“When I was little, I really wanted a beautiful doll that I once saw in a shop, so I pleaded to my father to buy it for me. He’d always say that he’d get it for me on his way home from work the following day. Every day, when the time of his arrival approached, I would get excited about finally getting that doll, but he would forget to bring it. I remember how my heart broke, and the immense disappointment that I felt each time this happened. I never got that doll.”
As adults, every one of us has at least one painful or bad memory regarding how our parents treated us when we were children. We try to swallow the pain and forget, but at times, when we are feeling low in self-worth, the memories come back to haunt us.
“My parents would often go out for leisure when I was a child, leaving me at home with others. When I asked them where they were going, they’d say they were going to the doctor. I remember how hurt I felt because I could sense that they were lying to me, as they’d be dressed up and in a jovial mood. What else could I do except sullenly accept their story?”
Parents in Islam
If adult offspring allow negative thoughts about their parents to take root, they can cause rancor and grudges in their hearts towards them. This causes friction when parents need kind treatment, love and respect the most when they are elderly and weak.
“During our early childhood, my father had a scooter. Once, when our cousins came over, he offered to take them both on a ride on it just for fun. I remember how jealous I felt, because he had never made my brother and I such an offer, even though we were the same age as they…”
Negative Feelings Towards Parents
|We overlook how the effects of age undermine their abilities with time.|
There are several reasons why children develop negative feelings for their parents as they grow up: They tend to put parents on a pedestal, even though they are far from perfection.
When we are children, we need our parents for everything, from physical tasks such as eating, drinking, clothing or relieving ourselves, to gaining knowledge and mastering life skills, such as walking, reading, writing, riding a bike, playing sports, cooking, and driving a car. We need our parents’ permission and help to even go anywhere outside the house.
Even if our parents do not teach us all of these things, they facilitate the learning process by giving us access to teachers, or providing monetarily for other services.
Consequently, for the first one or two decades of our lives, we run to our parents to get all our needs met and to seek answers to questions. Beyond that stage, however, things quickly begin to change. As we become mature and independent, both mentally and emotionally, and blossom into productive adults, our parents begin to grow older and weaker. They also start to lose, little by little, their physical faculties, sensibilities, sense of emotional security and rationality, which at times gives rise to odd and irritating behavior.
Despite ‘growing up’ and maturing, however, the little son or daughter inside us keeps putting our parents high up on a lofty pedestal, expecting them to be the perfect, loving, understanding and rational pillars of support they always were. We overlook how the effects of age undermine their abilities with time.
Hence, when our expectations of our parents are no longer met, mainly because of the onslaught of their age-related shortcomings, we get hurt and feel frustrated; forgetting that they endured much emotional and physical anguish because of us.
In the Quran, God has repeatedly ordained extra good treatment of parents. The most obvious reason for this is the fact that parents went through immense physical, mental, emotional and financial toil to bring their children into this world and to care for them when they were little - the difficult initial years of their lives, of which they have little to no recollection.
It is because a son or daughter has no knowledge of the pregnancy-related and breastfeeding difficulties, sleepless nights, fatigue, cleanups, round-the-clock care, burden of responsibility and emotional roller-coaster that they caused their parents when they were babies, that they have been ordained by the Creator to always be gentle, respectful and kind towards their parents - no matter what.
However, since children have no memory of those tiring years, they find it difficult to incessantly be patient with their parents.
Lack of Empathy for the Anguish Parents Feel When “Fledglings Fly Off From A Nest”
Once children become young adults, they crave independence and autonomy, and the freedom of choice to make their own decisions. They want to be let go. They no longer “need” their parents, either physically, financially or emotionally.
When they get married and develop loving and secure spousal relationships, and then dote upon children of their own, they get irreversibly “distracted” and diverted, and hence suddenly become busier. This makes it difficult to take time out for parents, who slowly become redundant.
As a result, elderly parents might at times feel jealous and resentful of their offspring’s incessant preoccupation with their spouses and children, because of their own empty nest. If these negative feelings are allowed to influence their attitude towards them, it can give a further blow to a relationship that is already entering a delicate stage.
