it is natural for a child to make mistakes, because he is not infallible. after all, the child is a human being and he is vulnerable to weakness, deficiency, fancies and sometimes evil desires. the prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said: “all the children of aadam are sinners, but the best among the sinners are those who frequently repent.”
all of us make a few or many mistakes, and the happy person is the one whose faults are countable.
when a child makes a mistake, his parents should deal with him wisely and deliberately, remembering that whichever method they want to use to correct the child’s behavior, they should take the following points into account:
1- overlooking some of the child’s mistakes, misbehavior and the movements that are not considered a kind of disturbance. you should not make your children feel that you are keeping tabs on everything they do, because they will not respect you.
the parents, who follow whatever their children do, will force them to be hypocritical, deceptive and cunning. what is required is to adopt a balanced approach that allows us to follow some of our children’s acts, and make room for some confidence as well as some negligence.
2- insisting on only adopting the direct method. indeed, some problems require the parent to speak directly with the child. however, is it sufficient to allude or hint with some problems so as not to embarrass the child. however, at all times the child should feel that you are honest in your advice to him.
3- the child must be convinced that he made a mistake. that is because there are certain patterns of behavior that the child does not recognize as being wrong, especially at an early age. for example, lying for any reason may be due to wild imagination, or to escape punishment. in such a case, direction and guidance should be the first option.
4- the child should be given a chance to correct his behavior and we ought to help him do so. we should even consider mistakes as steps towards knowing what is right. this is not difficult, because children can be easily convinced.
5- differentiating between deliberate and unintentional mistakes. the child may break a glass or play with some equipment because he is energetic and curious.
6- understanding the factors that caused the child to make the mistake. he may have reasons for making this mistake. the parents can know the real motivations when they promise the child that they will not punish him if he tells the truth. this also requires making the child feel that his parents have confidence in him and only seek to do what is best for him.
7- treating mistakes and faults should not be through other mistakes and faults. we mean that the child’s mistakes should not be corrected with shouting and curses. this usually happens when an emotional parent reacts to his child’s mistakes. his reaction in this case blinds him from seeing the best way to deal with this problem.
for example, when a bedouin urinated in the mosque, the prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said to those who rushed to deter him: “leave him alone and pour a bucket of water over his urine. you have been sent to make things easy and not to make them difficult.”
8- the child is the only one who should face the consequences of his mistakes. no other person should be blamed for a mistake made by the child and this includes the mother.
9- taking the initiative and correcting the child’s mistakes as soon as he makes them. some parents may overlook all the mistakes their children make and leave them until things get worse under the pretext that the child is still young or because the problems are not serious.
this will eventually lead to making serious mistakes, because big problems are not always born big. when we neglect and procrastinate in dealing with the mistakes of our children, forgetting the price of this negligence, mistakes grow until they become deeply-rooted in our children.
10- refraining from exaggeration when describing the mistakes. each mistake should be treated in accordance with its seriousness without any unjustified exaggeration. there are problems that many educators unjustifiably consider as disturbing and deserving of severe punishment, while they are actually not. moderation is required in everything, as it is a universal norm.
11- mutual understanding between both parents regarding the treatment and the solution is very important. this includes agreeing about the method, style and time. the parents may avoid disagreements through being flexible. for example, when the father insists on something, the mother should respond and vice versa.
12- physical punishment is one of the educational methods approved in the sharee'ah (islamic legislation) as long as it is used properly.
luqmaan, the wise, said, “beating the child is like fertilizing the plants.”
sabrah ibn ma‘bad al-juhani, may allaah be pleased with him, narrated that the prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said: “command a child to pray when he reaches the age of seven. when he becomes ten, beat him for it (the prayer).”
guidance should be the first option and the child should be given a chance to realize, learn and do what is required of him. hence, the prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, commanded us to spend three years in teaching the child how to perform this great rite.
the educator, particularly the parents, should only resort to physical punishment when they believe that the child deserves it, and that it will correct his behavior. the parents should make sure that they are punishing their child to correct him, not to take revenge upon him. this requires following these steps:
a- punishment should be gradual: many people believe that punishment is synonymous to beating, but this ignores the fact that there are other forms of punishment such as deprivation of pocket money for example, delay in responding to his requests, desertion and refraining from speaking with the child, and so on. these forms may be have more effect than beating.
b- physical punishment must be the last option and within the minimum limits.
c- we should never punish the child in front of others such as his schoolmates, neighbors or even his brothers and sisters. dear educator, avoid any offense as well as generalization such as, “you always make mistakes” or “you never do anything right.”
d- the child should not be punished for the mistake that he makes for the first time. the first time is for guidance and direction in addition to explaining the consequences of making this mistake again.
e- we should keep away from cruelty and severe punishments, because it is considered evidence of the educator’s weakness. therefore, the educator should not punish the child while he is angry and he should avoid harming the child’s body. severe punishment has adverse effects and the child will feel that he is oppressed. in such a case, the punishment will detract him from trying to correct his behavior. the results may be worse when the child hates his parents and educators.
on the other extreme, negligence and giving free rein to the child is harmful and very dangerous. the majority of deviant children are victims of one of those two wrong methods: cruelty or negligence.
finally, we need to review our methodologies and ways of dealing with the mistakes in our life in general and the mistakes of our children in particular.