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Question: My in-laws won’t stop telling me how to parent

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My in-laws won’t stop telling me how to parent, I feel so trapped, is there a way out?

The way in to this is through your husband, so naturally one would assume the way to deal with it is to take it to your husband for a way out (solution). But, no, that rarely works because those are his parents, they have rights over him and of course  – those are his parents. Just as we would hope our child does not scold us on behalf of our spouse, we would also not want our husband to be that person. Of course the inlaws are not out to get you, to them it is their blood they are looking out for, their grandchild, their love, their interest, and your child. So the way around it?

Well, you’d have to develop thick skin – so much easier said than done, but it’s possible. Keep telling yourself they care, they’re bored, and that you’re the mother and it is your right to parent your child the way you and your husband decide. Also, try tucking some headphones in your ears with Quran playing and drown out as much of the noise as you can. There’s not much to be done about their complaining,  but if your husband has to hear it and bring it to you then gently tell him that you’re trying your hardest; resist all temptation to vent to him about. He knows his parents well, and he will love you even more for not making it an issue for him (even if they are). Eventually older people will move on to something else but if you’re able to find them a hobby, then that would be wonderful. Distract their attention, often times their nit-picking is boredom and a need for attention and has nothing to do with how you parent. One more thing, every time their remarks get to you, then make dua for them. Make it out loud, there’s nothing wrong with that. You may find yourself making dua the entire day, but that’s a good thing right? Dua will protect your heart from getting hard in any way, and also from the whispering of shaytaan, InshaAllah.

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Question: Frustrated Husband with Wife Undermining His Role

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My wife keeps undermining my authority infront of our kids, no matter how many time I tell her I don’t like that she keeps doing it!! I’m very frustrated and don’t know what to do, any advice?

There’s likely two issues at play here: one could be an insecurity about who she is as a mother. This would mean she feels the need to always give her two sense, or play the hero for her children. It could also mean she feels the need to protect them from anything she feels is negative and will make them sad. That also is an insecure mother, as she yearns their approval/attention/love by feeling it necessary to always keep them satisfied. Another issue that might be looming is an underlying resentment she holds towards you. If there is/are issues that bother her in your relationship, she may feel that she can pacify that pain/disappointment by interfering with your relationship with yoru children. This is likely an subconscious action, but through resentment, she also lacks respect, and with a lack of respect she will openly question your decisions without thinking of how it makes you feel.

It is probably best that you deal with the root, since the surface issue doesn’t change when you ask her to stop doing that.  The best way to deal with a woman is gently, and no defensively – this is extremely, extremely hard. The male ego is a fragile delicate thing. But if you want to see a change you’ll have to brace yourself for any negativity, anger, resentment she may have, allow her to express it, then apologize.  It doesn’t mean she’s right, it means you want to start again and work towards establishing a stronger home. So for the sake of Allah, keep your heart clear, your mind strong, and make amends.  It’s the first step to creating respect between you both. Take note of her complaints, and what you see as truth try to adjust yourself accordingly (without making a point of telling her).

This will eventually create a safe place between you both to communicate, so she doesn’t feel attacked nor do you. With that said, your authority will be better respected, because she already knows it bothers you, she will change her ways, once she see you change yours.

We are funny creatures like that – but someone has to start.  Get the reward of good intention and be the first to do it. May Allah grant you success, and make your wife and children a coolness and comfort to your heart, Ameen.

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Question: New Baby Soon & Marriage

MUSLIM PARENTING CHILDREN NEWBORN BABY MARRIAGE

I’m going to have a baby soon, but I’m terrified my marriage will change and we don’t have the same relationship. Is this normal? Can I do anything to stop it?

A baby is a blessing, but also a great distraction. It is true; marriages do change when a child is born because the focus is suddenly shifted by force towards this innocent being whose entire world depends on the efforts of you and your husband. That being said, it’s good to acknowledge between the both of you that things will be different, but it doesn’t mean it has to be negative.