Parents also feel lonelier, as their primary occupation of 2 to 3 decades - that of rearing children and fulfilling all their parenting responsibilities - is no longer there. Hence, they tend to become clingy, idle, bored, and insecure. Combined with their declining economic and physical power, rationality and mental sharpness, elderly parents also put up a resistance to letting go of control and authority.
|A parent should strive to do his/her job of raising children properly in order to please God.|
When this resistance meets the growing need for independence in their young adult offspring, the result is a clash or conflict. Since the offspring now has more economic power, they - if they give in to their human weaknesses and do not fear God - can hurt their parents by lashing out with disrespect.
There are some things we can do as parents to prevent rancor from entering their young offspring's hearts when the latter become adults. These steps will make it easier for these children to fear God and always treat their parents kindly.
Focus On the Pleasure of God
It is easy to fall into the trap of focusing on our rights as parents, instead of the responsibilities; to desire the “perks” associated with this job - obedience, respect, financial support, and kind treatment - and overlook the accountability before God that it entails.
If we constantly monitor our intention of raising our children to be solely the pleasure of God, then the benefit of such sincerity will result in removing any hatred and rebellious feelings that might develop in our children’s hearts.
Gain Islamic and Worldly Knowledge of Effective Parenting
A parent should strive to do his/her job of raising children properly in order to please God. Parenting involves many stages, with each one requiring different approaches and skills. This necessitates gaining knowledge to achieve optimum results in both this world and the next; namely, healthy, well-rounded, happy, productive, righteous and God-fearing children.
Never, Ever Discriminate, Even Unintentionally
Childhood trauma, distress and hurt leave deep, psychological marks. The worst thing parents can do is to give their love, attention, time or anything else tangible, such as a gift, to one child without giving the same thing, or its value, to all the others. This is one of the foremost reasons why children grow up bearing grudges against one or both parents.
If our children are resentful towards us, we should analyze in retrospect whether we did something wrong to hurt them, and then duly try to make amends, instead of reminding them of our superior authority and rights over them. We cannot expect our children to be perfect Muslims who always have clean hearts. They are human, just like we are.However, it is not possible for Muslim parents to never make mistakes either, despite their best intentions and efforts. They might slip and end up discriminating a bit between their children without even realizing it. So what should they do then?
Constantly Seek Forgiveness for Mistakes and Ask God to Obliterate Them
Daily routine of asking God for His forgiveness for parenting mistakes is an effective way of ensuring that - if the repentance is sincere - our mistakes and misdeeds will be wiped out of our record book of deeds as well as our children’s memories, and will not cause grudges in the future, God willing.
In order to seek forgiveness for a mistake from God, parents first need to admit that they made that mistake in the first place. Let us not fall into the trap of becoming oppressive and insensitive, just because, as parents, we occupy a position of great authority over our children.
Find an Alternative Occupation
I cannot stress enough the necessity for parents to plan ahead for that phase in their lives when their children will be independent adults and busy with their own work, home and family. Many parents end up becoming controlling, clingy, resentful and manipulative towards their adult kids (which also affects the spouses of the latter) because they do not want to ‘let go’ and face a vacant, silent house that compounds and highlights their loneliness.
Parents should realize that the goal of life is to please God, and that the nature of a parenting role changes with time. Eventually, parents should find something else to do to fill up their time productively. All the beneficial hobbies and occupations that they had back when they were single and childless, can be picked up again, e.g. gaining knowledge, doing welfare and charity work, volunteering, tutoring, teaching, or simply, reading.
At the end of the day, presence of any rancor and grudges, either in the hearts of the parents or their children, indicate not just the effect of sins or oppression committed by one against the other, but also the inability to forgive for the sake of God.
If we desire to dwell in harmony not just with our parents, but also with our children when they grow up, we need to improve our relationship with our Creator, God, and strive to fulfill the rights towards others, and responsibilities of our specific roles, which He has placed upon us.
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