We can all spurt out a list of mistakes our parents made when bringing us up. And for some reason, their faults are often more memorable and vivid than their numerous sacrifices for us. Even as parents, we too make mistakes now and then when raising our children, so it’s helpful to know which mistakes we should avoid in order to raise our kids to become good Muslims. Here are 5 discipline mistakes to avoid when directing your child toward proper behavior.
MISTAKE #1: Getting enraged when disciplining
One of the biggest mistakes parents make when disciplining their children, is getting enraged when correcting them. Expressing your rage when disciplining your child is problematic for several reasons.
- First, it directs your child’s attention away from his mistake and causes him to focus on your wrath instead. The object of discipline is to guide your child toward proper behavior for both the short-term as well as the long-term. If your child is more worried about how you will react in your anger, rather than what he did that was wrong, he is unlikely to benefit from your counsel or choice of discipline. Instead, he will become irritated and resentful. This doesn’t mean the child won’t comply in the short-term. To the contrary, many children respond to an angry parent. What it does mean, is that the lesson you are trying to teach your child may not sink in. It might even get lost completely, depending on the extent of the anger shown. When disciplining, you want your child to behave not only immediately, but even when you’re not around. Responding to your child’s misbehavior with shouting and aggression does not help him learn to self-manage his behavior. It merely teaches him how to respond to you when you’re angry.
- The second problem with expressing anger when correcting your child, is that it provides the opportunity to be excessive when punishing. This can lead to abusing your child. Often times when a parent is angry, they vent the anger onto their child by using hurtful words or by correcting with excessive and harsh physical punishment. To effectively discipline your child, try your best to avoid correcting her when angry.
According to Hadith, The Prophet (saw) has said:
“Whoso suppresses his rage, while he has the power to show himself, God will call on him on the day of resurrection before all creation, and reward him exceedingly. (Tirmidhi)”
MISTAKE #2: Comparing children when disciplining
One of the least effective ways of achieving compliance from your child, is by comparing him to his brother or sister. for example saying things like, “Hason always does his homework, why don’t you ever do yours, Jamal?”
The problem with comparing your children, is that rather than causing the child to want to comply, it makes him resentful of the other child and of you! Sibling rivalry is common between children and there are many factors which contribute to such quarrelsome behavior. Comparing children to one another can accelerate disagreements between siblings, which only contribute to additional discipline problems in the household.
Instead of comparing children, a better method would be to reward and complement your child, when he performs as desired. This is more likely to cause the child to repeat the desirable behavior.
MISTAKE #3: ‘Do as I say not as I do’ method when disciplining
Demanding of your children what you do not do yourself, is bound to result in failure. Parents are their children’s first role models. Even older children, who model after their peers, continue to look up to their parents for exemplar behavior. If Mom isn’t making Fajr regularly, why does she expect me to make salat on time? Your child may ponder. Being a parent is an enormous responsibility, so an important part of parenting is being the type of person that you encourage your child to become.
Of course no parent is flawless, and that’s OK! In fact, periods of failure can be a learning experience for your child. Let your child see you take responsibility for your errors — apologize to others in your family when you know you’ve treated them improper. This will give your child an example of the proper way to correct her mistakes with family and friends.
MISTAKE #4: Not respecting your child when disciplining
As Muslims, we have an ingrained understanding that children should obey their parents. Allah tells us in Quran about being kind to our parents. The Prophet Muhammad (saw) has instructed us to be especially kind to our mother. A child who is not respectful to his parents, is certainly behaving in a way that is contrary to our religion. Not only should children be obedient and kind to their parents – parents should also be kind to their children! The Prophet (saw) has said:
“He is not of us who does not have mercy on young children, nor honor the elderly.” (Tirmidhi)
When interacting with our children and even when correcting them, we should remember to be gentle and kind with them. People are more inclined to please those that they have a positive relationship with. Speaking in a calm and respectful tone to your child, does not convey a sign of weakness. To the contrary, it let’s them know that you are indeed in control — not only of the situation, but also of your emotions.
MISTAKE #5: Expecting perfection when disciplining
Often, when we catch our child misbehaving, we wonder why is he acting in such an unpleasant way. We must remember that no one is perfect. We aren’t, and neither are our children! It can also be helpful to remember that we want Allah to be merciful and patient with us when we make mistakes, so we should try to enact these same virtues when managing our children. When we accept the fact that our children will err and disappoint us at times, this helps us accept them as fallible humans and not view them as simply bad children! We are here to guide our children to be God-Fearing Muslims, but they have their own mind, desires, and temperament – it’s not easy to resist sneaking into the cookie jar for one more of mom’s delicious chocolate chip cookies right?
So remember dear parents, patience should be our motto when disciplining our children. This will help us accept those disappointing times when our children don’t live up to our expectations. It will also help us to become better at parenting when we avoid the 5 common discipline mistakes parents make.