As small school-age children grow and learn about the world around them, they become keenly interested in strange words whose meanings are unfamiliar to them. They start asking more and more difficult and embarrassing questions, especially if they feel that the answers to those questions will open doors to new and unexplored worlds hitherto unknown to them.
One of the awkward questions commonly asked in Muslim societies is: Why do only married women have children?
We will be returning to this question later on, after discussing the various strategies that parents use to deal with such questions.
Bad strategies – what not to do:
The discomfort that mothers and fathers feel when confronted with such questions varies from parent to parent. Some parents resort to lies in order to avoid having to explain certain sensitive issues. However, such lies rarely satisfy the child’s curiosity. Indeed, they often cause the child to seek out the correct answer with greater enthusiasm – and from whatever sources they can find.
This zeal to know the answer can make the child vulnerable to bad influences among his peers, some of whom will be more than happy to provide him with answers to all of the questions that come into his head. It should be obvious to everyone how dangerous that is.
Other parents try a different strategy. They rebuke the child for asking about such things and try to intimidate the child into avoiding such questions in the future. This, of course, only makes the child more determined than ever to find out the answer. He will do whatever he can to learn this “forbidden knowledge”. This is human nature. We are all curious, and what is forbidden to us is often all the more intriguing because of it.
This strategy is very misguided. Obviously, the child will now simply hide his interest in the matter from his parents. Moreover, his parents’ treatment of him and his question will most probably injure his self-esteem. He will feel insufficient and unimportant. This will make it more likely for him to behave in an improper manner.
A good strategy:
The best strategy is to answer the child in the simplest and most tactful manner possible – but honestly and directly and without beating around the bush.
Applying this strategy:
Let us return to our example: “Why do only married women have children?”
Following our strategy of tactful honesty, we might give the following answer:
“My child. A woman by herself is not able to have children. A man is needed who will marry her and who will help her to have children. Allah has ordered this and we have to obey Allah. We have to listen to Allah even more than we have to listen to our parents. You know that when mommy and daddy tell you not to do something or tell you that you cannot lift something by yourself, you have to listen. Right? Well Allah has ordered men and women to get married if they want to have children and we must all listen to Allah.”
(Of course, the exact answer will vary depending on the child’s particular environment.)
In this way, a parent can give an honest answer that is at the same time tactful as well as satisfying to the child. The answer is honest and free of lies. The child is not scolded; rather his question is received with respect and consideration. The child feels he has learned something and has self-esteem. All of this will help the child in his future development.
Ziad started this discussion 5 years ago. ( | permalink )