 In ensuring a close bond between husband and wife remains after a child is born, I believe a few key components must be in place. One – supporting each other in goodness. That goes both ways. He will likely have to sacrifice some sleep to give you some, or you’ll have to push yourself to get all pretty before he gets home etc.  The point is to try and help fulfill each other’s needs along with the baby’s.  Exhaustion is a common complaint for new parents (actually all parents), probably more for new parents because they exert an exceptional amount of energy in exploring all possible avenues to calm their child.

As a wife try to make small efforts to ensure that your husband knows you haven’t forgotten about him, that you still love him and maybe even more now that you share a child together, and of course don’t neglect his needs of affection. Likewise, a husband must extend his hand to help you in your role as a mother since instantly you have become the 24/7 food source which limits your time, space and energy. He has to offer you comfort through encouraging your efforts, and being there to help you by picking up where you aren’t able to keep up with like showering or eating decent meal.

Be careful not to expect him to know things, so share your experience in a gentle, kind way. Ask of him nicely, without hoping he’ll just automatically know. Ensure respect and compassion remains despite the stress and your relationship will flourish in an amazing way, InshaAllah.

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Raising An Obedient Child – Step 3

Putting Parenting Together (Step 3 of 3 )

I have previously discussed step 1 and step 2 in raising an obedient child. As we progress to the final step, you’ll notice that it doesn’t get easier. This step isn’t really a “step”, it’s more like a foundation piece; an absolutely essential requirement in working towards raising respectful, God-conscious, considerate children, InshaAllah. So, step 3 – creating a system.

Learning to create a system is by far the hardest step because for the first 15 years of our children’s lives we have to remain extremely diligent about ensuring they have understood what’s expected of them (step 1) and that we have created avenues via dialogue and example to instill true value in their lives (step 2).

This “system” is not necessarily successful because of the actual system you choose to use in developing expectations and purpose in their lives, but rather its’ success is found through consistency. Ah, that word!

This Is All Us

Being consistent as a parent will make or break any efforts put forth, regardless what we’re hoping to do for our children. With that said, it is also important that parents also maintain a united front in the face of opposition, which I mentioned previously, but this is often why consistency suffers. One parent keeps up while the other let’s things slide. Children will whine and complain, but when creating and implementing a consistent system in the household both parents must be in agreement and remain steadfast. Even in a single parent homes, or in step-parent families all parties involved in the rearing of your children ideally should be on the same page. This isn’t always possible, but when they’re with you let them know why you’ve chosen to do what you do (of course if they’re too young then just keep doing your best and know that Allah Knows your intention and sees your efforts).

Conviction

When we try to nurture qualities in our children without actually believing that there is true purpose in it, then after a while we’ll stop. It’s like going on a diet or maintaining a healthy daily living – if you aren’t truly convinced it’ll harm you, then after a while you’ll go back to it. So it’s important that we deeply value what we set out to instill and let our principals be a driving force behind the way parent.  

Parents Are Human Too

Now, it may be that we do believe in we want for our children but we’re weak ourselves, and tired, and have our own issues, and have to deal with opinions of family and, and, and – it’s true, this life is a test- that’s why there’s Jannah, right? InshaAllah.  So, what now?  Where do we start in creating this system and also being a stronger, better us to impart the same onto our children?

Ready, Set, PRAY!

We start with dua (sincere supplication) – consistently, without fail, after every single salat, InshaAllah. Ask, beg, cry, turn to Allah Alone seeking the strength to do what it required to be a better you, and for your children to be a coolness and comfort to all. This dua “Our Lord, grant us from among our wives and offspring comfort to our eyes and make us an example for the righteous.” was mentioned in the Quran in Surah Furqan – 25:74. There’s wisdom and purpose in everything we find in the Quran, thus we need to learn to harness the strength and power of the words of Allah with sincere conviction.

With a promise to ourselves to make dua every single day without fail we can begin our journey to be the best parents possible, and rest assured we’ll never feel like we’re there yet, and that’s okay – actually that’s a good thing because it keeps us striving towards “purposely parenting”. Effort is our requirement, results are from Allah Alone.  Make your efforts be strongly motivated, small, consistent steps as that will form the stepping stones for this “system” and unlock the secret to establishing consistency, InshaAllah.

