel hurt. We can only imagine the pain our own children feel. I remember reading a poignant thought by Alfie Kohn where he asked in reference to discipline–before we react to behavior that we perceive as bad, ask ourselves, “Is what we are saying/doing to our child in response worth the effect it is going to have on the relationship?”
  6. Screaming doesn’t even work in the long term. If we think of discipline as merely getting our children to do what we want in the here-and-now, then screaming occasionally works. However, if we think of discipline as raising our children to be morally upright individuals who have good character, then screaming definitely does no good towards that goal.

One of the criticisms leveled against this line of thinking is that somehow kids are different, so different standards should be applied to them, and that “you need to discipline.” ScreamFree parenting is not antithetical to discipline; in fact, it is harmonious with discipline because effective discipline does not occur in a scream-based relationship. Olivia has another great post describing this: DJ Empty Threat. We end up screaming empty threats and in the end no real discipline occurs.

So…this post has been somewhat of a personal pep-talk for myself–we’ll see how long I last sane and “ScreamFree.” And if you catch me slacking (yeah, you, Baba…) then just give me a sober look and say, “This is a ScreamFree zone, mama. Take it somewhere else, woman!”

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Our local masjid recently hosted Imam Muhammad Magid to do a program on how to have a successful marriage. It was a beneficial seminar from an imam who truly is in the trenches as far as helping his community members heal their own marriages. There were quite a few gems of wisdom; I’ll share some of them below.

The Key to Forgiveness

This gem was absolutely brilliant and particularly memorable for me, because it is something that just clicked and made such complete sense. To introduce the idea he put forth, I’ll first give an example of a piece of marriage advice I once came across by Muhammad AlShareef (of alMaghrib Institute). He said that when things go wrong, just say sorry. Even if you may not have been in the wrong, or were also wronged yourself, you can never go wrong by saying “sorry.”

That’s a great piece of advice, except how many times have you been in a situation with anyone and felt, as the saying goes, “sorry doesn’t cut it”? How many times has that harmed friendships, partnerships, marriages–virtually any relationship? A person gives an apology, and yet the other party feels as if a mere apology was insufficient?

Cut to Imam Magid–he offered a wonderful explanation based on a keen understanding of human nature as well as using an example from seerah. His advice is that one must be ready to forgive one’s spouse, but in order for one to do that, the one who is apologizing must acknowledge their mistake verbally and explain what they did wrong. Why? This shows the other person that the one apologizing has acknowledged their trespass and it frees up the other person to open their heart and forgive.

How do we derive this principle? When Wahshi, the killer of Hamzah, came to repent to RasulAllah (sallAllahu alayhi wa sallam), the Prophet asked him to describe to him how he killed Hamzah. He then told him to keep away from him (sallAllahu alayhi wa sallam) for a few days. Even after the person has acknowledged their wrong, they should not expect instant forgiveness, for it is a process, not an instant reaction.

A Parable for the Marriage Relationship

Imam Magid described the husband-wife relationship with the following example–they are like the two wings on a bird flying to its creator, Allah subhana wa ta’aala. The bird cannot fly with only one wing, and the two wings must be flying in unison in order for the bird to stay on its correct path.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T…

Allah says in the Qur’an: “And among his signs is this: that He has created for you spouses from yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility among them…” (Ar-Rum: 21).

A fundamental principle of the marriage relationship is that it is founded on respect, and this draws back to an aspect of our creed itself. We believe that our spouses are creations of Allah, so we offer our spouses respect that a creation of the Lord deserves. How easy it becomes for us to become used to our spouses, take them for granted, and then not offer them basic courtesy and respect? Remember that first and foremost, ones spouse is a creation of Allah, and as such is deserving of basic human respect.

Practical Advice: Go the Extra Mile

A simple way to increase love between spouses? When one spouse requests something from the other, say, a glass of water–go the extra mile and see what more you can do. “Would you like ice with that? A snack?” Little things can make the difference in a relationship.

