An Islamic view on parenting and the challenge of keeping children motivated
One of the most challenging issues with young people is to ensure their consistent motivation. We often hear from infant to adolescent, ‘I’m bored’, ‘I’m tired’, ‘What’s the point of doing this?’ and so on. This happens with almost all children at some point during their upbringing. The issue becomes more challenging when children enter into their adolescence with an array of teenage matters taking centre stage, from boy-girl relationships to the ever-changing fashions of the day. This can create commotion in most families, especially within those that suffer from instability, weak parental relationships and poor parenting. It takes strong moral authority and persuasive power from parents and adults to keep children interested, motivated and inspired.
Motivation and theory is very important in academic research and organisational performance. What motivates some to altruistically serve others with time, energy and hard-earned money? What is it that motivates people in their actions; is it an urge for personal fulfilment, a desire for fame or just benevolence to others? Does this urge come from one’s human instinct, sympathy for others, patriotic fervour, ideological commitment, religious zeal or spiritual solace? Why do some people have this ‘fire’ in them, while most others do not even bother beyond their own sphere?
Motivation is very complex. It is what causes us to act or ‘get going’. It is defined as ‘the process that initiates, guides and maintains goal oriented behaviours.’ Motivation is the inner urge that involves biological, emotional, social and cognitive forces that activate our behaviour. Various triggers, inner or external, work to bring motivation in us. Material reward and sanction are important for some, but others are motivated regardless.
The issue of faith and religion become pertinent at this point. For believers it is the reward of God’s mercy and penalty of His justice that acts as a motivater. In the Muslim faith, Islam, meaning ‘peace’ through ‘wilful surrender to God’, motivates Muslims to behave righteously, serve people and sacrifice for the truth. In his phenomenal book Islam Between East and West, the great Bosnian philosopher and politician, Alija Ali Izetbegović, rightly proclaimed ‘Islam, thy name is surrender.’
However, for people of a higher level of religious spirituality it is the Divine Love, or love of God demanding a total surrender to Him, that motivates them. In Islamic history Rabia Basri in the 8th century and Jalaluddin Rumi in the 13th century spread the love of God that reverberates in the Muslim world. Rabia Basri used to pray; ‘O God! If I worship You for fear of Hell, burn me in Hell, and if I worship You in hope of Paradise, exclude me from Paradise. But if I worship You for Your Own sake, grudge me not Your everlasting Beauty.’
Love of the Divine thus creates deeply rooted motivation. But how do we motivate ourselves and our children in our mundane life, day in day out? Here are a few ideas;
Create a deeper and loving relationship with your children
There is no alternative to a loving relationship with your children in motivating them. Men and women have unique personalities designed to complement each other for the benefit of the family and the children. Parenting is a joint responsibility and parents should know how and when to harmonise each other while dealing with their children and addressing any concerns with their behaviour.
Build a positive home and community environment
A positive home environment, where love, respect, sharing and caring are abundant, is the source of motivation for a growing child. Home is the basic human organisation and a positive home culture, like positive culture in an organisation, motivates its members.
Be role models to your children
Parents genuinely expect their children to grow as motivated individuals; it is vital they themselves become motivated role models. All children want to see their parents practice what they preach. In the days where celebrity role models are beamed in through the media, parents should remain living role models, and present in their everyday lives. As children grow, the mother and father should be the practical role models to their daughters and sons.
Look for positive features in your children and praise them
Every one of us has distinctive strengths and weaknesses naturally. Parents should be able to cultivate the positive features in their children and use them to motivate. This is how a child’s self-esteem will grow and how their confidence will rise. We should not undermine our children’s worth for their occasional misdemeanours.
Give full attention to your children
Children are born out of our love and every child deserves our special attention. Children should know that they are exceptionally dear to their parents; they should get full attention for whatever demand they come up with so that they feel worthy.
Link them with your family and ethnic roots
One important responsibility, especially when dealing with teenage children, is to link them with their roots. This gives them confidence in their identity and a sense of continuity. “To remain ignorant of things that happened before you were born is to remain a child”, observed Cicero. This is a powerful and telling statement. A people neglectful of their history is like a person suffering from dementia; without a sense of belonging or roots they find it difficult to have a direction in life. This is why all developed nations ensure history is one of the most important curricula in their school education system. Religious texts, such as the Qur’an, have given special attention to history and the knowledge that can be drawn from it.
Motivating children is a great test of parenting. In our daily lives of trials and tribulations, from unsatisfactory jobs to difficult family situations, we may feel exhausted and frustrated. We need resilience in the face of these hardships; we need pride to lift our confidence. If we know the simple techniques to regularly motivate ourselves, we can create a sense of purpose within us. With that and the necessary techniques, we can actively and consistently motivate our children too.
Image by Ira Robinson: http://ira-robinson.suite101.com/how-to-motivate-a-child-to-do-their-homework-a318855
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