Allāh Jalla Jalālahu says in Qur’ān Majeed:
Undoubtedly, We have created man in the best form. (Compared to other creatures, man’s physique is certainly more beautiful and he also has intelligence which the others do not possess also power of choice.) Surāh- Teen verses 4.
Like the unique way in which Allāh has created the human being, He has also established a phenomenal process of human growth from infancy to adulthood. However, the most amazing stage in that growth period is the stage of adolescence (12 to 18 years). When a child is about to bid farewell to his childhood, Allāh Subhāna wa Ta’ālā with His infinite Mercy gradually prepares him for the approaching adulthood. That period is also called the Teenage period. While fascinating it is, it can also be a very challenging time for some parents
UNDERSTANDING THE TEENAGE PERIOD
There isn’t a parent with a teenager who hasn’t been told ‘I hate you’, ‘You are ruining my life’ or ‘Leave me alone’ at some point. If that is not bad enough, their behaviour can get even worse if we fail to understand the brain changes triggering these outbursts. We can even end up losing our connection with our teens at the time when they need us most! So if we want to salvage our relationship with our teens, and make this period more acceptable then we must try to comprehend the teenage behaviour.
THE BRAIN OF A TEENAGER
A teenager makes much more sense when we try to understand what is really going in his developing brain. Regarding this, given below are findings of some western researchers. However, these are just mortal deductions and Allāh alone knows what really is happening in a teenager’s brain at that time.
A major new study is the latest to find that teenagers go through the same ‘rewiring’ process between the age of 13 and 17 as they did when they were toddlers. Of course, knowing that they have the impulses of toddlers doesn’t mean we should treat them as such. Second time around, when they match us for size and are using much more colourful language, the situation can be much harder to handle.
The last part to be rewired is the frontal lobe. The frontal lobe of the brain – the part responsible for reasoning, planning, judgment, impulse control, mood and emotions – is located at the front of the brain. While this rewiring is going on, decision-making is re-routed via the amygdala, an almond-shaped set of neurons located deep in the brain’s medial temporal lobe, which reacts instantaneously and emotionally to any perceived threat. Hence that is the period when the brain just doesn’t know how to regulate itself. It is like a Ferraris with weak brakes.
Of course, it’s easy to assume that it is of no importance to know this as ‘teens never listen anyway’. On the contrary, they are hypersensitive to such assumptions of ours and it can also become their defense mechanism. To a confused adolescent, such despairing comments from the parent who is supposed to love them the most can cut deep. Such messages get turned inwards into negative self-talk. These voices can be very hard to silence once they take hold in a teenager’s semi-developed brain, just as it is laying down the pathways which will influence his future mental state.
SOME TIPS ON RAISING MUSLIM TEENS
Children are a trust put in the hands of parents who will be answerable before Allāh on the Day of Judgment about their children as they are enjoined to satisfy their offspring’s spiritual and religious urges in order to produce righteous men and women.
Muslim teens can develop the same undesirable traits as the non-Muslim ones if we do not guide them with an Islāmic approach. Here are some tips on raising our teenagers to meet the worldly as well the religious demands.
- One of the greatest gifts we can give to our teens at this age is to inculcate in them the recognition of the Almighty Allāh. We should try to instill in their developing minds the concept of the Greatness of o, who is our Khāliq (The Creator), who is our Mālik (The Absolute Ruler) and who is our Rāziq (The Provider). In other words, we should gradually try to build up their Imān.
- We should often talk to them about the Seerāh of Nabi (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa Sallam) and guide them to adopt his Sunnāh in their daily life.
- It is very important that together with secular education we impart to them Islāmic teachings. True Islāmic teachings have so much power that they can turn a teen that is like a ‘Ferrari with weak brakes’ into the one that is like a ‘Ferrari with very powerful brakes’.