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“Who is it that would loan Allah a goodly loan so He may multiply it for him many times over? And it is Allah who withholds and grants abundance, and to Him you will be returned.” Al-Baqarah 2:245

Here, we are asked to “loan” to Allah (i.e. donate for his cause) a “goodly loan” (i.e. spend it out of goodness of heart—Tafseer al Jalaalayn).

What is our natural reaction when asked to part with our wealth, something we work so hard to earn, and something that we guard so carefully?

Hesitation.
Uncertainty.
Worry.

“Will there be enough left to pay the bills? Save for college? Save for retirement?” The questions come swiftly, holding off our more noble desires to spend for a good cause.

But the Qur’an reads our mind and responds quickly: “And it is Allah who withholds and grants abundance, and to Him you will be returned.” Just as quickly as our mind formulates the questions and worries, the Qur’an dispels them: spend without fear, O servant of God, for your spending for Allah’s sake will not decrease your wealth. The Prophet Muhammad (sallAllahu alayhi wa sallam) emphasized this further when he said, “Wealth is not decreased by charity.”*

Allah encourages us to give without fear, for He is the only one who can cause our wealth to increase or decrease.* When we spend for his sake, more avenues will open up for our own wealth to increase in quantity and quality (blessings).

He also tells us: “And to Him you will be returned.” What is the big deal if our money goes to the One to whom we are all going? The imagery of a “loan” is invoked precisely for this reason: when we give our money in Allah’s cause, we are not throwing it to the wind. Rather, we are putting on hold, putting it as savings with the One who will protect it the most.* Then, when we return to Him, we will be repaid not in kind, but manifold times more than our original principal.

A person will be completely unable to grasp this reality of money and will be unable to take the necessary shift in paradigm unless they are firmly grounded in yaqeen—certainty.* “And it is Allah who withholds and grants abundance, and to Him you will be returned.” Without firm, unwavering, unshakeable certitude in this statement, a person will be unable to muster the courage and faith needed to spend in Allah’s way.

With the true faith in this statement, a person’s hands will open freely, remembering Allah’s promise: loan to me, and I shall repay you many times over. Do we really believe Allah’s promise?

* Points with an asterisk are adapted from the Tafseer lessons of Dr. Farhat Hashmi “Taleem-ul-Qur’an” found here. The remaining points are from myself or other sources as noted.

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Al-Baqarah: 110 “And whatsoever you put forth of good for yourselves, you shall find it with Allah. Indeed, Allah is all-seeing over what you do.”

When is hoarding a virtue? When it comes to good deeds. Be like the squirrel, who takes every opportunity to tuck away food stores that it may come later and find it stored and ready for him to feast upon. Every good deed that we do, no matter how small, will be noted and tucked away for us as a reward in the hereafter. And what better reward can there be but the reward that is with Allah?

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In an effort to help me review my Tafseer lessons from my AlHuda Institute Taleem-ul-Qur’an course, I will–Insha’Allah, God willing–be posting short comments from the meanings of various verses in the Qur’an. I hope these points will also be of benefit to others. For those who are not familiar with the program, the Taleem-ul-Qur’an course is a course that takes the student through the whole Qur’an word-by-word, verse-by-verse. By the end of the course, one must be able to understand the Qur’an word-for-word as well as know the Arabic roots of each word. A general tafseer is also given of the verses.

One learns the connections between the various words and their ayat on the micro-level, and on a more macro-level, one learns the connections between the themes within each surah as well as the relationships between each of the surahs themselves. The course does not produce scholars, it’s goal is more humble and yet no less important–it is to help each student develop an intimate connection to the Qur’an, such that she understands it in its own language, and such that she understands the messages it contains for her as an individual.

I had met a few students of this course before joining myself, and each managed to convey this almost ethereal connection that they had developed to the Qur’an, and they had an incredibly humble feeling of transformation in their life after immersing themselves in the beauties of the Noble Book. They are the ones who encouraged me to begin on this journey of study, and I am utterly grateful to them for setting such a beautiful example. I can only hope that by passing on a few morsels of knowledge in writing here I am able to continue igniting the passion for knowledge, if only in one person.

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