"I got two A's," the small boy said,
His voice was filled with glee.
His Father very bluntly asked,
"Why didn't you get three A's?"
"Mom, I've done the dishes,"
The girl called from the door.
Her Mother very sarcastically asked,
"Did you sweep the floor?"
"And put the mower away."
His Father asked him with a shrug.
"Did you clean the car too?"
His voice was filled with glee.
His Father proudly said,
"That's terrific! I'm glad you belong to me."
"Mom, I've got the dishes done,"
The girl called from the door.
Her Mother smiled and softly said,
"Maashaa'Allah - each day I love you more."
"I mowed the grass," the teenage boy said,
"And put the mower away."
His father answered with much joy.
"Thanks for doing a great job, Son."
Children deserve to be shown appreciation and praise for the task they are asked to do. If they are to lead a secure, well-adjusted and happy life, so much depends on how we as parents treat them. At the age of two, a child starts to form their attitude towards the world around them.
Some developmental psychologists think that the sense of self-confidence is one of the first of these attitudes and the strength of these feelings at age two depends on the kind of care that the child receives and on the parents’ attitude in meeting their basic needs. At this stage the child shows signs of development by showing a desire for independence, as they need the freedom to speak, walk and play. All of that is connected to the need to assert themselves which can only be achieved by allowing them a measure of independence. This is confirmed by the theory of development through maturity which says that we should respect the child’s individuality and leave him or her to develop naturally.
Some boys and girls grow up lacking self-confidence so that they cannot rely upon themselves in any matter, major or minor. They rarely take any initiative and are always waiting for someone to say, “Do such and such.” If faced with a problem, such a child will be unable to take any decision and may try to avoid confronting the problem, or start crying. This is partly the parents’ fault, and it may be for a number of reasons, such as:
- Too much control ("Do this, don’t do that...") in major and minor matters alike, even if the matter does not warrant it. The child begins to always wait for a command before they act and to reassure them that they are doing the right thing.
- Blaming and criticizing them for everything they do, seeking out their faults and rebuking them if they make a mistake, more than they deserve, especially at when they are expecting praise for their efforts. This destroys the child’s motivation to act or to compete in doing anything and doing it well. Parents must take precautions and effective measures to save the child from feeling inadequate. Some of the things that cause a child to feel inadequate are: belittling them, humiliating them and mocking them, such as calling the child by offensive names and words in front of their siblings and relatives, or even in front of their friends or in front of strangers whom they have never met before. These are matters which may make the child regard themselves as insignificant and worthless, or may generate psychological complexes that will make them look at others with hatred and dislike, and make them withdraw into themselves in order to escape from life.
- Not giving the child the opportunity to speak in front of others for fear that they may make a mistake or speak of things that aren't desirable, or else allowing them to speak but telling them what they should or should not say excessively.
- Giving them too many warnings about danger, which will make them always expect the worst and constantly imagine that they are surrounded by danger on all sides.
- Putting him or her down by comparing them to others, which makes the child think that they have no worth.
- Making fun of the child and mocking them. Even if the offensive words that slip from the parents’ tongues are only for the purpose of disciplining the child for some mistake, great or small, it is not right to use this method to correct them, as this will have a bad effect on the child’s psyche and personal conduct, and it will make them accustomed to the language of condemnation and insult that will destroy them psychologically and morally. The best way of dealing with this problem is to explain to the child, in a gentle manner, where they have gone wrong and to give them proof that will convince them to avoid the mistake in future; the parents should not scold their child, and certainly not in front of others. The parents should use good methods in correcting their child from the outset, following the example of the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) in the way he reformed and trained people and corrected their mistakes. For a child is very sensitive and readily influenced, irrational and helpless. Building the child’s self-confidence is the first step in building their personality through all stages of life. (Excerpt from Tanshi’at al-Fataat al-Muslimah by Hanaan ‘Atiyah al-Toori al-Juhani, p. 163).
- Not paying attention to their questions.
- Paying too much attention in a manner that shows excessive worry about their health or future.
Negative Effects Resulting From a Lack of Self-Confidence
Lack of self-confidence has many negative effects on the child, such as:
1- They will not be able to do anything independently, and if they are asked to bring something and find that it differs from the description given, the child will be hesitant; if they are faced with a problem they will be unable to take a decision.
2- They may become dull-witted and uncreative.
3- They will start to complain and feel unhappy whenever anything is asked of him or her, because they think that they will be blamed for whatever they do and that they will not be able to do it in the manner required.
4- They will become weak-willed and will have no resolve, and feel meek and apathetic in situations where such attitudes are not appropriate, and will become neglectful and disorganized.
5- They will suffer anxiety and frustration, and will develop a hostile attitude or a tendency to become introverted and withdrawn.
How to Develop a Child's Confidence
In order to avoid these negative effects on the child, parents should use a number of ways to develop the child’s self-confidence. Some examples follow, although this is not a complete list:
They should draw up some general guidelines to follow by telling them what Allaah has made permissible, which they may do, and what He has forbidden, which they must avoid. Parents should make them aware of noble attributes and good manners, and instill in them a dislike for bad manners, deeds and words, and the need to steer clear of trivial matters. Then after that they should give their child some freedom to act on their own initiative.
The mother should assign her child some tasks that they are able to do. If they make a mistake the mother should praise them for their initiative and encourage her child, then tell them what they should have done. Sometimes the mother should just praise them for their efforts, then complete the work in a gentle manner, without telling them directly. If the task is not something that the child is able to do, then the mother may do it and consult the child and ask for their opinion, and let the child state what they think is good and is not, so that the child will realize that everyone is vulnerable to making mistakes but also gets things right sometimes. This will strengthen their resolve.
The parents should try to praise the child in front of her relatives and friends, and give them rewards commensurate with their efforts. They should praise them for the acts of worship that they do, such as praying regularly, memorizing Qur’aan, doing well in their studies, having a good attitude, and so on.
They could give them a nickname that will distinguish them from others, but they should not allow anyone to call the child by a bad nickname. If the child makes them angry they should call them by their real name, so that they will realize that they have fallen short in their duty to one or both of them, or that they have wronged somebody, so that the child will realize their error.
*Strengthening their confidence in dealing with other people. This may be done by getting them to do housework, obeying the parents’ commands, and letting them sit with the adults and get together with other youngsters.
*Strengthening their confidence in gaining knowledge, by teaching them the Qur’aan and the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), and his Seerah (Biography), so that the child will grow up having acquired abundant knowledge in childhood, so that s/he will have a sense of confidence in the knowledge that they have, because they will have gained the basic principles of true knowledge, far removed from myths and legends.
May Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) bless us with guidance and wisdom to encourage and increase those thoughts and actions of our children which are good and correct from those which are incorrect, as our children are the men and women of tomorrow. It is for this reason that parents must be encouraged to give our children due consideration and direction to which is good and correct by being model examples themselves for their children.
Mothers, fathers, teachers, and the society as a whole, will all be accountable in front of Allaah regarding the tarbiyyah (education and upbringing) of this generation. If its tarbiyah is good, then there will be happiness, both in this world and the Hereafter. If it is not, then there will be misery, and it will be a rope around your necks - since there occurs in the hadeeth, “Each of you is a shepherd, and each of you will be questioned about those who you are responsible for.” (Related by al-Bukhaaree (13/111) and Muslim (no. 1829)