Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The DOs and DON'Ts of Raising Kids

I'm not a mother and I'm no expert on raising kids. But I’ve learned lotsa important things from raising Kashmala (she lives with me and my family) and, before her, her brother. (I have another nephew as well, who’s now 1.5, but I rarely get to see him, unfortunately.) Below are some of the things I’ve learned about children (e.g., things to do in front of kids, things not to do, etc.) from my own experiences, from a Psychology class I took a long time ago, from movies/books/tv shows (like Law & Order – SVU), and from the Internet. Many of us already know that kids are very observant, but we still tend to forget that they pick up things quite fast. Experimenting is normal for them, and so it’s not uncommon for a child to do something just to see what it will result in. In such moments, we tend to yell at them and/or punish them, make them realize that it’s wrong – but we don’t do the more important thing: explain WHY it’s wrong.

Lately, Kashmala has been asking me “why” every time I tell her something, even if it’s not about not doing something. She once asked me why people cry. And I gave an answer and she said, “Why?” And the “Why” went on and on and on and on … till she was distracted by something else.

When we first told her that eating candies and other junk food and drinking soda is bad and we can’t let her do it, she would tell everyone who was drinking soda, “STOP!!! IT KILLS YOU!!!” and she’d make sure the person put it down and said, “Oh, yes, I forgot. It kills. We shouldn’t drink soda.” That was about a year ago. Now, she says, “But why?” You try to explain how the body works and how soda and other junk foods affect your health, and she asks, “Why?”

My mother’s been telling her about hijab (grin!?!) and how we don’t show skin. Apparently, unfortunately, she’s no exception to this rule, either, despite her age (she’s 2.5 years old). At first, she wouldn’t ask about it. Now she asks me, my mother, and each one of my siblings, including her parents. She asks us all in different ways (she’s very clever and has very interesting and creative ways of getting her answers! #SayMashaAllah. God preserve her creativity and intelligence, aameen) and separately so as the answers of one of us will not influence the answers of another (lol). And, obviously, when she/we can’t do something that other people/women are doing, then of course she’s gonna ask, “Why are they doing this? It’s bad.” And you have to have an answer. For me, those are the difficult questions. I can’t tell her why it’s okay for one to show her legs and cleavage but unacceptable for her aunts. I think my mom does a fine job explaining to her the consequences of deviating from Islam – yes, that means Kashmala knows ALLL about hell and the wrath of God. I dread the consequences of her knowledge of hell and a God who’s a bao (monster) from such a delicate age.

Anyway, below are the things in very simple terms that I’ve learned about raising children well. Feel free to add whatever else you find important as well if it’s missing here. The two categories are what you should not and what you should do in front of your kids. Whatever you do around your kids, just think of how it will affect your children's childhood and the rest of their lives. But think hard because sometimes we think something is very small -- just because it may look small to us -- but actually leaves permanent scars on our kids.

The DON'Ts
A BIG Don't
  • Don’t yell when kids are around. I'm not sure when we'll all realize that yelling at another person is very disrespectful. 
  • Don’t indulge in violent behavior.
    This should go without saying. Violence is never acceptable except in self-defense cases. You don't want your kids being raised in a cycle of violence, growing up thinking it's okay to use violence just like that.
  • Don’t constantly tell kids you’re busy.
    Kids remember everything we tell them when they're young. Make sure they don’t grow up thinking you were never there for them, even if it's for something "small" like watching their favorite scene of their favorite cartoon.
  • Don't fight (physically or verbally or in any other way).
    Avoid fighting especially with your partner. You don't want to send your kids the message that it's okay to hit or yell at another person just because you're angry at them and/or that the child's parents do not love each other.
  • Don't backbite or speak negatively of another person, especially your partner.
    You shouldn't do this any at any other time, but if you must, be sure your kids aren't around or don't find out about it. Speaking badly of others is always bad, but when you speak badly especially of your partner, you're sending very wrong message to your kids: 1) it's okay to speak ill of people, 2) one of their parents is not worth loving because she/he is a bad person -- otherwise, why would the other parent say those bad things about 'em? 3) you're simply being selfish by arousing negative feelings in your child's heart for one his parents just because you're angry at your partner (if you're being abused by your partner, the court is the one that needs to hear about it more than your kid does).
  • Don't lie. It's one thing to lie to your kids to prevent them from, say, harming themselves or someone else (we do it all the time) or to lie because you know they're too young to understand the truth about something. But it's another thing to lie to other people, including your partner, in front of your kids. 
  • Don't belittle yourself (or another person, as said earlier). This is especially important for the mothers to avoid doing. Kids are less likely to respect us if we don't respect our own selves first and make sure that others around us respect us as well (e.g., our partners).
  • Don't criticize yourself, your partner or someone else, or your children. Even most adults can't handle criticism very well, so can you imagine a child? But for adults, at least many of them may be able to appreciate it, if it's helpful. For kids, it may decrease their self-esteem and self-confidence. If you've to teach them a lesson, try to think of the healthiest way possible. 
  • Don't make them feel like peeing/doodooing is a crime! Look, I know it's tiring having to clean them up all the time and stuff, but that doesn't mean you make them feel horrible for having to relieve themselves. (I know of parents and others who do this to their kids. I don't know why -- do they think the kids will suddenly stop doing it? Well, they won't, just like you or anyone else won't.)
Now for the don't's. I watch a LOT of Law & Order - SVU, so some of the following needs to be mentioned inevitably.  This link may help with more details about some of what I may say below.

The DOs

... k, I tired now. I'll leave the DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOs for another post :) Thanks for reading!


  1. Mashalla very nice article and thank you for sharing your expetience and learning. its absolutely true!!!! especially touching upon the importance of the best religion "Islam"

    Looking forward to read ur next articles...

    1. Thank you for your comment, Anonymous :) Glad to hear you found the post worth a read!

  2. wow. This post is so White, I could've sworn it was written by someone named John Griffiths.

    I like how pukhtanay moryaney raise their kids. A slap here, a slap there. A broken hanger, some chappaley. Child rearing = done!

    1. Draq draq khanda!!! ... yeah, I disagree with the way we raise our kids, which is why I wrote this post. We think saplai and hitting, etc. instills respect in our kids' minds for us: wrong - it only instills fears. And perhaps "respect" for the male figures, but I don't consider that respect.


Dare to opine :)

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