It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men. Frederick Douglass
(An oldie but goodie… I wrote this 4 years ago and shared it with friends)
Last week, I had the opportunity to observe my son through the lenses of the future and it made me decide to analyze myself as a parent.
I started to think about how we were raised in our generation and I realized that I have made dynamic shifts from how I was raised even as at the same time I embrace some truths that I was taught. For the purposes of this piece, I shall break down the shifts and what I have embraced. It’s always best to start from where one was and move towards change.
What I have embraced from my parents.
Tolerance- my parents were great believers in this. Their whole lives exemplified this and I strive to teach this to my son. It’s hard in the world which we live in now, we discriminate against people based on their class, tribe, race, whatever we choose to use as our bar stick for separation. The older one gets, the more we realize that we are all one actually as humans. To truly understand this, go outside your comfort zone and see how you feel when you are treated with compassion in a place where you are a stranger. You would realize that underneath it all, we are all the same with our fears, needs, desires, wants etc.
Fair play- Treat others as you desire to be treated. Another big credo of my parents. This one they drummed in day and night. There were times it was irritating to have to follow this edict, it seemed easier to do what I wanted to at the expense of another. Yet as they taught me about the consequences of being selfish and how like an avalanche it destroys all around it.
Integrity/Honesty- Another toughie. There were times this one was plain hard. It seemed easier to just go with the flow and justify my actions. I now understand what they were trying to instill, the ability to really know who I am and ensure that I stand for something deep within. If I didn’t learn to have that anchor within, then my life would be one filled with questionable actions and no compass for myself. I don’t need others as my defining rod, instead I look towards the unshakable moral compass that is living a life patterned after the directives left by our maker and creator.
Discipline/ Hard work- a trait that is not treated with high regard anymore. It’s sad because it’s actually character building and creates resilience in one against life’s hard knocks. Yes, life will knock you. It’s guaranteed, one way or the other. no one is ever spared. We need to bring this trait back into fashion, forget get rich quick and all that flash. Hard work bestows upon one a dignity that can never ever be acquired by millions, don’t be deceived. I once spoke to teens at my church about the relevance of GRIT. What is grit? It is the ability to pick oneself up in the face of great disappointment or failure, and have another go. Or as psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth says: “Grit is sticking with your future — day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years — and working really hard to make that future a reality.”
Re-thinking automatic obedience- i mulled over this one as I turned a reflective eye upon the ills of our society and some of the understanding I gleaned as I read extensively through Philosophy, some of the classics of Western thought as well as books about learning in the Islamic way of learning. The underlying theme through all of these schools of thoughts was wisdom is acquired by asking questions. I desire to raise a child who asks questions, challenges the status quo and sees the world differently. I prefer for my son to question me on my reasons and require me to explain why I have these reasons. I don’t need him following anyone blindly. It’s my prayer for my son that he would have this trait as he grows to become a man. Based on his inquisitive nature, I pray that our good Lord continues to enable him stay upon this path. The reason I am adamant about this one emphatically? One day my son could be faced with a situation where a boss/friend/partner tells them to do something bad. Now which is preferable, that he has the common mindset which is prevalent here– “Because I said so, or everyone else is doing it” or pause and think?
Allowing him to learn that failure is ok – It is the desire of every parent to try to make their children have easy lives but I believe that’s a great fallacy of parenting. We are only guides and caretakers for a short while (if you look at their lives in sum total) however if we are really sincere, we would realize that the ability to be successful in life comes with the ability to learn how to handle failure. The earlier they come to terms with it, the easier it would be for them each time they encounter it.
They must learn that they will not have everyone as their friends, in fact if everyone likes you, then there is something fundamentally wrong.
They must learn that consequences come from failure with their schoolwork, this is how they would learn to succeed at whatever they decide is their career choice/life path.
Serenity with life-They must learn that they won’t have everything that someone else has. Contentment is a dying virtue in this world, it needs to be re-taught. There is great beauty in working hard for something and also we don’t need all of the material stuff that the media is bombarding at us. We need to teach our kids to hear no, in life we don’t always get what we want, sometimes we never do.
Above all- they must learn that we could fail at trying new things. yet this is ok, we must not let that experience maim us from trying again. It’s hard to watch them get frustrated and upset through this process, the urge to step in and make things right could overwhelm us but we don’t have a choice but to step back.
We need to create adults who are embody resilience, great character and are at peace with themselves (and life.)
“Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge.” – Stephen Hawking.
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