Reaction Matters

Another point to always incorporate in this system is the concept of consequence. Naturally every action has a consequence: good or bad. It only works to the betterment of the child if they are able experience these consequences without parents being lax in allowing a concrete or even natural consequence to be apparent. So basically, don’t keep saving them because you feel bad (tough love, if you will?).

If they are not working hard in school they will do poorly, earn your disappointment, maybe lose the trust you gave them in completing their work away from your supervision etc. Then, of course if they do something well, like going for salat without being told, the consequence would result in a parent’s praise, affection, and/or appreciation for their steadfastness. As the child gets older, then consequences need to advance to non-tangible things, such as trust. An example would be that parents can offer more or less independence to their children depending on level of trust they’ve established by proving their responsibility or lack of etc. 

Bring It In

The point to understand here is as our children get older they too are faced with chaos, pressures, and “norms”. Their beliefs and character will be questioned by society, so it’s important they grow up with stability (values) in the home based on a vision of what parents want for their children (expectation), along with a clear indication of what they fail to lose or gain by doing or not something (consequence).

It requires diligence but again nothing truly amazing happens without sincerely striving hard for it on some level, right?

 InshaAllah, soon we’ll cover the ONE character trait that parent’s can focus on which will lead to righteousness (guaranteed through Hadith), bi’ithnillah, by the Facilitation of Allah (ameen).

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Raising An Obedient Child – Step 2

Raising an obedient child muslim child

Purposely Parent  (Step 2 of 3)

Assuming you’ve read step one, you’ll be clear as to what exactly an “obedient child” looks like – by my definition. While it may have a selfish connotation suggesting a parent wants to control and dictate the life of their child, in actuality an obedient chlid is the outcome of instilling values in their lives from a young age. This is the essence of step 2.

Start Yesterday

Raising a child to be conscious of our Creator, to live with purpose, to learn what is actual worth valuing,  all starts from birth – literally, well, actually it can be argued it starts even before conception, such a picking a spouse that has the same vision for their offspring. We know as believers there is a dua to be recited when spouses have relations, thus protecting the child from Shaytaan. Then when the child is born, we are taught to recite Adhan (call to pray) in their ear, and give a very tiny bit of chewed date. We also know, to have an aqiqah (sacrifice) and feed the people among the poor with the meat, as well as name the baby with a good name and remove their hair. As a parent, every Sunnah we do with an intention to Please Allah will result in goodness for our children, InshaAllah.

Unite Firmly in Fundamentals

It is imperative that a child is taught from young the fundamentals of Islam: the various duas, how to make wudhu, how to perform salat, how to read Quran, memorize surahs of Quran, learn to contemplate the blessings they have etc. This task is upon BOTH parents to achieve, which is why it is critical to pick a spouse that also desires this for their future offspring. Parents have to unite in their efforts and be on the same page in order to be able to offer a consistent and stable environment required for the nurturing of strong, believing offspring. Kids are smart – any weakness they find, they will quickly use it to divide and conquer (not maliciously, but simply to get what they want). Their nafs (lower self/desires) are searching for the easiest, most pleasurable activity to keep busy with. Obviously, they lack the knowledge and wisdom to understand that what they do in their youth will dictate the course of their lives (for the most part, not always, and Allah Knows Best) – herein stands the purpose of parenting.

 The idea is to prepare our children to deal with reality – this world, the hereafter, the choices offered, and the potential consequences. We are better parents when we purposely parent, therefore being mindful of what we teach and guide our children towards.  Parents are to parent children, guide them in youth (teenage years), watch them as adults, and always keep supplicating for them!

Imams Cannot Change Your Child

Unfortunately, too many parents take their complaints to Imams when their children are 12, 14, 15 even 25 about how their children don’t listen, are rude, don’t do anything all day, have a girlfriend or boyfriend, want to marry a non-Muslim, won’t cover appropriately – and on and on (May Allah Protect us all, ameen).  Raising a child to be obedient to Allah doesn’t start when you see trouble, and are unhappy with their choices, it starts before they are able to make choices. Imam’s can only offer advice, which may or may not fall on deaf ears. The good actions of parents however are a priceless when it comes to teaching our children goodness.

