Some time ago, our masjid had a giveaway after Jumuah. Used toys from an assortment of huge, bulging bags were set out on tables in front of the masjid for any girl or boy to browse through. My children selected a Chinese checkers game, a pottery wheel with clay, markers and crayons, and a host of other colorful and fun looking toys. This was truly a blessing—a collection of free “new” toys in a matter of minutes. Over the next few days, we had a wonderful time playing with the newly found treasures.
Participating in pleasurable activities with your children is an important aspect of raising them. It helps you to bond with them, and it can also help prevent some forms of misbehavior. Children are little creatures that thrive on attention. If they don’t get your notice through positive interactions, they will seek it in negative ways.
Here’s a scenario: Your 11-year-old son Fahad grabs his 5-year-old brother around the chest and wrestles him to the floor beside your bed while you’re relaxing, enthralled in an interesting book. Well, he’s certainly grabbed your attention now! A good five-minutes or so of it . . . “You know better than that,” and “Why did you hit him?” and “I told you about hitting him?” With all of the shouting, scolding and threats he’s now receiving, you would think young Fahad would run for cover. Not a chance.
You fed right into his plan. Your son may not intentionally be aware of how calculating his actions are. What he does know is he wants your attention, and making his brother cry out in shrieks is sure to get it.
To prevent inappropriate attention seeking behavior, parents must be proactive. Ensure that you set aside a certain amount of time for your children to receive 1-on-1 personal attention from you. This can be done on a daily basis, even if you have a large number of children, believe it or not. Here are a few ways to give your children their own personal time with Mom:
- Face your child and look him directly in the eyes when he comes to talk with you. This let’s your child know that you have an interest in him. You’ve stopped the important work that you were doing solely because you want to hear and understand what he has to say.
- Tell your child you love him. Being told you are loved can create a warm, tingly feeling that rushes through your body and just feels good. According to hadith the Prophet said:
“If a man loves his brother in faith, he should tell him that he loves him” (Abu Dawud).
- Kiss and hug your child. Who doesn’t need a warm, snuggly hug every now and then to help push you along throughout the day? It has been narrated that Prophet Muhammad hugged his grandsons Hassan and Hussein. In fact, when a man in the presence of The Prophet’s saw this act of affection, he informed The Prophet that he’d never kissed any of his 10 children. The Prophet’s response was: “Whoever is not merciful to others will not be treated mercifully.” 1
- Play fun games with your child. Even a simple game such as tic-tac-toe can be a form of entertainment for your 5 or 6-year old. How about pulling out a quick and simple puzzle from under the bed and putting the pieces together. What about that deck of cards that has been sitting on the shelf for months? Line the cards up face down on the floor and play matching game. The last two games can be played with one child or more. Often times, the more the merrier.
The daughter of Khalid ibn Said narrates: “I went to Allah’s Messenger with my father and I was wearing a yellow shirt. Allah’s Messenger said, “Sanah, Sanah!” I then started playing with the seal of prophethood (between the Prophet’s shoulders) and my father rebuked me harshly for that. Allah’s Messenger said, “Leave her.” and then Allah’s Messenger (invoked Allah to grant me a long life) thrice.” 2
- Take one child with you on your next outing to the store and leave the others with Dad. While you’re in the store, listen attentively as your child talks about what he sees all around, what foods he likes to eat and the like. Answer his questions with enthusiasm and interest. This is his special time with Mom.
Finding personal time to give to your child can sometimes be a challenge. This is even more so when you have a large number of children. With a little bit of planning and effort, you can work the time in, insha’Allah—a bedtime story with one child on your lap, a bubble bath with toys to squirt and splash or a review of your older child’s homework to find out how things are going in school, always remember to fill up your child’s “attention” bank–so he won’t have to dig into his “attention seeking” reserves.