Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Difference a Preposition can Make

I’m reading ScreamFree Parenting—the title is self-explanatory. There are a few interesting points in the book, and some strange concepts as well (such as giving your kid “space”). But the first chapter gave me a leap-off-the-couch-and-shout-for-joy “aha!” moment.

I am not responsible for my children. I am responsible to Allah swt for how I give and behave towards my children. This tiny word substitution created a totally different mentality in my mind. On one hand, it relieves the stress-inducing pressure of getting my children to behave a certain way, often because social norms say they should do so, and instead trusting in Allah swt to guide them. On the other, it allows me to focus on the one variable that I can control, and that is how I behave towards them. If you think about it, this approach should create much better results in the long run, because it helps a mother be calmer, more controlled, and focused on the one factor that will have the deepest impact on her children-her behavior.

Think of any scenario with the kids—it’s 11 p.m. and we’re still struggling to get Moona to sleep. Normally, I would focus on my child’s behavior and try to change it at almost any cost. It would start gently but possibly end in arguing, bribing, yelling, or a time-out. However, if I remember that I am responsible to my children, not for them, I will stop focusing on the behavior and instead focus on the “tarbiyah” and guidance I am giving them. So, in this case, it’s not so important that she be in bed at a certain time or that she listen to me as remaining calm and patient with her, in the teaching and tarbiyah mode. This doesn’t preclude being firm and disciplining, so long as the disciplining is based on clear, calm thinking and not panic or anger.

I am struggling in trying to help Moona understand how to count. I ask her to give me five pom-poms, and she gives me six, counting "One, two, seven, eight, four, five!" Sometimes, I panic a little and think, "She's four and still can't count?!" Because I'm in a result-oriented mindset, she senses the pressure and resists my efforts at teaching. In this case, I need to shift my thinking: I'm not responsible for teaching Moona her numbers, but I am responsible to Allah swt for interacting with her in the most patient, empowering manner. Similarly, I can make my child memorize Quran, but if she doesn't enjoy it, then I may be getting one set of results but I'm missing out on something possibly more important and need to revisit my approach.

I am responsible for the words I say, the methods I use to teach and parent, my tone, my voice, my words, my perceptions. Instead of becoming fixated on getting my children to do something or stop a behavior by yelling, threatening, or offering rewards and punishments, I need to focus on myself. I must learn how to be deeply aware of the moves I make in the thick of loud, stressful tantrums and messes. In many ways, the core of this idea is connected to the Islamic concept of tarbiyah and responsibility before Allah. I am responsible for my behavior alone, and I will be held responsible before Allah for how I tried to guide my kids into being pious, self-directed adults, not ultimately how they turned out.


mesama said...

very nice. Process-focused vs. results-focused.

mesama said...

very nice. Process-focused vs. results-focused.

Zainab said...

I like that ...and you're right! What they learn is quite as important as how they learn.

Iman said...

So true. I've tried it and it actually works. As a matter of fact, you feel more in control of the situation. But I often fall and get up again. It's a cycle..

Also, about the counting thing:
1. she could be focusing on developing another area at the time. eventually she will learn to count isa. do you know of anyone who can't count? :)
2. I took Hana when she was about 2 years old to a montessori training school where they observed her for a while and gave me an assessment. She went directly to area with blocks and left the area where most kids head towards ( i think it's called the practical life area). That was a sign that her mind was developing mathematically at the time and if I didn't nurture it, then she could lose motivation. On the other hand, she's 4 1/2 and still very slow at dressing herself forget buttons), and can't seem to remember the letters of any alphabet (English or Arabic) even though we've been going over them for ages :)

Bottom line, don't worry and focus on what she's working on, while inviting her to other activities..