By Rafi M. Ali, M.D.
Director of DarusSalam Seminary’s Tadrīs Integrated High School Program
An educational system’s best efforts do not, of course, guarantee academic success. The school, society, and the home constitute three important collaborative or competing forces in a child’s welfare.
Parenting is made more difficult by the distracting social and cultural norms that prevail in our society. The ubiquitous commercialism and the oppressive peer-pressure culture can make parenting a nightmare. Further, the internet has allowed the tentacles of social ills to reach children’s bedrooms. Some parents, it appears, have forfeited. Once, children were warned against accepting candy from strangers. Today, filth is dispensed wholesale through YouTube and social media, yet parents even gift their young children “smart-phones” for birthdays. Have you ever seen poison shared with such little forethought?
One cannot caution against intrusive technology without facing some justifiable skepticism. Technology is a gargantuan spectrum of human output with varying degrees of impact on the society. The faithful toaster is relatively harmless. No one will confuse the social impact of a toaster with that of a smartphone. Technology that directly affects human interactions and undermines familial bonds is in a class of its own. A parent’s job is as much to thwart the impact of social ills that invade the privacy of homes to devour children, as it is to provide their children with shelter and food.
Thus, parents today contend with a culture where forethought frequently lags behind the repercussions of follies. To add to their burdens, parents also suffer peer pressure. It takes courage to be a good parent. Every parent must feel comfortable saying “No” when a no needs to be spoken. The school and community must be supportive of such parents.
We must also question the fundamental assumptions as to what constitutes a normative childhood. For example, we are indoctrinated to believe that teenage years are rebellious. This is a great and destructive untruth. It is told and retold, enacted and reenacted, in all forms of visual media. Falsehood oft repeated takes the semblance of truth. Truth, however, has an intuitive universal appeal. Young people can be a great positive force in the world. Teenage years can be wonderfully productive when this false paradigm is dispensed.
Home as an institution may either be a sanctuary of hope, or a provisional detention center for future misfits. Children’s views of the world are first shaped by their observations of the parents. Parent’s must ensure, therefore, that what the children see is that which inspires good. A turbulent home sabotages a child’s success, academic or otherwise. If parents wish to see their child improve their grades, then they must focus on self-rectification and self-effacing dedicated efforts to rehabilitate their marriage. A child’s performance in life is not divorced from the lessons learned at home, their first classroom. How many precious children are denied their childhood by bickering parents?
Parenting skills can be learned. The best efforts of the teachers and the educational system are handicapped if they are not complemented by parental efforts at home. We must encourage and support parents as they reclaim their nurturing leadership roles. We must strive to understand their challenges. Parental motivations stem from an unfathomable wellspring of Love. Our compassion must encompass all. Afterall, every parent was once a child.
An Excellent Teacher collaborates with parents towards a common goal.
. Especially the bewildering challenges of the single-parent.