Choosing Friends Wisely – Teaching Your Teen the Importance of Good Company
As your child begins to mature into a teenager, parenting can suddenly bring with a whole heap of new challenges. When your child was younger, you will probably have had a certain amount of control over where they went and what they did with their friends. The biggest decisions to deal with may have been when the next playdate will be and as their parent, you will still have been the driving force in your child’s development. However, when the teenage years hit, friendships can take centre stage at the reins of your child’s social life.
Many parents worry about the friends that their child socialises with. Whilst we hope that our children will befriend people who have the same morals and goals, it is inevitable that each teenager will meet people who don’t share a way of thinking that we may necessarily agree with.
Friendships and Challenges.
Peer pressure starts at a young age – from simple games in the playground (“go on, have a go.”) to pressure to have the latest trainers or games. Many younger children actually manage to avoid giving into peer pressure as they are more dependent upon their parent’s permission and guidance. However when a child is a teenager, they inevitably will have more independence in their thoughts and actions – and also in their social activities.
As teenagers, life will throw at them new choices and challenges that can seem exciting and rebellious. Smoking, alcohol, dating and drugs can be enticing when ‘everyone is doing it’ and they don’t want to be the one left out. These distractions and dangers can also be exciting for the child who has not been pre-warned about these challenges or who struggles with feelings around identity.
Learn to Educate your Child – Before Someone Else Does
The crux of the matter is this: You can’t pick and choose your teenager’s friends. Nor can you keep them in 24-7 and not let them explore the world. Part of good parenting is enabling them to make their own choices and to explore and experience life.
What you can do and what is particularly important for the Muslim family living in the West, is to equip them with the correct knowledge and guidance to make sensible, safe choices.
A confident child is far less likely to give way to peer pressure. By confident, we don’t mean one who is eager to get up on stage and perform. The type of confidence needed is where a child has the confidence to say no – even if that means they may end up spending time alone.
Teach them early they do not have to do anything they do not want to – they are in control. Get them into the habit of thinking before they act. Key phrases and questions to teach can include “Is this a good idea?”, “What could happen if I do this?”, “Would my parents be ok with me doing this? And ultimately “Is this halaal – or haraam?”
Teach your child a real understanding of reward and punishment. Let them know that Allaah is aware of all that we do. Even if they think they can get away with hiding something from you, there is no hiding from Allaah. Help them to understand that every choice they make can earn them reward or punishment in the Hereafter. Remind them of the angels on their shoulders recording every action.
A child with conscience is far less likely to be involved in things that they should not. Having shame for a sin is a step towards repentance and forgiveness. For the teenager with no shame, the one who openly sins in front of others, it is a slippery slope to sin that becomes a habit which they deem acceptable. Where they may have done something for show initially, when it is not addressed, it can lead to further sin. Teach your child to have shame in front of others, to learn respect, cover their modesty and to remember always Allaah.
In addition to the above reminders, one of the best things you can do as a parent is to teach your child that friends may not always act as friends. That is, just because someone acts like a friend, does not mean that they may have your best interests at heart. Help them to understand that a true friend will always want the best for them.
Safeguard Their Cyberspace.
Standing back and watching your teenager go out into the world, not knowing who they are mixing with, is a worry. However, being aware of who they communicate with when at home is also important. In today’s society, social media is a huge influence so it is imperative to have the passwords to your teenager’s social media accounts and to conduct random spot checks. Make sure that they – and you – are aware about the importance of online safety.
Protect and Guide.
Unfortunately, it is vital that as parents we also face up the realities of bullying – both online and in everyday life. Peer pressure, particularly for the one who does not bow to it, can result in teasing, isolation and harm. Try to develop a relationship where you are someone they can come and talk to. Look for sudden changes in behaviour that may seem out of place and let them know that you will always be there for them – no matter what.
To help you navigate the teenage years, the Ummah Stars App has a dedicated section addressing this subject. Take advantage of stories that will capture the minds of even the most reluctant teenager. Our content will help instil in them a sense of confidence as a Muslim, that will help them to work through personal obstacles. Try the app for free today.
