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10 Ways You Are NOT Helping Your Child To Grow And Learn!

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Recently, I attended a parenting course; I had assumed being a mother of 3 I already knew everything there was to know on being a parent – oh how wrong I was!

The course really was an eye opener.  Not only did I learn about rewards, sanctions and discipline; but more importantly I learned about the mindset of a child and how to get inside their head. I learned how to support my child in the best possible way. The mum teaching the course had older kids than me so I also learned about what to expect in the future and the nightmares to come!

Here’s my top 10 things to AVOID!

 

1) Forgetting your child is a little person: Growing up,  what I wanted or thought wasn’t really seen as important. That’s not because my parents didn’t love me,  but because they forgot I felt many of the same emotions they did.  They were the parents and their thoughts mattered. They forgot what it was like to be a child. The same stuff that makes you happy, makes them happy. The same factors that stress you, stress them. Being a child doesn’t come without difficulties!

 

2) Lack of empathy: put yourself in your child’s shoes and try to see the world from their perspective. When they come to you upset or afraid, don’t brush off their fears; it’s real to them. We make children feel valued and validated when we empathize with them even if we don’t agree with their views. This promotes confidence and mental wellness.

 

3) Age appropriate expectations: – not giving them enough responsibilities. Doing everything for a child only holds them back. It can make them lazy and does not teach them independence. Are they old enough to try brushing their own teeth? Then let them! You can still stand by them and brush the teeth again if necessary.

It’s great you want to pamper your little ones, but assigning chores helps with their social development.The last thing you want to do is raise a child who goes out in the world unable to  take care of themselves. Giving age appropriate chores for example, does not ruin childhood. Many children want to help out but we hold them back. Messes can be tidied up and children will make mistakes but you are aiding in their learning when you show you trust them.

 

4) Giving children too many responsibilities: If you expect too much of your child you can end up overburdening them. There are certain things children should be able to do at each age to be able to develop efficiently in the social area. This starts from as young as 0!

Every child is different of course, and the main thing is knowing your child and what they can handle. But there are guidelines which are useful to look at. For example, you wouldn’t expect a 4 year old to go to the shops on their own! When my daughter was 10 she was making me coffee but I can’t say I would trust my son because of how unaware he can be in the kitchen (although that may just be my own mummy fears!).

Judge each child individually and don’t expect the same from each straight away.  All too often, we worry about the academic development of our child and neglect the social and emotional, but all are crucial for a well rounded child.

 

5) Labelling: how do you feel when you are labelled? What does it do for your confidence? You can bet your bottom dollar your child feels exactly the same way even if they don’t show it. Kids can withdraw when they are hurt just like adults or even become defiant and seemingly not care. It’s not true. We all feel pain and little ears are always open. You aren’t helping their confidence and you’re teaching them it’s not OK to be themselves or different.

The labels we give, can sometimes originate because our child is the opposite of us. A very active, outdoorsy parent may label a child who prefers being at home as lazy. A child who is more creative  rather than academic may be labelled a daydreamer. Children often live up to their labels in a self-fulfilling prophecy way. This can be true of labels that we don’t think are damaging but can be.

Telling people a child is ‘the shy one’ may make them feel like they can’t speak up due to expectations. The girl labelled as ‘pretty’ may grow up vain only thinking physical looks matter. The ‘clever’ child may feel pressurised to always be first in everything which isn’t possible. Finally the child labelled as useless may feel there is no point trying as they will never be good enough.  Accept your child for who they are and praise them for their qualities rather than gifts such as being kind or thoughtful etc.

 

6) Not thinking before we speak: It’s funny how many of us accuse our children of this, and yet all too often we are guilty of the same thing! Words once spoken, are impossible to take back. We don’t know what will leave a lasting impression on our children and we really need to teach by example. We need to take blame out of our statements especially the requests. Instead of saying “You don’t respect me, you’re so rude” Try, “I don’t think you meant to, but your words really hurt me just then and didn’t make me feel special.” It’s all about turning the negative statements in to encouraging positive ones. “I” statements are powerful and take the blame out of a sentence as they refer to how you feel or what you want rather than pointing at the other person.

