Top Ten Tarbiyah Mistakes Part 2

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…


Top Ten Tarbiyah Mistakes Part 1

The following notes are taken from a lecture by Sr. Iman Badawi on April 14, 2010. The following notes are her points, as noted down by me (so they are not a word-to-word transcription). Any extra explanatory notes, points, or opinions from myself are added in blue. (they are mostly opinions LOL 🙂 but this is my blog, that’s what it’s for!)


Tarbiyah Mistake #1: Choosing the Wrong Spouse–someone who differs from you in the fundamental issues of life and parenting

(In order to provide some background, there was a lecture prior to this where the sister addressed what tarbiyah is: it is character development. This is in contrast to ta’leem, which is mere instruction. She noted that tarbiyah is a process and it is relationship-based. It is not the mere transmission of information that occurs at set time intervals. Based on this background knowledge, then, the purpose of choosing a spouse is that one selects someone that will facilitate this blessed mission of tarbiyah.)

  • Sometimes we forget that one of the main purposes of marriage is to contribute to the growth of the Muslim ummah, and so we must put this goal in our mind when looking for a spouse
  • Even after marriage happens, we sometimes put this goal on the back burner because we wish to spend time getting to know and enjoy one another before having to worry about kids. That is fine as long as one remembers the long-term goal and strives towards it.
  • The first night of the marriage is sometimes referred to as Laylat-ul-Binaa’: the Night of Building. We need to make our marriages like this. Some men are not concerned with building so much as breaking down their wife, and this is not acceptable.
  • (missed some information)
  • What if the marriage has already happened and the husband and wife are not on the same page?
  • In all cases, but especially in this case, the husband and wife need a Family Mission Statement where they clearly define the goals of their family.
  • Note: this idea is taken from Steven Covey in the book Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families. The sister will be doing a program exclusively on this topic but if one would like to read more about family mission statements, this book would be the source.

Mistake #2: Consider Tarbiyah as Beginning At a Later Stage in Life

There is a story about a man who came to a shaykh seeking to learn about tarbiyah. The shaykh asked him: “How old is your child?” and the man responded “One year old.” The shaykh said, “You’re already too late–you’ve missed the boat!”

  • We have to view tarbiyah as something that begins at birth.
  • And this starts by the mother forming a healthy attachment with her baby
  • Breastfeeding is important because it is the way we have this first bond with the child
  • We must identify what our child needs from us and no one else– the importance of the mother figure in the early years of child development
  • Note: It is pretty standard in our Muslim community for us to be pro-breastfeeding for the most part (this is changing somewhat as the newer generations of Muslims who are raised here are more connected to American culture than the culture of their family of origin). For many people, the reason that they are not able to do this first critical form of tarbiyah is that they don’t receive the correct support and information to succeed at breastfeeding. We should make this a priority in our communities to support breastfeeding by encouraging Muslims to be involved in the La Leche League–there are a few fantastic Muslim LLL Leaders that I know of, but we need tons more. Too many women are not able to do what they desperately want to–i.e. breastfeed–because they are not supported in the hospital and at home afterwards and given the tools to succeed. This should be a community effort, wallahu A’lam.
  • When we think of tarbiyah of an infant, we erroneously assume that it means turning the child into a baby genius, and that perhaps we are serving our children well by training them to listen to mozart and do math.
  • In reality, when we consider IQ (intelligence quotient), it is less important than EQ (emotional quotient). Emotional development is what we need to be focusing on at this age via attachment.
  • When studies look at young children’s intellectual intelligence vs. emotional intelligence, the ones who were better students in high school were the ones who had a higher EQ vs. IQ.
  • Sometimes our own emotional development is lacking and so this reflects in how we treat our children: so when we interact with our children, we ourselves display infantile behavior, and what that reflects is that our own development was incomplete–i.e. in some areas of behavior, we don’t display development past a 4-year-old level.
  • Example (from one of the parenting books used as a source): a father, who is also a pediatrician, found that whenever his son would receive a toy, would display bizzare behaviors towards him–not letting him play with the toy, feeling jealous and spiteful, etc. Through long hours of therapy he realized that as a child he wasn’t allowed to play with toys, and he was taking out his feelings on his child.
  • (Even though this is an extreme example, the point is) that we often do similar things, and we don’t realize that what is going on is that we have our own emotional issues that we have to deal with.
  • My personal bias in this issue is that as a community we need to be more open minded about the importance of mental health and de-stigmatize seeking help via therapy and counseling. Think of how many people could be helped if they were to feel free and comfortable about seeking help. Again, like the breastfeeding issue, we have a lack of Muslim professionals in this area and so we need people to fill this void so that we can help people be better people and parents.

Mistake #3: Letting the Children Run the Family

  • This is not what you think it is, folks…
  • We have a tendency to engage in reactionary parenting. In other words, rather than the parents being the leaders of the family and deciding its direction, the children’s behavior becomes a trigger point for the parents’ behavior, and parenting becomes a mere chain of reactionary behaviors.
  • When we go out of control at our children, we claim that “they pushed our buttons.”
  • However, if you are already programmed right, no matter what buttons are pushed, the correct program will run.
  • We need to change ourselves from reactionary to visionary leaders: we need to embody Principle Centered Parenting.
  • Steven Covey terms it Principle Centered Leadership, however in this context, the important leadership we are discussing is parenting.

(coming up next… points 4-6…)

Coming Soon: the Top Ten Tarbiyah Mistakes

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…

Suggestions for Learning Arabic

I was having a bit of nostalgia about our life in Jordan (what triggered it is the subject of another post if I get to it)… and I was perusing the blog I kept when I was living there. In there are a few posts that contain suggestions for learning Arabic. Here they are for your benefit. Having written this 5 years ago (time flies!) I would probably like to add to what is here, but that will have to wait for another time.

May Allah keep our intentions pure and increase us in knowledge, aameen.

FYI…The blog is titled “Merium’s Notes From Kharabsheh” so I feel somewhat obligated to point out that we were studying only Arabic there and were not part of a certain group that happens to reside in the area. I only point this out because sometimes people read that and make assumptions about our religious leanings (and that is all I have to say on the issue 😉 ).

my beloved 'Ammu Hans 🙂

Arabic Suggestions 1: Why?

Arabic Suggestions 2: Listen! Or…Meet Shaikh Fulaan

Arabic Suggestions 3: Arabic Takes Time!

Arabic Suggestions 4: ‘Ammu Hans

Arabic Suggestions 5: Qur’an as Your Teacher

Arabic Advice from a Non Arab

Becoming a ScreamFree Mama

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’ 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!”