Parents are parents because they have been assigned the task of directing and guiding their children through their early years, even if their child would rather do, act, or say something else. If they are not taught from early childhood, and if they have no example of the character we wish them to have, then how can we expect amazing results (good manners) in their adulthood? The Sunnah of Allah if that an effort is required. These efforts start the moment you realize an effort is required – like right now, yah, now NOW, not just now.   

Bis’millah – we start in the Name of Allah, and continue the journey of parenting with purpose. Next post is the last step, which I feel is absolutely fundamental in incorporating into Muslim parenting practices (sounds kind of corporate eh? But who said parenting isn’t work?).  Stay tuned! InshaAllah

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Question: My parents are divorced so does that mean I have a broken home?

Muslim child divorce home

It’s not a broken home unless something inside the home isn’t working. Yes, it can be argued when a mom and dad aren’t together then the ties of family are broken. But when a mom and dad can’t get along, they argue a lot or have habits that cause serious issues to the family unit then to go their separate ways is actually a solution.  Often times a very tense and aggressive family life is what’s broken and not the other way around.

Sometimes the greatest blessings are hidden in less than perfect situations. So don’t get down on yourself for what is not in your control, but try to understand that the best thing for everyone isn’t always what seems to be ‘normal’.  Worry about making sure the home you’re in is always conscious of Allah, that will automatically bring peace and make home life complete. Tried and tested 😉 Alhamdulilah!

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Household Stress – Easy steps that guarantee a reduction in housework

islamic household

“It’s just not working!” you say to yourself. Getting the house clean, homework checks and children ready for the next day of school, a meal prepared, laundry done, and a full day of work (either with younger children or out in the world) – it’s just not happening. These are sentiments that many parents feel, affecting both husband and wife. You’ll be surprised to know that the burden of keeping a clean house isn’t as daunting as it seems. Trust me, it’s very feasible, but as with anything, it requires a bit of effort to make it a natural process. So let’s get right to it.

Step One: Create a system

I will try to refrain from saying the “O” word because it invokes a cringing reflex. Creating a simple daily system based on your family’s needs is one of the fastest ways of being organized (okay, there I said it; the “o” word). By creating a system, you optimize your time and limit those unnecessary little things that take up too much of your precious time and threaten your sanity (finding the other shoe, coat, or sock, picking up toys, etc.) 

1) Get a coatrack and a shoe rack and then introduce everyone to it. Once they’re acquainted, use the parental touch (normally it requires making big eyes) and let everyone know it must be used. The child that “forgets” to use it will have an extra chore (I like to call it “double duty” – you’ll be amazed at how quickly they’ll remember after their first round of “double duty”).

2) Add hooks behind the bedroom door. Let’s face it, sometimes we all feel lazy to hang up our clothes, especially after a long day. Allow the option of hooking clothes up behind the door so they can be dealt with later. A collective, one day a week “tidy-up” for these accumulating things would be necessary (with all family members active, this is a 30-45 minute task).

3) A toy shelf – agreed, toys are annoying! Most of the time kids don’t really play with them, but because we’re such loving parents we will continue to get them in the hopes that it might inspire some sense of passion for something (right?). In the meantime, we have to direct toys to only ONE location. A low shelf is better than a bin. Bins require the entire thing to be emptied to find what they need. Shelves will allow only sections at a time to be thrown around the room.  Toys on a shelf must have a designated bin or bins that can adequately fit ALL the toys you want to keep. If toys are overflowing then you have too many of them. You’ll need to get your children to pick three to four toys to keep and give away the rest, especially if they take up a lot of space.

4) Desk with a shelf/cupboard.  If papers, books and things of that nature seem to clutter the house quickly, be sure you’ve created enough space for them to be used while not driving everyone insane. A good option is a “family desk”, this should be in a common open area within the home. It’s best to have a desk with shelves inside since it works as a handy place to keep those lovely pictures, pens, colouring books, etc. This way it will also be easy and apparent to the children where their stuff needs to go when they are doing their homework or artwork.