 

7) Criticism: it’s important to note that there is a difference between constructive criticism and criticism.  Constructive criticism is as the name suggests, it guides and helps one improve. Criticism however, just blames.

When your child comes home from school with a B and you say “That’s good but an A would have  been better” you demoralize them. You have to word your sentences cleverly. “That’s great! I can see you worked so hard and I know you don’t always find it easy in math. Shall we continue working hard and try to beat your score and get an A?” The child feels validated and hopeful just by you changing the way you phrase things.

This isn’t limited to academics. You can use this method for anything. Instead of saying: “I said tidy up! This isn’t what I call tidy, look at how you have put the books away!” Try: “I can see what a wonderful job you have done tidying up, well done! Do you want to help me sort out the books now?” Kindness and patience go a long way!

 

8) Lack of praise/giving praise for the wrong reason: We touched on this earlier. There are 2 types of praise: praise for doing and praise for being. When we give the wrong type of praise it’s usually the second type. If you praise a child for being clever, the day they don’t meet your expectations you would have stripped them of that. Instead praise them for who they are. kind; funny;  thoughtful; hardworking are a few examples. This is praise for being.

Praise for doing is praising them for things they have done like sharing their toys or cleaning up etc. You should praise your child every day for both doing and being. Sometimes we get so caught up in our busy lives that we forget our children need nurturing daily, like a plant. The more you practice it, the easier it gets!

 

9) Not giving your full attention: No-one knows more than me how impossible that feels when you have 3 kids (1 being a toddler) running around and you’re the only adult around for miles. There’s housework to be done: the dishes and cleaning and cooking, the little one needs a nappy change or a feed and all of a sudden your eldest comes in wanting to talk about the great story they have written or their day at school. What do you do?! My belief was always that the youngest child took priority and I had to take care of their needs first.

I would tell my daughter to come back later and pretend I hadn’t seen her enthusiasm drop. She wouldn’t want to talk later and it would depress me. It’s even harder when two or more kids want to share something with you.

My course coordinator gave me some brilliant advice. She told me I should tell the kids to keep their thoughts in their heads and physically hold on to it (by holding their heads) for just a second, if I really couldn’t listen straight away.  She told me to tell the kids to take it in turns each day to speak first then swap over. They could play ‘rock, paper, scissors’ to see who went first.

She also said if the little one was safe she could wait for 5 minutes whilst I listened to the older kids. This really sets them up for the rest of the day. It makes them feel heard and appreciated and gives them a sense of worth. It’s not nice thinking no-one cares how your day went.

When you give your attention it’s important to leave what you’re doing for the moment and go to the child. Make eye contact and show them you are really listening to them. Ask them questions to show you’re taking it in and comment where necessary; like, for pictures. Don’t forget empathy for those hard days at school!

 

10) Not maintaining boundaries: Children will always test their limits, heck, even adults do it! This is why it is so important you are consistent in your parenting. Everyone needs to be on the same page. If your child  sees you always react in the same way to something (fairly) they will learn their actions have consequences and will know where they stand. This leads to them feeling safe; secure and happier.

Remembering everything can be tough and that’s why family rules are brilliant. You can sit down with your family and come up together with a list of rules you must all stick by. 5 rules is a good length as it’s not too many. Then come up with rewards for following the rules and also sanctions for disobeying them.  One rule we use in my family that the kids came up with is: “Do ask before you borrow something.” It’s important to use reinforcing positive words like ‘do’ rather than ‘don’t’ (all too often we forget to tell our children what we want them to do. We normally tell them what not to do.).

The reward is to be able to borrow the item again and the sanction is to not be able to borrow it for a week. The rewards don’t have to be costly gifts! Once you have your rules put them up where they can be easily seen. It’s then up to you to maintain them!

 

I promise you if you can just follow these tips then you will have a happier and more positive parenting experience and so will the kids!

