Parenting and Physical/Corporal Punishment

In my experience typical justifications for beating the kids turn out to be flimsy excuses pulled out from scriptures (Hadeeth regarding prayers) and out of context as explained below.

A parent typically beats the kid when he is angry and not in his senses.  When the parent is irritated, frustrated, or feeling weak due to some illness, or may be angry due to fight with spouse/boss can make the otherwise reasonable parent vent his/her frustration and beat the kid.
Parents do not beat the kid when they are cool minded or in their senses. They beat their kids when their egos get hurt which happens when children refuse to obey their parents. The cause is not the violation of rule but the violation of ego!

Anger is a natural emotion, however, anger for the wrong reason and wrongly directed is disastrous for parental health and even more disastrous for the emotional health of the child. There are strict censure against anger in Islam.

As Aristotle explained: “Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy. ” The famous book on “Emotional Intelligence” by Daniel Coleman starts with this Aristotle quote.

I have come across many  “religious” people invoking the “beating for prayer” justification from hadith. There are many issues with the use of this justification:

  1. This justification is specifically for prayers. Prayers are fard and are the most important pillar in Islam after kalima. Its importance is mentioned the most times in Quran (> 500 times? ). Some fuqaha consider not praying deliberately takes one out of the fold of Islam!
  2. How can an injunction “specific” to such an important pillar of Islam like prayers made to “generalize” for beating a child for not doing homework or not writing an essay or not memorizing tables [remember many sahaba including the prophet (as) could not read/write] or for not satisfying my ego by not obeying me. Note there are far too many “general”   injunctions for treating the children well and loving them. Note in fiqh the specific rule can not be generalized to trump the “general” rule!
  3. Furthermore, prayers become fard according to some fuqaha at around 14.
  4. What emotion should the parent feel when the child is deliberately moving towards hell? Sadness or anger? It ought to be sadness if the parent’s concern is akhirah of the child and the child is disobeying Allah and is straying from the straight path! However, it is anger if you see the child disobeying your order and your ego gets hurt!
  5. If your intention is tableegh then it must be accompanied by hikmah and patience not anger and irritation. Hikmah also require that you learn child psychology.
  6. Unfortunately I have come across many “aalims” and learned people who preach every day but were humbled to the ground by the intransigence of their children on which this “beating” technique was applied with abandon. I see them running for help and guidance to various educational psychologists and consultants. Of course there are too many laymen believing in the efficacy of beating. Both scholars and laymen painfully come to their senses when they see that “barhta gaya durd ju ju dawa ki”. Please take heed and consult educational psychologists or attend parenting workshops by consultants such as ERDC or EAST in Karachi.
  7. Love and logic does wonder where beating fails miserably. So many stories that I see every day and can recount.
  8. Remember we are only parents. Giving “hidaya” is not our responsibility.  It is a prerogative that Allah has kept to Himself, it was not even given to the prophet (as). Ponder deeply on “Wa ma alaina illa-al bilagh”!!!  Just be a role model. Don’t take too much tension for your children sake. When you feel too much worry for them pray to Him and seek His guidance. Stand up for tahujjud. Seek support with salah n sabr.
A Question:
Suppose there is fire and the kid is not willing to leave the toy room then is there need to use force and authority? If love n logic is taking a long time and there is emergency what are we supposed to do?

Is it really fire, literally? If it is really, then fire is million times more exciting and thrilling than any toy; the child will readily accompany you to see that!

If fire is a metaphor, then how long will you use love n logic with him? You don’t play logic with a child. You use psychology n wisdom. As Edward DeBono says in his “Handbook of Wisdom”, if you want to stop someone from going to B from A, you must offer a better and more attractive alternative C! What the child needs is a more attractive alternative like an enticement to visit a park, zoo or friends’ gathering.

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