HOW MANY OF us at the end of a long day have thought, “Wow! I have become my mother (or father)!” Most of us imitate our parents’ parenting styles and even repeat the same mistakes they made. Think about your parenting style and then think of the way you were raised. They’re probably similar.
According to the Love and Logic Institute, almost all of the parenting styles fall into one of these three categories: Drill Sergeant Parent, Helicopter Parent and Consultant Parent.
Drill Sergeant Parent is Self-explanatory
❂ They give the orders and their kids are to salute and obey—or else!
❂ They tend to use punishment, pain and humiliation to serve as the teacher.
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❂ Make a lot of demands and have lots of expectations about responsibility.
❂ Tell the child how to feel.
❂ Demand respect but show very little.
Here the line between fear and respect is blurred. Do we want our kids to respect us? Sure! The question is whether we want them to respect us because they fear us or respect us because they love us. This is where culture plays a big part. Many cultures associate fear with respect. Fear diminishes when the feared is gone. Love lingers even when the beloved is not around.
Think about the message the Drill Sergeant parent is sending to the child. They might not do certain things when the parent is around but once the parent is gone, they do as they please. Their kids need to be told what to do all the time or else they don’t know what to do or won’t do it at all. Those parents are indirectly sending wounding messages to the child such as “You can’t think for yourself, so I have to think for you.” And “You can’t make it in the real world.”
The Helicopter Parent Will Act Just Like a Helicopter
❂ They will hover over their child ready to rescue and protect.
❂ They are overprotective and constantly remind their kids of what they should be doing.
❂ They make all the decisions, whether big or small, for the child; fearing the child will make a wrong one.
❂ When the children don’t do what they are asked, the parents make excuses for the child while complaining about having an irresponsible child.
❂ They never let their kids attempt anything that may be “too hard” for them to do because they don’t want to see their kids sad if they fail.
❂ They never want to see their kids angry or frustrated so they solve all their problems for them.
What message is the Helicopter Parent sending to the child? The main message they are sending is, “You can’t make it in life without me!” We all love our children and can’t bear the thought of any discomfort they may have. We just must realize that it is important for kids to make mistakes now, when the stakes are low, rather than in the future when the stakes are high.
For example, let’s say Ali and one of his friends get into an argument. Unless it is imperative that the parent gets involved, we should stay out and monitor from afar offering only a listening ear and a shoulder to lean on. In this case the stakes are low. It would be very unfortunate if one of Ali’s first attempts to problem solve are later in the future with his boss or his wife. In this case the stakes are very high; he could lose his job or his marriage. Solving problems early in life is vital to nurture Ali’s social skills, self-confidence and self-worth, all of which prepare him for success in this world and hopefully in the next.
The Consultant Parent Provides Guidance and is an Adviser for their Kids
❂ They demonstrate and model responsibility and ideal behavior as opposed to lecturing about it.
❂ The child is an active member of the household whose opinion is heard.
❂ This parent is not afraid– and sometimes hopes—for their child to make a mistake thus allowing life’s natural consequences be the teacher.
❂ They will immediately jump at this opportunity to empathize with the child and listen as the child thinks of ways to correct his/her mistake.
❂ They make enforceable statements instead of requests. For example, instead of saying, “Please sit down, we are going to eat now” they will say “We will eat as soon as you are seated.”
❂ They gain control by giving control. They always offer their children choices, both of which the parent approves of. For instance, for the younger child, “Would you like to wear the red shirt or the blue one?” and for the older, “Would you like to clean your room on Saturday or Sunday?” If the kids always have options now at home, they are less likely to object later when they don’t have an option.
❂ They realize that they don’t make the best decisions when they are angry so they delay the consequences until they are calm and can think of a consequence that corresponds with the action.
Think of instances throughout Islamic history such as when the Prophet Ibrahim was inspired to slaughter his son. He approached Prophet Isma’il and asked him what he thought about his vision. The Quran says,
And when he attained to working with him, he said: ‘O my son! Surely I have seen in a dream that I should sacrifice you; consider then what you see.’ He said, ‘O my father! Do what you are commanded; if Allah please, you will find me of the patient ones.’ [Surat Al-Saffat, 37:102]
Think about the magnitude of what happened. This Prophet was inspired by the All Mighty to slaughter his own son and he sought his son’s opinion! What an extraordinary father he was! He could have simply come to Isma’il from behind or in his sleep. Some reports say that Isma’il was as young as seven years old at the time. Seeking his young son’s opinion shows a part of the parenting approach that made Prophet Isma’il the remarkable man he became.
Considering all three parenting styles, the one that coincides most with Islamic teaching is the Consultant Parent. Parents using this approach put a lot of love and empathy into their parenting. They try their hardest to control their anger. When we act or react angrily towards our children, it places a barrier and our kids don’t see their mistake anymore, they see “mean parents.”
The key is in our reaction. Simply changing our wording a little makes a big difference. For instance, if I say, “Why did you do that? How many times have we talked about this? No soccer practice for you this week!” Or, “SubhanAllah! You must have been too busy to do what you were supposed to be doing. That’s so sad because I know you love soccer and I love to watch you play but now I can’t take you. Let’s try again and insha’Allah you can try again next week.” If we act loving and calm yet firm, they will be more likely to own the problem or mistake and know that the consequence is a result of their own action and not of their parents’ anger.
This is Islam.
When a man approached the Prophet, asking him for advice, he said “Do not get angry.” The man repeated that several times and the Prophet replied (every time), “Do not get angry.” (Bukhari)
Patience is an essential part of parenting. It is the hardest thing to gain and the easiest thing to lose. Be consistent and never be afraid to ask for help from relatives, friends, doctors or any other parent resource. May Allah continue to bestow His blessings upon us and grant us the patience we need to raise the future leaders of our Ummah.
Looking for the best parenting style? Try the Prophet’s.