9 Tips For A Happy And Healthy Pregnancy

Positive-Pregnancy-Test

Mostly, when we think of divorced or widowed mums we think of those left behind with children in their care. However, what we forget is that sometimes these women become single mothers whilst still pregnant; imagine how tough that must be subhanallah! At a time when one perhaps needs their partner the most, to suddenly realise you have no-one there must be quite overwhelming; especially when it took two of you to become pregnant. Does this then mean that these women should not enjoy their pregnancies and that no positivity can be derived from this? Should they hide away and not celebrate this wondrous occasion?! I don’t think so! Remember, the situation you now face has already been decreed 50,000 years before the Earth was created by Allah swt in ‘The Preserved Tablet’ where everything that will come to pass has been recorded. Why then should women feel negative about something that was bound to happen anyway, especially if they were not to blame?!

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Khulla, the right of women or men?

“And it is not lawful for you (men) to take back (from your wives) any of your Mahr (bridal-money given by the husband to his wife at the time of marriage) which you have given them, except when both parties fear that they would be unable to keep the limits ordained by Allaah (e.g. to deal with each other on a fair basis). Then if you fear that they would not be able to keep the limits ordained by Allaah, then there is no sin on either of them if she gives back (the Mahr or a part of it) for her Al-Khul‘ (divorce)”
[al-Baqarah 2:229]

The Khulla is the right of the woman in Islam to ask for an annulment of her marriage in order to dissolve it. “Khula’ means the separation of the wife in return for a payment; the husband takes the payment and lets his wife go, whether this payment is the mahr which he gave to her, or more or less than that” (Islam qa).

Why is it then that a khulla appears to be the right of a man because he ascertains whether she can have an annulment or not?  The argument here is not as to whether the wife has justification to end her marriage or not, but whether she has the means.

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The Divorced Muslimah

Assalamu’alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu

Dear readers,

I would like to introduce myself. I am one of the hundreds and thousands of divorced Muslimahs around the world.  I am also one of the many women you come across daily and think of as a successful, strong and ambitious woman or I am one of the women that you think of as pitiful, weak and miserable. We, divorced Muslimahs come in all shapes, sizes and made.  As a matter of fact, at this particular moment, one of us could be sitting right next to you. Beware or be aware!

You must be wondering what is all the fuss about divorced Muslim women. Well, that is the issue, there is no fuss, and maybe there should be. I will leave it for you to decide; I am not going to tell you my story about how I got divorced, nor the story of others like me, and how and why we are divorced. Let’s just say we all have our reasons and Allah is knower of all the reasons.

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10 Ways To Relax Before Bed

relaxationOne thing I really hate is reading about forbidden fruit. It can be anything from romantic dinners with a husband to that gorgeous sunset seen from a beach in the Bahamas to relaxing spa weekends at home. I can’t help it; I hate what I can’t relate to. I have 3 children that I man alone – the youngest being 7 months. I haven’t had a day off since she was born and that’s perfectly OK with me; I knew what I was getting myself into when I was pregnant with her. Spa days are a no no, relaxing long baths – a no no; even going for a pee alone is a no no. Why then does it seem the rest of the world gets to have some amazing ‘me’ time when all of my time is divided between ‘them’ and ‘us’? Surely I too can have some relaxation time when I get to unwind and I don’t mean by doing the dishes, ironing or packing tomorrow’s lunch! It’s why I decided to come up with my top 10 ways to relax before bed.

To start off, I have to be realistic: my kids go to bed at 8 but fight until 9 when the lights go off; it’s hard to create a serene environment when they keep running past to get water or go to the loo. At 9 I read my evening athkar and salaah and it’s 10 pm before it’s all finished – oh yeah, the baby also needs a feed around this time. If I want any chance of not being mistaken for the undead (zombie) the next day I have to be in bed before 12 when there is yet again another feed. So that means I have only one realistic hour between 10-11 to relax. How much can you squeeze into an hour really? Just 2 episodes of Eastenders or one of Holby city?! You would be surprised at how much you can do if you only turn off the bloody TV, stop whining and be determined to enjoy yourself! Here’s my top 10 list: Continue reading

10 Signs Your Partner Is Manipulating You

Those who are attracted to the manipulative type are usually those who want to make others happy. “People pleasers” who are searching for happiness but who may not have the best self-esteem are prime targets.

