by Fudia Muhammad
On Sunday August 27, 2017 at the Family Summit-Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan made the following statement during his keynote address: “There is going to be a perfect family as the perfect foundation to a perfect world. There has to be a perfect man to unite with a perfect woman to produce a perfect family that is so in harmony with The Nature of God and the nature of their own creation, that they will produce an exemplary family as the base of the unity of all families…”
The Bible bears witness that this ultimate goal is in fact attainable. Jesus says in the Book of Matthew, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (5:48). Isn’t this the ideal life that we are all truly chasing, if we say that we are “striving” to submit our entire Will to do the Will of Allah (God)? The same can be said for those who are following in the footsteps of Jesus. We are all seeking perfection! Though we are striving, even the best of us fall short. Perhaps we fall short because our entire being has not yet accepted that perfection is attainable; or maybe it’s because we do not know what perfection looks like.
Children are the products of their parents and the environment in which they were reared. Ideally, children should one day be better than their parents; and the children they produce should be better than them; and this pattern should continue for generations until we attain perfection. In order to one-day produce the exemplary family the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan mentioned, we must eliminate everything that is not ideal. The list is extensive; so, we should start with the most abhorrent behaviors, those actions farthest away from perfection are easier to eliminate. One such behavior is parents arguing and fighting in the home around their children.
As a general principle, parents should never get in a heated argument or fight with one another in front of their children. It is very important that the moment couples agree to have children that they also agree not to argue in front of those children. Children literally worship their parents and love to imitate them whether their behavior is appropriate or not; this distinction is not drawn, particularly by very young children. No one makes a more indelible impression on children than parents. Parents model both good and bad behavior for their children every single day. There is a Nigerian proverb that states, “What the child says, he heard at home.” Behavior is not genetic; behavior is learned. And the most influential teachers of behavior are parents.
Worse than imitation is the internal damage caused by witnessing parents fight. The impact that a heated argument or fight can have on a child does not discriminate by age or gender. Whether the child is male or female; age three or fifteen, the mental dialogue that plays out in the mind of a child has no redeeming qualities. The child’s world is literally turned upside down. At that very moment, their emotions can range from confused to sad; then from scared to devastated.
Every marriage will have disagreements, but the need to get one’s point across regardless to whom or what, may give the individual an immediate temporary satisfaction; but the child experiences a lingering insecurity stemmed from fear that their parents could separate. Children are instinctively drawn to listen, observe and analyze every word and every motion of an argument between their parents because it directly connects to the first law of nature – self-preservation. They see their security, wellness, happiness and survival as directly tied to the outcome of that specific argument, so every aspect is ingested. Though the argument may have nothing to do with them, they still feel threatened. This takes a huge emotional toll. The burden for the child is unnatural and undeserved. We all now know that continuous emotional and mental stress and turmoil will eventually show up physically.
Ideally, parents should be exemplary models and examples of a loving relationship and work effectively to demonstration a stable and peaceful home environment. Children are not clueless, they know that adults argue and may fight verbally – but they do not want to be forced to witness their parents go at it. This causes anxiety for children and forces them to inwardly withdrawal or to take sides; and in some of the more severe instances, interject themselves into the argument in an effort to try to settle the difference. Home should be a sanctuary, the safest environment for children; not a battle ground.
In the Holy Qur’an (16: 125) we are taught to argue in the best manner with those who disagree with our way of life and may have a harsh attitude towards what they do not fully understand. We are taught to take this approach with strangers and with our rivals. We certainly should treat our spouse with this same level or greater respect. Truth should settle all arguing and disagreement; but sometimes as we journey toward the truth there is debate. It is not that we should be silent when we feel strongly about an issue, but timing and environment is paramount. Couples will argue, but it is completely dysfunctional to fight all the time. And to do so around our children is careless.
Another proverb states, “Work the clay while it is still wet.” The clay in this proverb is our children. We strive to shape and mold them as best we can while we still have power and influence over them. Once the clay is dry, you cannot change its shape. Once our children are no longer in our homes and move on to start families of their own, our influence over them is almost nil. It is so interesting that the vast majority of our lives will be spent living as adults, away from our parents; yet most of us can attribute our personalities, our self-esteem, our successes and our failures to the fleeting moments of our childhood. This should make us alert and cognizant to the reality that what our children experience during their rearing is preparing them for the majority of their life. God-willing, they too will seek perfection and get closer than their parents to achieving the ideal.
(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.)