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The Fruits of a Loving Upbringing

In the name if Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

Just as seeds crave the sun to flourish, so do humans yearn for affection from those around them; thus, a baby cries when the mother takes him away from her arms and is instantly sated when she picks him up again.

The amount of “metaphoric sunlight” we receive in infancy is a determinant of how well we grow; we could blossom, bringing joy to our environs, or wilt, spreading gloom from ourselves onto our milieu. This indicates that the onus is on our caregivers to provide a field wherein we grow under the adequate measure of warmth needed to sprout effectively.

While there is no single approach to this, we will attempt to look at a particular ingredient that, in most cases, provides the most desired result;

PARENTING.
Parenting includes any and all activities engaged in by individuals regarded as parents towards the influence of the social, spiritual, physical, emotional, and psychological growth and development of their children/wards, regardless of biological relationships.

Much of the existing essays on parenting dwell on how-tos, listing a prescribed set of actions and principles, which when followed, helps the parents produce ‘well- adjusted’ beings in the society.

One common thread that unites all of these cognitive materials is the need to couch and nurture in kindness and mercy; attitudes which stem from, perhaps, a deep sated feeling of love towards the recipient. Hence the basis of all successful parental actions is embedded in the feeling of love that the parents offer, and which the child recognizes and basks in.

It is important to point out that the love referred to here is one that is given without any expectations from the child; unconditional love. Researches have proven that exposure to – or denial of – this type of love in childhood presets the mental and behavioural states of a person in later years.

Parenting with Love.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said,

“No child is born except on al-fitra (Islam or primordial human nature) and then his parents make him Jewish, Christian or Magian. As an animal produces a perfect young animal, do you see any part of its body amputated?” [ Sahih Muslim]

This Hadith confirms the inherent goodness in any child, rendering them incapable of evil by nature. Consequently, the personality traits exhibited by the growing child is an influence of the child’s environment and handlers, so when a child’s actions disregard what is considered as acceptable, he/she is most likely replicating scenes visualized in his/her environment.

While the first impulse might be to yell and scold, parents must resist the urge, as the child not only observes and acts according to what he sees and hears, but stores the reactions of others to his behaviour as a reference for his/her behaviour in the future. As such, tact and care must be employed in correcting the child; this not only ensures that the right attitudes are passed on to the child, but communicates to the subconscious that the parent is a trusted builder and handler of the child’s emotional quagmires.

One must recognise the innate goodness of the child and vulnerability in the first few years of life. Like a fresh seed, the child must be watered with the right nutrients to bring about a positive and lasting bloom. Neglecting to do this in the early years of the child is leaving the ’empty’ child open to unfavourable elements that seek to destroy its nectar of purity.

Parenting immediately after birth – between 0-5 years – is crucial as habits formed, actions observed and words overheard within this period shape the personality of the child and are carried on to adulthood.

Furthermore, most of the child’s main preoccupation in early childhood involves play which should be encouraged by parents through carving out avenues to engage in play activities with the child, acting as guides and facilitators. Children usually spend their first 7 years engaging in various forms of play as a means of learning and exploring their world. Parents should find a way to be involved in their child’s play processes, modeling appropriate behaviour and passing on vital values without attempting to direct or control the play.

Play is important for children as it stimulates their creativity, but a parent’s involvement signifies to the child that their activities are important and, therefore, strengthens their feeling of safety in the love of their parents.

The Messenger (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) recognizing this trait advised,

“Whoever has child with him has to treat him like a child.”

The Prophet would not only play with children around him but display his affection by kissing them, stroking their heads, and hugging them and generally showing them such mercy and kindness that endeared children to him.

Abu Hurayrah (radiyaAllahu anhu) said,

“The Prophet was kissing Hassan and Husayn when one of the Helpers said, ‘I have ten children none of whom I have ever kissed.’ The Prophet responded, ‘one who shows no mercy will be shown no mercy.’” (Al Bukhari)

It has been reported that the prophet (peace be upon him) would elongate his Sujud when one of his grandsons would jump on his back during Salah to avoid disturbing them. These examples of the Prophet (peace be upon him) exemplify the proper approach to adopt with children; one of love and respect.

UNCONDITIONAL VS CONDITIONAL LOVE
It is important that as a parent, we don’t dole out our love as a reward in itself for the child’s achievements. Thus we mustn’t show love only when a child has done something pleasing such that the child struggles always to please the parents to feel that love. Children must be made to understand that our love is not negotiable; it will always be made available no matter what road they take. This doesn’t negate the need to chastise our wards when they misbehave but this must be done with love and mercy as it is more effective in bringing out the desired behavioural response we seek.

The display of parental love need not deprive the child of good moral upbringing. Hence, a balance must be sought to avoid overindulgence; building conceited sense of entitlement on one hand, and demoralisation – deflating the sense of self worth on the other hand.

A child whose parents rewards good behaviour and discourage unacceptable attitudes without recourse to vituperations is more likely to be confident in their skills and capabilities, displaying fearlessness in placing themselves in new territories likely to enhance achievement.

A child whose actions are trailed by demoralizing invectives from the parents usually develops a reserved personality, unwilling to chart new courses for fear of failing and attracting disapproval; negative feedback stunts a child’s emotional development.

Psychologists have correlated the relationship between a person’s adult personality and the treatment they received in childhood. Studies have shown that children who are fruits of poor parenting are most likely to develop depression and antisocial behaviours leading to crimes.

Perhaps in the pursuit of wealth and success in present times, fathers especially are wanting in displaying their affection towards their children, rarely being involved in their children’s lives. While a mother’s love is irrefutably of paramount importance in the emotional stability of the child, the affection and adequate involvement of both parents is invaluable.

An upbringing of warmth and love will produce a confident child with a good dose of self-esteem as opposed to a child raised in a harsh and cold environment. Children should be viewed as gifts that need to be cherished and appreciated so they can benefit us and their society at large. Accepting the responsibilities we hold as parents and care givers as a lifelong learning experience rather than a distraction from more important pursuits, will raise children who would not only be assets to themselves but to the society. This way, parents would have done the world a great service and more importantly, invested in their success in the hereafter by fulfilling a spiritual obligation.

In the words of the prophet (Peace be upon him),

“…A man is a guardian over the members of his family and shall be questioned about them (as to how he looked after their physical and mental well being). A woman is a guardian over the household of her husband and children and shall be questioned about them…” (Sahih Muslim)

May Allah make it easy to carry out our responsibilities in a manner that is pleasing to Him. Aameen.

Author: Habibat Salawu

Editor: Umm Naml

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