If you have trusted too much too often, if your relationship has become something that turns your stomach into knots, you might recognize several of the following warning signs that your partner is manipulating you.

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6 Steps To Escape An Abusive Relationship

 

Ten years ago a good friend of mine was in an abusive relationship. Even though she never said anything, we all knew it.

Her partner at the time was controlling, manipulative and a smooth talker. He was able to talk his way in and out of most situations. He acted pretty normal around us, but once in a while we’d hear him make a critical comment to my friend like “You’re not wearing that are you? You look like a whore.” Or he would even make threatening statements like “We are not going to do that or I’m going to be mad the rest of the night”.

Once when he was supposed to go away for a while for work, he came back unexpectedly a couple weeks later. My friend was crying as she told me “I don’t want to get back together with him!” My response was simply “Then, don’t.” She shook her head at me and dismissed my advice like I didn’t understand. After years of being a marriage counselor and seeing this pattern scores of times, I realize now that I really didn’t understand. Continue reading

Being A Muslim Single Mum

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 Photo: Getty Images. Posed by model.

Many of my friends are single mums. In fact, I have more single mothers as close friends than I do married women like myself. I think this has a lot to do with my mother. My mother is the strongest woman I know, and she’s a single mother. It must be an energy thing – like attracts like. After 30 years of a difficult (understatement) marriage, she called it quits, and her decision left an indelible mark on me. I witnessed, first-hand, how a mother can keep her kids afloat through the most turbulent of storms, and still come out smiling. With kids intact. I asked her how she raised six children and her reply was, “I don’t remember!” Ah, the gift of selective memory.

I am bewildered and incensed by my friends’ ex-husbands who don’t pay child support, are not involved in their children’s lives, or are pretty bad examples when they are involved. I’ve seen the worst of what marriage can offer, and that makes me appreciate the good side. Every marriage has its ups and downs, but after hearing about what my friends have been through, and continue to go through – it could always be worse.

I can speak about being a friend of many Muslim single mums. Divorce is still stigmatised in the Muslim community. Divorce happens, and it’s permitted in Islam – in cases of abuse, it’s outright obligatory to get yourself out of harm’s way – but cultural hang-ups make everything messier. A close friend of mine recently got divorced – good riddance to bad rubbish, I say — and she was surprised to see that a lot of happily married Muslims have had their own divorce or two, before finding ‘the one’. I call it a learning experience in a community that does’t encourage pre-marital relationships. But once kids are in the mix, it’s a lot harder to bounce back.

Battena Shafei is a very brave single mum. Battena and her lovable daughter, Haleema, feature in “Life At Seven”, the ABC program. It takes courage for Battena to publicly talk about what it’s like raising Haleema on her own, when parts of the Muslim community struggle with admitting that yes, divorce happens to us too. She’s been brave enough to tell her story, and that of her daughter, on national TV. I see in her yet another example of a strong woman doing everything she can to raise her daughter, despite the obstacles she faces.

 

Another one of my close friends is a working professional with four small children. Every single day, she juggles her demanding work schedule while figuring out child-care for her children. She didn’t ask to be a single mum. Her ex-husband just packed up and left. So now she’s left picking up the pieces of her life, and although it’s a far better one without him, it’s still hard. For instance, a sudden decision by her babysitter to quit her job threw a spanner in the works, and she was left floundering for days, scrambling to find help. That one incident goes to show how her balancing act of juggling work and children is so easily thrown out of whack. To add insult to injury, her ex-husband has remarried and has just had another child – and no, he’s not paying regular support for his existing children. Every dollar she earns goes to feeding herself and her children. The man who directly contributed to the existence of her children is, on the other hand, not really giving her all that much. If you’re not paying child support for your own kids, then don’t make any more. Surely this isn’t rocket science?

