We all need to work to stop bullying of all kids.
Salaam my lovely readers. I hope you are well inshallah. I was recently asked by a fellow Muslim parent to discuss a pretty serious topic: Muslim children and bullying. In particular, what does a loving Muslim parent do when kids at school ask/tell their child if he/she is a terrorist?
We all view bullying as a rite of passage to adulthood. Teen movies always depict the popular kids picking on everyone else and reigning supreme in places like high school or even junior high. However, bullying is going even further than before because bullies have high tech tools like smartphones and laptops. It can make even seemingly harmless labels linger a lot longer than they should. How can a child teased about one incident move on if that one incident is forever memorialized on Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr?
Another scary dimension for Muslim parents is the added burden of being labeled as “other” in America even if you are born here. Before, it was harmless surprise in the face of fellow Americans to see a hijabi speak in accentless English. Now, we have to face the fact that people may look at you as a scary person, or there may be bigots who hurl insults at you or your children. We have to teach our kids to value themselves first so that no matter what other people say or think, they will have a strong foundation of self esteem and worth to elevate themselves beyond that.
How do we instill this in our kids?
- Make Sure Your Kids Know They Matter To You: I want my baby girl to always know she is first in my heart besides God. I want her to feel safe to tell me about her day and her choices (even if right now its picking cereal over rice). She knows she matters because when she calls or reaches out for me, I am responsive. Be there for your kids so that they never feel alone.
- Let Your Kids Know They Are Not Alone: When I share stories of my early teen hijabi days and what bullies said to me as a teenager to other teens, they look surprised because it is similar to the stuff they get too. Times may change, but people don’t. Share these stories with your kids so they know it happens to all of us, even their parents. Also, tell them God is always watching and listening to them. When they feel despair, HE is always there.
- Encourage Civic Responsibility: One of the best ways to combat bullies is for your kids to get involved with helping their community. It helps them feel valued, loved, and gives them a sense of belonging. All of these things are the very things that bullies want to strip away from our kids. Another added benefit is that it actually helps deepen bonds in our community and is part of the Sunnah (life of the Prophet Muhammed (saws).
Muslim Children in Hyderabad
With more children suffering at the hands of this sexually driven world, I am starting to feel scared as a Muslim parent. Recently, The Telegraph did a whole article about the prevalence of pornography in all facets of our lives and how they are starting to affect children. Reading the article struck fear in my heart. As a parent of a toddler who is barely 2, I am starting to realize that she is absorbing everything around her; good and bad.
I am lucky because at this age, I can be her media gatekeeper. I refuse to watch anything remotely adult around her. It has been a blessing for me too. I recently shared an article on my Facebook about how desensitized that our society has become that Beyonce’s Super Bowl performance did not cause anyone to bat an eyelash. I was blessed because I didn’t subject my eyes and my soul to what was described as a purely objectifying performance that did a disservice to the singer and women in general. However, I can’t shield my child from glancing over magazine covers while in line to buy groceries and other inevitable instances of sexualized exposure.
That being said, I am not going to despair. In the time of the Prophet, there were all sorts of ignorance (jahiliyya) around. People used to go around the Kaaba naked! So in order to combat these influences that may take away my child’s innocence, I plan to do the following:
- Spend as much time as I can: I plan to spend every moment I can ENGAGED with my child. I lock my phone in an unknown place unless we are FaceTiming grandparents and I spend as much time as I can talking to my child face to face. we play games, we play pretend, we do yoga, we watch child appropriate TV. We even pray together. I want my time with her to dominate her memories.
- Teach boundaries: I want my daughter to know what is right and wrong. When she does something wrong, I simply say stop and walk away so she knows that there are consequences to her wrong actions. I hope this instills a sense of responsibility in her inshallah. I am still a new parent, so if anyone has any pointers, please let me know! She knows that she can’t touch any electronic device without a grown up supervising.
- Show your love: I show my daughter I love her all the time to the point she rubs my kisses away. But I want her to know that she is loved for who she is, not for what she looks like or what she can give anyone. I want her to grow up feeling valued as a human being so that when the time comes, she will know that she is not an object and that she has more to contribute to society. It is so sad, but even The Onion did a parody piece about the awkward moment that a girl transitions into a sexual being. So when that moment comes, I hope that my daughter knows she is more than that to me and can hold tight to the values I raise her with inshallah.