The teacher’s pet is an expression given to a student who is loved by the teacher more than anybody else in the classroom. Being a teacher’s pet is not always a blessing because the “poor” pet usually experiences problems from other classmates who don’t have the capabilities of rising to the teacher’s pet position.
If the teacher’s pet situation is repeated in a family setting, serious consequences may happen. If the father, for example shows more love towards a child, other children may think of hurting that child. This human tendency is confirmed in the glorious Qur’an in the famous Surat Yusuf.
Yusuf’s brothers learned that their father loves Yusuf more than them. This type of unfairness, whether perceived or real, made them first hurt their father by describing him as going astray from the right path:
“They said: Truly Joseph and his brother are loved more by our father than we: But we are goodly body! Really our father is obviously in error” (12:8) The pain of injustice made Yusuf’s brothers go beyond the angry expression of injustice. They formed a plot against Yusuf: throw him down to the bottom of the well. The well was both dry and deep. It was dry enough to prevent drowning and deep enough to prevent him from coming out: “Slay ye Joseph or cast him out to some (unknown) land, that so the favour of your father may be given to you alone: (There will be time enough) for you to be righteous after that! Said one of them: “Slay not Joseph, but if ye must do something, throw him down to the bottom of the well. He will be picked up by some caravan of travellers” (12:9-10).
The father made no mistake but could not help but love Yusuf more. He did not treat Yusuf better than the others. Nevertheless, Yusuf’s brothers were able to see through their father’s heart. Innocent Yusuf paid the price. The feeling of injustice among children forms a strong shield against any attempt to fix the problem by advice, instruction, negotiations, threats or even rewards. The only way to remove injustice is to remove any underlying causes. And you cannot fool kids.
Unequal treatment of children has been described by prophet Muhammad (saw) as injustice. A man was sitting with prophet Muhammad (saw). When his son came, the man kissed him and took him in his lap. Soon after, his daughter came and the man asked her to sit beside him. In reaction to the situation, Prophet Muhammad (saw) said to the man: “You are unfair- Are you asking me to witness injustice?” Two areas of injustice are observed. The first is kissing the son and neglecting the daughter. The second is the degree of attachment the father show to his children. The son received the warmest welcome by sitting in his lap in contrast to the daughter who was offered a secondary location to his side.
To remove the injustice against children, the prophet said: “Be just to your children- Be just to your children- Be just to your children.” He said it three times to attract the attention of the parents to the importance of “being fair and just” with the children and to warn them against the disastrous consequences of being “unfair and unjust”.
All of was want to be just. At least, all of us would like to be described as being just. And we know, between you and me, that we are not just- at least sometimes. To become just and fair, you have to observe yourself. Self observing is an exceptionally difficult task – if not impossible. It resembles a surgeon operation on himself. That is why we need others to tell us about our own behaviours. We need to listen to our children when they cry out to the pain of injustice and neglect. Pay attention to their body language when they are afraid to talk. We, also need to listen to those who love us and those who hate us. Both groups tell the truth but in different ways.
It is fait to say that the journey to be fair is difficult and long. Perhaps that is way Prophet Muhammad (saw) said that those who are fair/just in dealings/judgements among their families and subordinates enjoy Allah a platform/pulpit of light. (Muslim)
The teacher’s pet has my sympathy. With every once of love, she/he gets a pound of trouble. I close by asking Allah (swt) to make us among those who follow the best of what they hear.