By Umm Zaidah Nusaybah
Respect is often associated with elders. We are taught to respect our parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents etc. The subject of respecting youngsters is quite alien. How often do we see children being spoken to in a derogatory manner? Being criticized for not doing something correctly or being shouted at for causing an accident? Have we ever stopped to think about how that child feels when we behave in such a manner? We need to ask ourselves, how would you feel if we were being treated in this way. We would probably have low self-esteem and be scared of doing certain things due to the fear of being criticized. Subhan’Allah, there is a famous saying “Respect, give it to get it”. So think about this for a moment, if we do not respect our children then what guarantee do we have that they will respect us.
At the beginning of this session we were asked to narrate an incident where we felt disrespected. The following are some of the responses. One sister said she feels disrespected when people look at her with pity because she wears hijab and jilbab because they she is oppressed. Another sister said she felt disrespected when someone called her stupid because she didn’t know where a certain country was situated. One sister said she felt disrespected when a guest said they didn’t like her cooking, which she spent hours preparing! Another sister spoke about people swearing and the fact that she finds it offensive and disrespectful. It is even more shocking when practising Muslims use foul language.
After listening to everyone’s accounts we came up with a list of actions which we find disrespectful. These include;
• Being mocked
• Not listening
• Being shouted at
• Being criticised
• Pointing fingers
• Breaking boundaries
• Having no eye contact
• Hearing swear words
• Opinions not being valued
• Using inappropriate speech
• Being judged
• Abusing trust
In the next part of the session we were put into groups of three and presented with different scenarios involving parents and their children. What we were asked to do was determine whether the child was respected or disrespected in each scenario.
At a party a child breaks a glass by accident. The mother goes over to the child, shouts at him in front of everyone and leaves the child there.
We decided it was disrespectful as well as neglect. The mother should have removed the child from the area where the accident occurred and maybe she should have talked to him away from the people. She should not shout at him because it was an accident.
A mother changes her babies’ nappy and exclaims in front of people “This is the third time I have had to change you!” The mother is annoyed with the child.
We decided this was disrespect because the child may have been embarrassed. Also, the child may have an upset stomach. Instead of the mother being annoyed she should remember that she will be rewarded for changing her baby’s nappy insha’Allah.
A father takes his little girl shopping and buys her a pair of shoes HE liked.
There was disagreement between the different groups. Those who said this was disrespect explained that the father did not give the child any choice. Those who said it was not disrespect said maybe the father knew if he gave the girl a choice she would choose something impractical. Maybe what the father should have done is to pick a few pairs and ask her which one she would prefer.
A child is running and is about to cross the road. The mother shouts “stop” and the child stops.
We decide this was not disrespect although we had previously suggested being shouted at is a form of disrespect. In this incident it was necessary for the mother to shout to get the child’s attention and if she hadn’t shouted the child may have had an accident. Therefore, it is justified to shout in certain circumstances.
At the dinner table two children are eating. One of them finishes his food so the father takes the food from the other child’s plate and puts it on the plate of the child who has finished.
We all strongly agreed that this was disrespect. Firstly the father did not ask the permission of the child. It was also suggested that some of us used to save our favourite foods to eat last and if that was the case here then the child will be very upset.
A mother takes her child to the nursery for the first time. The child starts crying and the mother says to the teacher “she’s always like this”.
We decided this was disrespect because the mother should have been more sympathetic as it was the child’s first day at the nursery and almost everybody cries on their first day!!
Disrespect – conclusion
These scenarios actually do exist, so we should think carefully about what we say to our children. We should choose the words carefully and try our best not to disrespect them. We must look at the example of our beloved prophet (SAW) and how he dealt with children around him. He (SAW) always showed respect to children and was very affectionate towards them. For example, when a young boy’s father died, the prophet (SAW) said to him “I am sorry for your loss”. These words suggest that the prophet (SAW) treated the boy like an adult, therefore, giving him respect.
And Allah knows best.
By Umm Zaidah Nusaybah