WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
by SHAHID ATHAR
Standard sex education today "tends to be morally bankrupt. It begins with a biological description of sexual function and fertility (known in the trade as the organ concert) and it ends with indoctrination in conception, abortion and venereal disease. Basic to this pedagogy is the belief that youngsters will not accept moral ideals and should at least (or at most) be helped to cut their losses." - Father James Burtchaell
Raising children these days is not an easy job. No wonder many Americans do not want to get married, and if they do, do not want to have children. Each child needs the individual attention of both parents, and time, a most precious gift that we are sometimes unable to find for our children. Parents who were themselves raised either in a different country or in a different generation, where peer pressure was different, have more difficulty in raising today's children. They also do not get much help from television or the school system. What kinds of suggestions do I have for them.
First of all, I do not like using the phrase, 'setting limits'. No one likes to take orders these days in this free society. A better term would be educated guidelines for both parents and youth. Even better is the term 'informed consent', the kind we use in medicine before asking a patient to agree to a procedure or a test. Once a person is informed of the consequences of right and wrong, then he or she can make an intelligent decision. Unfortunately, smaller children are not able to make that decision for themselves, so parents will have to do it for them until the child reaches the age of maturity.
Children have a right to be treated as people, in an environment that is conducive for their growth and maturity and to become useful citizens. Children have a right to love, care, discipline and protection from their parents. Children have a right to receive education and financial protection for the future.
Parents have a right to receive love, respect and affection from their children. Parents have a right to educate and discipline their children. Parents have a right to know about their children and monitor other influences affecting them. Parents have a right to say no to unusual financial and other demands of children.
The next question is, "Why set limits or give guidelines? Why not let the boat sail without a sail in an uncharted sea?" If it does, most likely this boat will end up at a destination where it never wanted to be. Thus, not only do we need to prepare for the present but also for the future. All those children who are adults now, who were reared with discipline, appreciate what their parents did when they were children in terms of discipline, although it appeared at that time that the discipline was too tough."
The next question becomes, "In what areas should we set limits? The most important area is time management. Children, as well as adults, waste too much time in watching TV, listening to music, talking on the telephone, and other unnecessary activities. They must realize that whatever time they are wasting, they are taking it away from some more useful work like homework or housework. Therefore, they must set limits and assign priorities with respect to their time management. Their health comes first. Next comes homework and education and then time spent in improving interpersonal relationships.
Another question is who should set the limit? Traditionally, it is seen as the father's role and sometimes the mother's role, an elder brother for a younger brother, or an elder sister for a younger sister. On the other hand, the truth is the one who is better qualified and more experienced should set the limits for the one who is less qualified and less experienced.
In terms of religion, the one with stronger faith and righteous deeds should set limits for the one who has less, regardless of age. Sometimes it is seen that the parents are less practicing Muslims than the children themselves. In that case, the children should advise the parents. Teachers have a much greater role to play. However, the limits should be taken in the light of permission and responsibility from God.
SOME SUGGESTIONS TO PARENTS
Choose a good neighborhood school. Know the teachers personally and interact with them. Neglected children expose themselves to various abuses. Supervise their homework.
Watch TV with your children and select good educational and entertainment programs. Comment on the negative aspects of the program. Cut down TV time to less than twelve hours on weekdays and twenty-two hours on weekends. Encourage outdoor activity. Encourage them to read newspapers and good magazines
Growing children may not obey an order, but they will do things out of love and respect for their parents. Love and respect on a mutual basis is our best weapon against all the negative influences.
Parental love should be unconditional and not based on their achievements. Love should not be confused with permissiveness or overlooking a child's faults. Pointing out faults of the child should not diminish the love by the parents.
Children are not bom knowing all the rights or wrongs in social norm. They need clear guidelines about good and bad behavior. The greatest effect is the parent's attitude, example and behavior rather than words. Parents should set the same standards for themselves as they set for their children and share with them information of all kinds whether related to the outside world or inside the family. It is not the knowledge which hurts but the lack of it, or misuse of it, which causes problems.
Parents should help children to make appropriate decisions and be responsible for them. Younger children can only make decisions about the present (i.e., what clothes to wear that day), but older children can make decisions that may affect their future, under parental guidance (i.e., selection of school, college and career). Children should be taught to share household work, keep their desk and room clean, and how to handle their 'own' money. Let them spend all their money and suffer from the lack of it.
The overprotective and anxious parent cannot raise a confident child ready to deal with the real world. This child will feel danger everywhere. While the child has to be supervised, he or she does not need the physical presence of the parent all the time. They should raise a strong child.
The parent who cannot say no to a child spoils the child. This child will make unreasonable demands and put on a manipulative show. The parents have to discipline themselves in order to discipline their children. Parents who take sides in sibling rivalry encourage jealousy and hate. They should not prefer boys over girls, fair complexions over dark ones, the honor roll over an average student.
Neither party can influence the other unless they communicate. Find a time and place to talk to your children. Children are sometimes in a 'bad mood' upon returning from school, loaded with homework. The best time to have a chat is during breakfast and evening dinner. During this time, the parent can inform the child of all the good things he or she did that day and ask the child the same and share his or her problems.
When you do argue, do it patiently, one person speaking at a time. Be specific and separate emotion from facts. Speak in a low tone, Screaming decreases the intake of the message.
Practice active listening from each other's view, even if you don't agree. Refrain from sarcasm, name calling, humiliating, pointing your finger, etc. Encourage each other even in areas of shortcoming, rather than making fun or making a negative remark, i.e., if the child brings a B- report, then instead of, "I doubt you will ever improve or pass your exam," say, "B is better than C," and "I am sure you are talented enough to do better. May I help you in the areas that you have difficulties in at school?"
The purpose of giving them chores is to keep them busy as well as to teach them responsibility. Initially it may be boring but eventually will become routine. The assignment should be according to age and not the sex of the child. However, children should not be forced into doing things, or otherwise they will rebel. By the same token, they should not be penalized for mistakes. The best payment for a job is a smile, hug, thank you or praising the child in the presence of others, rather than money. While it may be all right to give an allowance, it should not be tied to the job.
SETTING LIMITS IN GENDER INTERACTION
In Islam intimate mixing of youth and adults of opposite sexes by themselves is not permitted for social reasons. Thus we oppose dating and all such activities. Nevertheless, there is a need for Muslim boys and girls over eighteen to get to know each other so that when they attain the age for marriage, hopefully, they will choose a Muslim spouse. This can be done in a supervised setting whether during a community function, mosque, ISNA or MYNA convention.
Talking to a non-mahram for business or religious reasons is permitted in Islam. Both boys and girls, men and women, should lower their gaze, dress appropriately and talk in a business manner and not in a seductive way. The right of God is that He should be believed in, He should be worshiped and He should be obeyed. Thus, if we set limits and discipline ourselves, the reward is immense and includes not only success in this world but also in the hereafter with the pleasure of God.