Despite having a system in place, it can still fail to serve its organizational purpose because of one reason – too much stuff. There are too many toys, too many books, too many shoes, too many coats and nowhere to go. “Too many” IS the problem here, which brings us to step two.

Step Two: Use it or Lose it

We clutter our lives and therefore we have trouble coping. Purging doesn’t have to be a big issue, and you don’t even have to decide if you like it or not. If you use the item, then keep it. If anyone in the family uses it, then keep it. If it’s not being used for a year or two, especially if it’s expensive, then put it in a box and give it away. Someone else can benefit from it. Remind yourself that it’s better to give it to someone else who’ll benefit from it than to keep holding onto it knowing that no one uses it. Forgo the “what if” moment, and just let it go (don’t make me break out in the Frozen song!). 

Step Three: The Team Effort Effect

Many hands make light work. We know this, but for some reason we don’t utilize those little (or big) hands which often times are too distracted with electronic devices. There is no fault and definitely no loss of your own integrity in expecting everyone to pull their weight around. Too many parents, especially mothers, feel guilty asking their children to do something. I imagine it’s because children are great at whining and making their parents feel bad. Find your internal mute button, remind yourself of the need to nurture well-rounded, responsible children, and then let them do it. Picking up a few toys, hanging up their coats, putting away their shoes etc. won’t drain them. They’ll be fine, insha’Allah – in fact they’ll be great, and you’ll be too.  

From toddlers to teens, everyone can and should do something. As soon as your baby can understand the concept of putting something into a bin, then encourage him to do that. It should become standard practice for everyone to clean up after themselves. As I briefly mentioned in step one, the consequence for lazy, “I forgot”-ers can be the effective use of “double duty.” Double duty means your child gets another chore. Too much whining also gets them double duty. This means that you can play off other children’s chores on the one with the bad attitude. They will HATE this, and that’s exactly what you want. The consequence to a bad attitude and to acting entitled is to force your child to put more in (then they’ve earned the right to complain, but don’t tell them that). 

Step Four:  Perception of Self

Perhaps this should be step one, but then you wouldn’t be able to see the flow of it all. Your mental attitude should shift with expectations thereby ensuring (and enforcing) that everyone follows the simple day-to-day system that is in place. Stay-at-home moms are included in this mental shift. The idea that a stay-at-home mom has nothing else to do but pick up people’s socks, tissues, toys, shoes, etc. is the fault of the mother. (Sorry, but it’s true. We allow others to see us this way because we keep doing it.) Everyone plays their part. Think of it this way, parents are a guide for their children so that their actions will be constructive and benefit each other. Too many moms and dads fear the displeasure of their children, thus adding more to their workload while their children tinker about with no realization that things need to get done. You are more amazing for instilling necessary life skills in your child(ren), so don’t feel bad. Feel empowered, and feel motivated to take a few simple steps and change the flow of household behaviours. 

Step Five: Purpose

Nothing is more important in all these steps than to re-affirm why you do what you do. While I cannot be your source of purpose, I can offer a few suggestions. Firstly, intend to earn the pleasure of Allah. Cleanliness in Islam is exalted.  Of course, homes aren’t filthy or najas (impure), but keeping things in order also helps keep our Islamic goals in order (such as reading Quran daily, setting time aside to teach children about our beautiful religion, having time to beautify ourselves for our spouses which includes taking care of our health and hygiene, etc.).

“Truly, Allah loves those who turn to Him constantly and He loves those who keep themselves pure and clean.” (Al Baqarah 2:222)  

With the intention of being a better mother, father, husband, and wife for the sake of Allah, actions will be considered a form of ‘ibadah (worship). Lastly, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that everything is in order and everyone did their part to get it there. They will feel good, and so will you. Now both mother and father can put their children to bed and sit down to relax without feeling the stress of chaos around them. InshaAllah, this will also allow for more time to nurture the marital bond without feeling suffocated by everything else. 

May Allah make all our homes a source of peace, comfort, and tranquility, ameen.