Behavior is not a production of any moment. Behavior surfaces on the basis of maybe the past ten years of someone’s life. It has a long-term history. It is based on the state as well as the strength of emotions. Particularly, when children are young, they need their parents’ support for emotional strengthening.  In today’s overly distracting world, parents are likely to be oblivious of children’s emotional needs and reduce their role to managing logistics.

In the prevailing culture, relationships are in danger. Tragically, in many families, for the kids their parents don’t matter. Fathers have become ATM machines for their children. The kids approach their dads when they are in need of finances or logistic support. Alarmingly, in many households, even wives talk to husbands for the same reasons, as usually they are not around. This was proven in a survey I conducted among fathers asking them for what reason were they approached by their families the last four times during one month. The reason was money. They had nothing else to share between them.

My Dad is not my Confidante

Religious families have a bigger crisis on the roll. They do not enjoy many forms of entertainments that are naturally impermissible for them. Hence, they refrain from it. But parallel to this, what they fail to do is raise their children with appropriate Tarbiyah (upbringing). By the term Tarbiyah, I refer to a process of purifying one’s desires to ultimately seek the Creator’s pleasure. It is a life-long training that enables you to want what God wants from you.

If a child longs to do something impermissible, it means his or her Tarbiyah is shaky. Tarbiyah is not an attire; it does not rest in looks. It is not external. It is the internalization of values which results into an improved emotional landscape and higher moral standard. Two kids sitting next to each other may look poles apart due to their get up but the desires in their hearts are the same.

Real Tarbiyah is change of heart. It is to improve a child in his wishes, worries, and intent. Some religious families have failed to harness the longings of the hearts of their children. Instead of creating the urge to do the right thing, parents have made their kids do the right thing. They have forced the children to do what they want them to do.

Once, a mother from a religious family approached me for counseling, even though I always invite both parents for this session. She revealed that she could not discuss this issue with her husband, as he will have no tolerance for it. He will react fiercely.

Her daughter was a thirteen-year-old girl studying in a segregated school. The mother discovered that her daughter had developed a liking for a boy, and now she didn’t know how to handle the situation.

The point here to understand is that when a child is emotionally vulnerable, he or she welcomes any kind-hearted and loving response. This child was not understood by her parents. She was an emotionally starved daughter. This girl will respond to anyone irrespective of gender, age, and position, who offers her affection and consideration. Affection in itself is not bad. She needs someone to compliment her, someone who likes her, someone who values her, and someone who understands her. This should have naturally come from her parents, which it didn’t.

The next issue is that when you enter a certain age, something stirs inside of you and coincidentally you come across an opposite gender who offers you support and affiliation. The chances to slip are much higher.

Since the father was distant and obviously did not have an easy communication with his daughter, I inquired from the mother if her daughter shared personal matters with her. The mom admitted that she didn’t. But she also added: “But I do tell her to.” But private matters are never shared like that. Children are the best people to tell you whether you are trustworthy or not. They only share their personal stuff with trusting people.

In our society, many lies are spoken not with the intention to deceive but due to mistrust or fear. When people lie to save their self-esteem and defend themselves, it falls into a different category. It talks about the fragile relationships they have with their loved ones.

Haim G. Ginott in his book “Between Parent and Teenager” says: “As parents of teenagers, our need is to remain needed and their need is not to need us.”

But how can we matter to our children? We should be available to hold meaningful observations and later purposeful communication. Our children should be comfortable enough to come and share their concerns with us. They should trust us to seek our advice. If we don’t have this relationship, we will simply not matter to them. And if we don’t matter to them, the cause of Tarbiyah will become harder to achieve.

Transcribed by Rana Rais Khan – Editor Hiba