By Sheikh Idris Watts
Chapter 7: Family and Tradition
The successful man or woman is the one who is first and foremost successful with their family.
Even when you are not sure whether you are getting through to your kids, you’re getting through to them. Success is never immediate and sometimes it’s nowhere in evidence but talking to your kids really works. It is not easy. Kids get increasingly uncommunicative as they grow up.
Families who share meals on a regular basis, and make an effort to communicate while they are at it, have children who perform better in school, exhibit more self-esteem and feel as if they are more in control of their lives. This is family time. Don’t let phones, doorbells, or any interruptions ruin it. It provides togetherness and important time for conversation. Everyone should be acknowledged and part of the conversation and everyone is listening (whether they want to or not.).
You will find that families that need counselling spend very little time communicating and sitting together as a family. The story is always the same: “We are busy people, the kids are overscheduled, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day.” These answers are not acceptable. Parents with these answers are usually struggling with the urgent versus the important. When you spend time with your children, such as reading a book, do not let anything interrupt it even if it is a call from work. The call is the urgent – “It can’t wait!”- and the time with your child is the important. The child can wait and that time never comes, He understands that he is not important and he loses patience with dad. It becomes a habit and they will soon give up on you and you can never get them back. The urgent takes over and the important becomes less and less so.
Honouring parents is a key element of morality. It’s a form of gratitude. They gave you life. They fed you when you were helpless and loved you when you were alone. Thus God lists it as a cardinal sin to not show them respect. Children have to show their parents that their efforts do not go unnoticed. You have to honour your parents but it does not order you to love them. A child may not always feel love for his parents because they make a lot of mistakes but this doesn’t give them the right to treat them with disrespect.
We tend to pass our flaws onto the next generation. You have to work hard to erase this. Divorce often begets divorce. Violence begets violence. If you had distant parents, you will more than likely suffer from it as well because that was the way you were taught to behave through their behaviour. But we are responsible for our own actions. We can look to our personal history and try to figure out why we turned out the way we did, but we can’t use history to condone our bad behaviour. If a man was yelled at as a child it does not give him the right to yell at his children.
In addressing a child’s bad behaviour you can do so in two ways:
i) Through guilt, e.g. “I slave all day to bring money home and this is how you treat me!” This doesn’t work. A parent must never be put into the position of a supplicant. It might soften the child for a time but it will not last. You do not want to elicit pity from your children. They will not respect you.
ii) Through inspiration, e.g. you have to reinforce that you will always be a family; regardless of how he feels about it. “We are here together and I will always be your father so you will have to get used to it and we need to get closer. We have no choice. Let’s work together to make it work.”
Don’t accept the rebellious teenager. Reach out to them and communicate. It might take time but you will get through. Words that emanate from the heart penetrate the heart.