Teaching your child respect: Getting rid of that bad attitude
As parents, we have all been there: you work all day, run around after the children, laundry, cooking, homework AND working in little treats and fun for your child. Nearly every waking moment is with them in mind, praying and striving to give them the best life and upbringing you can. But instead of pleasant attitude and a harmonious house, you are met with disrespect and rudeness.
Although this is a common trait of children between the ages of 7 and 10 years old, when it happens time after time, it can begin to leave a bitter taste in your mouth. You love your child and will do anything for them but you are a human with emotions and feelings too – why can’t your child be kind and respectful in return?
Eye-rolls, insolence, sighing and huffing, a lack of manners and challenging behaviour are all common complaints of parents of this age group. Some may say it’s part and parcel of the role of the parent, something we have to bear but is that really true? And more importantly – is it right?
Lessons in self-restraint.
As Muslims, we should realise the full importance of raising a child who understands and displays appropriate Islamic behaviour – both towards you and to themselves.
Firstly, Islaam places great emphasis on respect and honour. Treating each other with kindness, performing acts of charity, using polite words and affording each other respect are essential. We are all no doubt familiar with the hadeeth about ‘Your mother, your mother, you mother’* which stresses the importance of respect. So when we are met with sullen speech and rudeness, we can’t help but be disappointed and also reminded of the following:
And your Lord has decreed that you not worship except Him, and to parents, good treatment. Whether one or both of them reach old age [while] with you, say not to them [so much as], “uff,” and do not repel them but speak to them a noble word. (Quraan, 17:23)
Secondly, we also need to consider that the way we behave as Muslims also directly impacts on the impression others receive of Islaam. Our actions – and those of our children – are a reflection on our religion and can form a great part of da’awah. When our children are rude to us, particularly in public, it can give food for thought as to how that may be perceived by non-Muslims looking on.
Lessons in love.
So how can we do something about this? How do we instil understanding, respect, and gratitude? How do we banish that bad attitude for good?
- Model respectful behaviour – the lessons start with you. As our children’s biggest teachers, it is vital that we show them how to behave. When you are tired, it is easy to snap a little. When you have been disrespected, it’s all too understandable that your tone may be harsh. Try to develop the habit of speaking respectfully to your child and others, whatever the situation.
- Have sabr – and teach it. One of the greatest gifts you can teach your child is the gift of patience. Sabr (patience) is not just bearing what has been bestowed upon you, it is retaining control of your emotions. Teach your child that they can speak about what is bothering them while still having sabr. Listening to their feelings and opinions is important, just remind them to exercise sabr in expressing these to you.
- Teach gratitude – in today’s world, most of our children live amazing, comfortable lives. A quick lesson in how others live will do them no harm. Impress on them how fortunate they are by explaining that many do not even have a roof over their heads, let alone the latest games, toys and clothes. Take them to a charity event and teach them about what is going on in the world.
- Explain how being kind and respectful is actually of benefit to the child – even if they can’t see it. Children of this age group often act from a self-centred place. If they cannot see the benefit in something to themselves, they may be reluctant to engage with you in the way you need. Try to teach your child that acting rudely and disrespectfully towards you will have repercussions for them. For one, lay down some clear consequences (deducting pocket money, treats, screen time). Also explain how others perceive them when they act in this way
- Flip it around – ask them how they may feel. At age 7, most children have developed a degree of empathy. They know enough to be able to imagine how something may feel if it happened to them. Remind them of this and teach them to reflect upon it.
Teaching your child to speak and behave respectfully towards you will not be an overnight fix. Children have emotions just like any other person and when they behave rudely towards you, they are letting these emotions speak because they lack the self-control that is needed. When you are teaching your child to be respectful and kind, you are essentially teaching them to learn self-restraint – a valuable skill but a difficult lesson for any child in this age group.
To help you, we have developed stories in the Ummah Stars App to use as a resource and to provoke conversation with your child. With a little imagination and relatable scenarios, the Ummah Stars App can be the key to unlocking understanding of how to behave and how they can earn the pleasure of Allaah, in shaa Allaah. Try the app for free today.