Parent trap: Friend or foe?

Giving your child all the freedom in the world or restricting them are two extremes that should not be practised!

FD Sheikh November 28, 2012
A cousin of mine quite often argued with me about how incessant and unnecessary interference in a child’s life can weaken the parent-child bond. According to her, in this day and age if parents unduly poke their nose in their children’s lives, especially those who have just entered or are about to end their teens, and don’t maintain a friendly relationship, their parent-child relationship may seriously suffer.

The inclusion of electronic media in the lives of the modern society has opened up a huge world of awareness-for the young ones in particular. Now these young adults are well informed about their rights, freedom of expression and the modern way of living with liberty.

My cousin believes that the typical rigid style of parenthood can affect the mindset of their children adversely and is detrimental to their confidence level as well. Although I do agree with her about certain points, I have observed that at times, some of the ‘broad minded’ parents of our society confuse a ‘friendly relationship’ with a freedom to do absolutely anything -even if it is immoral.

Sometimes, the liberty and independence granted to children in the name of modernism, results in acute levels of moral destruction in a child. I myself have come across youngsters who have been brought up liberally and now are unable to maintain a civil level of decency and etiquette within traditional or cultural bounds. Respecting their adults, grandparents and even guests, that are all blessings from God, is all but a forgotten, archaic value.

To give your child a decent upbringing is a very hard nut to crack for every parent, but there are some very pertinent approaches that were followed by our parents in this regard back in the day. Although these may seem outdated, in certain aspects we could do well to learn from them. The most primitive amongst these methods was to use a slightly strict approach in which we were brought up. I still remember my childhood days when a mere thundering look from my mother was more than enough to bring my mischievous steps to a temporary halt.

Usually, back then, kids did not find much space to express themselves or at most instances even utter a single word in their own defence. This particular way of upbringing may produce an obedient and respectful flock of children. However, it stifles the unveiled capabilities and self confidence of a child sometimes resulting in an outburst of rebellious behaviour later in the child’s growing years.

Also for children, it may be highly discouraging when scolded or harshly forbidden from doing something they may deem important at the time. At this point, what parents fail to realise is that it is human nature to be more inclined to do something that has been forbidden as it sparks curiosity in the inquisitive minds. This is especially true for young children.

This form of discouragement affects the confidence level of a child, bringing out peevishness and low desirability for learning. This, eventually affects their school lives as well.

Fatima Salman, a housewife, speaking about her friends children and their relationship with their father said,
“My friend’s hubby was very strict and rigid with his children. He used to lock all of the entertainment channels while at office and if he found his two teenagers watching any of the prohibited channels all alone, he bitterly scolded and at times beat them. Later on, the two young bloods somehow managed to steal the password and started watching the channels furtively. Owing to undue strictness, the hatred of the children for their father kept increasing slowly but surely. They started arguing with him over petty matters which put off their hesitation of a confrontation with their father. And now when they are grown up, they don’t respect him anymore. So, it’s all in your hands. A friendly relationship between parents is a must in this era which results in smooth and progressive nourishment of your children. Otherwise it not only causes harm to their grooming but can also question their level of respect for you.”

In contrast to the aforementioned approach, is the other extreme where a child is given so much freedom and liberty that they end up using these liberties to disrespect and take advantage of their parents trust. Both methods are poles apart and have been unable to find a reasonable balance- thus both cancelling each other out as unacceptable.

Professor Muhammad Javed Jaffary, a religious scholar, says,
“Basically, children follow three methods of learning, which include learning by imitation, learning by doing and learning by punishment and reward. They say that children are the best imitators. Whatever you do, they follow you at once just like a parrot. And now it is up to you, if you do well, then most certainly, your children are going to do well too. The second method means you make your children do something by ordering him/her. And the very last method is of punishment and reward which means to reward your children for his good deeds and punish for bad ones. All these methods are approved by our religion - Islam. Now the point is how handsomely you use these three techniques in order to deliver a decent being to society.”

Today’s children are tremendously intelligent. That is why, being parents, it is your duty to be as intelligent and tactful in your parenthood to bring proportionality and balance into your child’s life. Neither are you required to grant an extreme level of independence to your child nor should you restrict beyond reason. There should be a well balanced relationship between a child and his/her parent.

Instead of keeping things from your kids, the best thing is to educate your child, with proper reasoning, so that they understand why you reacted the way that you did and the respect factor between you and your child is never compromised.

Don’t leave your children at the hands of the media or third party advice; parents should cultivate their relationship into one of mutual respect and understanding that will eventually provide the child with a better set of values and a better sense of judgement and recognition. They should be able to differ between good and evil on their own and they should be taught the value of relationships and morals. Once they understand the value of your teachings they will be better informed about the destruction caused by various evils and will understand that they will most likely be answerable not only to themselves and you for the wrongs done in their lives, but above all to Allah (SWT).

Alongside this, what parents need to do is to reflect upon their relationship and upbringing of their offspring as they will also be answerable to God for the human being they bring into society.

Just like a growing plant needs exposure to air and sunlight, a child derives the same needs through care, love and compassion to help them bloom into the flowers they are meant to become.

Happy parenting!
FD Sheikh A freelance writer, editor, online presenter at Revolution Flame, teacher and CA-Inter working at A. F. Ferguson, Lahore, FD tweets as @fdsheikh and blogs at
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