- We all know that in a very near future they are going out in a world that is full of all kinds of fitnāhs and if they do not have proper Islāmic knowledge they can easily get misled and as a result they can ruin their worldly life as well as their Ākherat (the hereafter). Someone gave a very relevant example to illustrate this point. In the olden days people used to draw water from a well by means of a bucket. They used to tie a rope to the handle of the bucket so that when the bucket gets filled with water they could pull it out with the help of the rope. If the bucket was thrown into the well without a rope then they would obviously lose it. In the same way if we send our children out there in a world that is full of all kinds of temptations without proper Islāmic knowledge the chances are very strong we might lose them. The Islāmic knowledge acts as the means to bring our teens back to us.
- Teach them in very simple language how to differentiate between halāl (the permissible) and harām (the impermissible); Twāhir (ritually pure) and Ghair-Twāhir or Najees (ritually impure); legitimate and illegitimate.
- Create an Islāmic atmosphere at home. Read to them the stories of the Sahābas and how much they struggled for the Deen of Allāh. A very inspiring story is that of Mus’āb ibn ‘Umair, a highly pampered son of a very rich man, who embraced Islām in his teens.
- Give them abundant love and attend to all their needs. Never scold them in presence of their friends or even strangers.
- Always be friendly towards your teenage children and take plenty of interest in their affairs. Give them constructive advice and if you think they are taking any wrong decision in any matter then give them guidance with wisdom.
- If possible keep them away from internet and the internet-based gadgets. If you have to give them access to internet then limit their browsing and, most importantly, monitor it too.
- See that they do not get involved in pornography and related vices. Play with them various games in their free time or get them involved in some sort of activities like cleaning the house etc. to keep them occupied.
- It is very important that we also keep an eye on the company they keep. This is the stage in their lives when they are very gullible and can easily be influenced by children with bad character or some evil-minded and ill-intentioned people.
- Do not put unnecessary pressure on your teens when they come home. Let your home be a haven from the pressures of the outside world where they can relax and recharge.
- Allāh has created each individual with distinctive features, character, nature etc. In the same manner He has placed some special gifts and talents in some people and your teenager could be one of them. It is the duty of parents to detect these hidden talents in their teens and try to nurture them. Chances are your child may become a future ālim, hāfidh, doctor, engineer, scientist or even an astronaut.
- Avoid saying: ‘I never spoke to my parents the way you do.’ Many parents have a particularly short fuse when their children defy them. It is in these moments, we end up saying things we regret later, often making damning generalisations about our children’s behaviour, which they feel unable to escape.
- Researchers have found that teenagers base many of their actions on immediate gratifications, thinking about the here and now, not the future. They have not grown yet to deal with the right decision-making.
- As parents you should be role models for your children. In this respect you should ensure that your behavior in their presence should be worth emulating. Try as much as you can to avoid quarreling with your spouse or using foul language in presence of your teens.
- Enlighten them on the status of parents in Islām, particularly the mother. We have to stress that parents deserve the maximum respect and obedience. Teach them also to respect their ustādhs/ustādhās, teachers, elders and Ulamā. Train them also to love their siblings and to be helpful to them.
- We should ensure that they do not miss a single Salāh. Keep on reminding them that Salāh is one of the pillars of Islām.
Encourage them to recite Qur’ān on a daily basis, preferably after every Salāh.
- It is also very important to give them training on performing the various obligatory acts in the correct manner. One of them is Fard Ghusl (obligatory ritual body cleaning). There are many youngsters (and even some grownups) who do not do it the right way.
- Hayā (modesty) is an integral part of our Imān. We as parents should try to imbue them with this noble attribute. Also, advice them to keep away from mixed gatherings.
- Last, but not least, encourage them to always turn to Allāh in case they have any problem or they want to take any decision.
May Allāh Subhāna wa Ta’ālā guide our teenagers to become amongst the pious Ummah of Nabi (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa Sallam). Āmeen
And Allāh ta’ālā knows best.
Quraan Made Easy – Mufti Afzal Hoosen Elias
The Telegraph – Inside the mind of a teenager: A parent’s guide