by Fudia Muhammad
It seems that every few years, a parenting “expert” coins a new term to describe or brand the latest style of parenting. Parenting styles emerged as an area of academic focus and attention in 1966 when Diana Baumrind, a psychologist and researcher released her findings on how parents and children relate in the home. She came up with three major parenting styles: authoritarian parenting, permissive parenting and authoritative parenting. In a nutshell, authoritarian parents are extremely strict, rigid, overly demanding, too hard and can be abusive. Permissive parents are just the opposite – they are too soft, they do not punish or enforce rules, they spoil their children, have no real expectations and relate to their children as friends instead of as authority figures. Diana Baumrind deemed authoritative parenting to be “just right.” This parent is well balanced – providing structure, discipline and expectations while making sure the child feels validated, loved and nurtured. According to her study, these children tend to be both “academically strong and emotionally stable.”
In recent years we may have heard of new terms for parenting styles such as, tiger parenting, helicopter parenting, attachment parenting, instinctive parenting, uninvolved (hands-off) parenting and free-range parenting. All of these different styles of parenting are most often used to describe a parent’s relationship with their child and the physical world. What is always puzzling is that often one’s preferred parenting style does not always transpose to all areas of child rearing.
For example, the ‘helicopter mom’ may be overprotective and hover over the child’s every move, restricting playing outdoors with friends; but allows her eight-year-old to have a cell phone with all the bells and whistles. She is comforted by this decision because it allows her immediate access to her child, but at the same time, the phone also allows the child instant access to the world and the world access to the child. In another instance, the ‘free-range’ parent gives the child the independence of an adult by limiting outdoor supervision; but may intervene when the child makes a poor choice and has to face the consequences imposed by another adult.
But, let’s be honest, being bound to one style of parenting is a luxury that most Black parents do not have. The truth is, we have to parent differently because our children are treated differently. The world does not view the Black child through a loving, protective lens. Our children are seen as a threat or at the very least a nuisance. Therefore, it is up to Black parents to protect our beautiful Black children from a world that both subtly and overtly works to destroy them.
The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad said that you cannot protect what you cannot control. Our primary responsibility is to protect the children given to us by Allah (God). This requires that we be both scientists and parents. In this dual role, we must scientifically administer the right parental formula required for each specific condition. Conditions vary based on our child’s age, gender, temperament, and circumstance. Therefore, every so-called parenting style may be required from time to time. However, the only way to determine what formula is needed is if we have an accurate diagnosis. This may require being a little bit nosy.
Everyone cherishes their privacy and does not want their privacy violated in any way. According to the Holy Qur’an, privacy should be respected in the home (24:58-60). Children require privacy as well. When our children reach puberty, they should certainly have privacy when bathing and dressing. Outside of that, parents have the right to put limits or restrictions on privacy allowances for their children.
Unfortunately, most parents truly believe, “not my child,” when it comes to considering the possibility of inappropriate, deviant or even criminal behavior. But the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad said, “You can turn devil overnight.” To a parent who is not paying close attention, it may appear that the child literally changed from an angel to a devil overnight; but the truth is, Allah (God) is so Merciful that He always gives us warnings and signs, but we may choose not to see them, or we may misinterpret.
The word ‘nosy’ has a negative connotation because it implies snooping, being secretive, deceptive, sneaking around, spying or eavesdropping. That is not at all what we mean. Parents should be straight-up honest with their children about the things they plan to do to try to protect them. Let them know: There will be random cell phone checks; I will be monitoring your social media posts; checking your internet searches and restricting online interactive gaming. In most cases, parents not only purchase their children’s cell phones and other devices, but also pay the monthly bill. This alone affords them the right to be ‘nosy.’ Parents should have access to passwords without issue or hesitation. If children have a curfew when it comes to being outdoors, they should have a curfew when comes to allowing the entire world indoors. This means that cell phones should be put away in a designated location at the designated time.
Cell phones are a reality of our time, but we should hold out as long as possible. It is just not necessary for primary school students to have a cell phone. And if you can hold out until high school, that’s even better. If not, we can always get an assist with one of the many parental control apps which are now available. The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan said that the physical presence of parents can extinguish the desire of our children to engage in unrighteous behavior. The same is true for electronic devices. If children know their parents are watching and monitoring, they are less likely to be tempted to venture into the unsavory. Is anything full-proof? No. But that does not exempt us from keeping always on the alert. So ,do not feel the least bit guilty about checking backpacks, handbags or bedrooms from time to time. Be respectful by knocking on the door, but make sure your children understand that you will not be waiting indefinitely to enter. Our intention should always be to protect and not to spy. However, hands-off, lazy or slack parents can be dangerous. All signs, big and small should be addressed; they should never be ignored or left unchecked. After all, a clear sign and warning is a mercy from God.
(Sister Fudia Muhammad is a member of Muhammad Mosque No. 64 in Austin, Texas. She is married to Student Minister Robert L. Muhammad and they have been blessed with four children. Sister Fudia holds a Master’s degree in Education – she is a writer, an educator and an advocate for God-centered child-rearing.)