Let us answer this question together. Parents are not the same when it comes to how they respond to their children’s behavior. Assume that you told your children to turn the lights out when they leave the bathroom and it does make sense to develop this habit; we should try to reduce the hydro/heating bill. You sat with your children and explained to them why you want them to turn lights off every time they leave the bathroom; they listened and agreed to co-operate. You expected them to follow through and you started watching them.
Every time the “lights out “rule is broken, parents will say something and the children may make comments. You may experience the following scenario. Father,Hey son, why don’t you turn lights off when leaving the bathroom as we agreed?” Child, “Agreed on what?” Father, “Remember when I was talking to you and your brothers and sisters about saving money by turning lights out when we leave the bathroom. How many times you want me to remind you? The money does not grow on trees. I work very hard every day and you just burn up the money. Your mom also should teach you to keep your promise instead of just sitting and doing nothing.” Mother, “This is the first time he forgets; let us not make a big deal about it.” Father, “You should teach your son to keep his promise and obey his father because Allah can put him in hell fire for this. I sure don’t want to raise my children the way your brother raises his.”
The father has definitely spoken too much. His response was not appropriate. He did not deal with his son in dignity and he also insulted his wife and her family. His answer lacked focus. His expectations also were too high. Building good habits is not easy; building habits needs repetition on behalf of the child and patience on behalf of the parents. The father should focus on the problem of turning off the lights. A simple answer is “Lights Out” and this answer should be repeated every time the rule is broken until the habit is formed with respect and dignity. I am sure parents can think of key words to say, instead of giving long lectures. Both parents can sit together and make a list of similar violations and agree on key words to say to their children until the problems are solved with dignity and love.
Research has demonstrated that good habits are formed in the early years of the child’s life. Parents should spend some valuable time with their children during their early, formative years. There is an Arabic saying that says that teaching at an early age is like stamping on a rock.
The following is a list of key words that you may use in relevant situations:
Lawn mowing day, home cleaning day, dishes in sink, dirty clothes to laundry room, hand washing before and after meals, school bag in position, finish what you started, bed time, TV off, homework first, say insha Allah, say alhamdulillah, the master is the servant, set your own alarm clock, duties before rights, give and take, simplify your life, keep voice down, today’s work today – tomorrow’s work tomorrow, and bismillah before everything.
I would like to share with the readers a personal experience I had with a “talking-too-much” case. I witnessed the event and felt the pain of the son who was lectured to by his father. I went to the masjid in Victoria to read some Qur’an and do some research on an Islamic topic. That was between maghrib and isha prayers.last summer. As I walked in the masjid I saw a young boy sitting in the corner; he looked unhappy. I walked to him and greeted him with Assalamu Alaikum. He greeted me back but I could hardly hear him. I spent few minutes talking to him to break the ice. He told me that his father asked him to wait here until he comes back. Our young boy has no interest in doing any thing. Then, I opened my bag and got my stuff out: blank sheets of paper, pencil case and two sets of data cards. The young boy was watching me. He moved closer and asked if he may borrow a set of cards to play with until his father returns. I gave him the cards but he took my attention with it. I began to glance at him every few minutes to see what he is planning to do. He built a five storey-pyramid. He produced a masterpiece that he should be praised for. He was aware of carpet configurations, angles with the walls, and disturbances caused by the fan located in the opposite corner.
I made few positive comments about his engineering potential, patience in putting the cards together, creativity and ability to keep himself busy independently. He felt good about it. Few minutes later his father came in and, can you guess what he did? You guessed it right; he delivered a lecture in one breath! The father said, “You never stop playing! No wonder you failed in school. Do you remember your failing mark in math? Your problem is playing. You see, I brought you to the masjid and I thought you will read something useful. I can see about 100 Qur’ans around you, why didn’t you pick one up and read few Ayahs. Aren’t you a Muslim? You got a big problem; and your problem is playing. Learn from other kids around you. Stop playing. You are a big boy now. When are you going to grow up? You know something, you are a real loser. Just remember that; by the way who gave you these stupid cards?” The boy answered, “whatever.” The boy gave a silent message to his father.
In writing this article, the writer was inspired by Chick Moorman and Nancy Weber’s book: Teacher Talk – what it really means, the institute for personal power, 1989. According to this reference, 80% of all talking in the classroom is done by teachers lecturing, giving directions, reminding, praising, suggesting, discussing, motivating, or explaining. The book makes teachers aware of what they talk about in the classroom; make them evaluate the phrases they use frequently; and help them fathom the impact of the silent messages that accompany their talk. Although this book is written for teachers, it is also good for parents because parents are indeed the life-long teachers.
The reader may ask himself or herself about the value of this article; how they may put it to use. Parents can sit together and make a list of the words or phrases they use. Then, they examine the silent message carried by each phrase. Next, they may have to make changes to their selected phrases or key words to make them more effective. It is important to all of us (parents and teachers) to put our minds in gear before we put our tongues in motion.