There’s a particular sub-section of the population of Muslim single mums who have it really tough – the converts to Islam. These are the single mothers who often don’t have easy access to their families of origin, for different reasons. Some of their parents live overseas, while others weren’t really that happy about their conversion and keep their distance. These single mums don’t have the option for grandma to bundle the kids into the car and drive them far, far away, so she can get her sanity back. Grandma isn’t around, or isn’t interested. For the grandmas who do care enough to be involved and help their daughters raise their kids – kudos to you! It takes a village to raise a child. It probably takes several villages to raise more than one.

If you’re a friend to a single mum, then keep being her friend. It’s a long and lonely road sometimes, knowing that you’re raising your child, or your children, alone. Some days feel impossible, and other days are easier. But it’s never a walk in the park. Even the thought of remarriage isn’t something that’s on the table. It’s not as simple for single mums to remarry, compared to the average single or divorced person.

“Kids change everything,” Leila* told me. “Companionship would be nice, and I miss that, but I have to think about my children first. Whoever I marry has to be extraordinary enough to love my kids like his own. That’s a hard ask.” Does he exist? I sure hope so. But if he doesn’t, then my friend is happy living her life raising her kids on her own. It’s not an easy path, but it’s hers, and I applaud her for her courage to keep striving forward.

I don’t know what it’s like to be a mum. But it must take an extraordinary amount of courage to wake up every morning and be responsible for these small life-forms that soon grow up and make their own way in the world. From my experience, I can think of a few practical things you can do to help your friends who are single mums:

1)  Call her to see how she’s doing.

2)  Message her to let her know that you’re thinking of her.

3)  Visit her to show her that you care.

4)  Ask if she needs help with her kids, even if it’s for an hour so she can leave the house.

5)  When you visit, bring some food – it gives her one less thing to worry about.

6)  Encourage your husband, father or brother to be mentors or role models for these kids who don’t have a father in their lives.

7)  Help out with the endless handyman stuff, and ask the men in your life to help out too.

8)  Give small gifts to your friend (massage vouchers) and her kids.

Because single mums are the unsung heroes who work so hard to keep their families going, against the odds, every single day.

* name has been changed 

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A Guide To Disciplining When Depressed

You don’t feel like doing anything around the house. You don’t want to cook breakfast, lunch or dinner. All you feel like doing is staying in bed all day. You’re depressed!

Your kids are running though the house like chimpanzees. They sense your change in mood. They’re less responsive to your requests because they know they have a good chance of getting away with not responding. How do you discipline your kids when you’re feeling down in the dumps?

First of all, you have to help yourself before you can help your kids. It’s hard to accept at the time, but try remembering you won’t feel like this forever. What you’re feeling is a phase that will pass.  Allah says in Quran: “Verily, with hardship there is relief.” (Qur’an 94:6) And Allah  never fails in His promise. In the mean time, allow yourself permission to do less in your home. The house won’t disintegrate if the dishes aren’t washed, carpet isn’t vacuumed, or 3-course-meal isn’t served for dinner. Why not purchase packages of paper plates, cups and bowls and plastic spoons and forks. It works great as an occasional preventive for a dirty kitchen. Continue reading

Another Man’s Daughter

There is a huge stigma in the Muslim community regarding the remarriage of widows and divorcees, especially those with children. Many Muslim men, whether they themselves are divorced/widowed or not, will shy away from considering remarriage with a woman who has been previously married, and more so when there are children involved. There is a sense that these women aren’t ‘good enough’ and that marrying them is somehow inferior to marrying a woman who has never been married before.

When Abu Salamah (radhiAllahu ‘anhu) passed away, Umm Salamah (radhiAllahu ‘anha) already had several children – Salamah and ‘Umar, and was pregnant with yet another. For most Muslim men today, considering a previously married woman with one child for marriage is seen as alarming, never mind three or more! There appears to be some sort of revulsion at the idea of caring for “another man’s children.” However, neither Rasool Allah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) nor his Sahabah ever expressed this type of attitude. Continue reading

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