Breaking Negative Parenting Habits |

Breaking Negative Parenting Habits

If we look at the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, we see that he was a model of gentle, compassionate parenting. He never hit, shouted at, or harmed anyone, but instead was loving and affectionate to his children, grandchildren, and the young companions. Anas ibn Malik, may Allah be pleased with him, reported:

“I served the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, for ten years. By Allah, he never even said to me, ‘Uff!’ He never said harshly, ‘Why did you do that?’ or, ‘Why did you not do that?’”

(Sahih al-Bukharī 5691, Sahīh Muslim 2309)

The vast majority of Muslim parents try their best to be excellent, patient caretakers, but anyone with children knows that raising babies, toddlers, preteens, and teenagers can be exhausting, confusing, and exasperating. Controlling our tempers, responding with compassion, and finding an appropriate approach for each unique child are all challenges for parents who strive to be worthy of the Prophet’s legacy, peace and blessings be upon him.

No parent is perfect, but some have better coping skills than others. The emotional atmosphere of a person’s own childhood usually affects their current parenting style. While some people grew up in a safe, loving environment, others suffered trauma, neglect, and emotional or physical abuse as children. This makes their parenting role especially challenging, as there is likely to be an unhealed, hurting child deep inside themselves. But even people who had stable home lives as children can still struggle with regulating their own emotions as adults. 

Identifying Problems 

What if you suspect that, for whatever reason, you have some toxic parenting habits? How do you even know if there might be flaws in the way you relate with your children? According to Jacquelyn Mitchard in How to Be a Good Parent after a Bad Childhood for Parents, there are some questions to ask yourself that might help you unearth areas where you could grow:

  • Do I have a short fuse?
  • Does discipline quickly default to yelling or sarcasm?
  • Do I have a creeping tendency to insist I'm always right?
  • Can I be distant when I'm hurt?
  • Do I have a child who is expressing their own chronic stress through depression, or whose way of expressing their distress is by getting into trouble?

If you grew up in an environment where yelling, spanking, belittling, or any kind of emotional or physical abuse was commonplace, you might not be aware of other, better ways to discipline your child. If you didn’t have a secure connection with loving caretakers as you were growing up, you might find it hard to foster a close and trusting relationship with your kids today. 

Making Improvements 

But even if you find yourself struggling day-after-day with the same bad parenting habits, don’t give up. There is hope for change and improvement, even if you’ve been stuck in a bad cycle for a long time. Remember, our children are an amanah or trust for us. We will be questioned about how we treated them, and we have the example of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, as our role model to show us the standards we should strive to live up to. Allah will see and reward any positive steps we take for His sake. 

Here are some suggestions for parents who need to fix some toxic habits: 

1. Seek professional help. 

Talking openly with a therapist or counselor about your struggles can be an enormous source of support. There should be no shame in seeking mental health care. Just as we would willingly see a doctor for a sore throat, we should likewise see a professional for our mental health without any embarrassment. Seeing a therapist does not mean you are weak, flawed, or inferior to others; it means you are taking proactive steps to have a better life. Anyone can benefit from therapy, as nearly everyone must cope with mental health challenges at some point in their life. 

2. Learn better ways to parent. 

To learn new skills and replace techniques that aren’t working, listen to parenting blogs or read some books on the topic. See a list of recommendations below.

3. Open up to trusted friends and family. 

Talking with fellow parents who are in similar life stages can be helpful. It can be very comforting to hear that someone else relates to your situation and to know that you’re not alone. Brainstorming solutions and practicing tricky conversations with other adults can also be helpful.

4. Know the signs of depression. 

It does not always look like “sadness.” It often manifests in irritability, mood swings, anxiety, fatigue, sleep problems, and feelings of restlessness or hopelessness. All of these symptoms can negatively affect your parenting and have a detrimental effect on your children. There are many ways to treat depression, but the first step is getting diagnosed. If you find yourself continuously unable to be patient, present, and loving with your children, the cause might be depression. 

If we have children, their upbringing is one of the most difficult and important jobs that our Creator has entrusted us with. The way we interact with our kids will have long-term effects on their mental and physical health, so we need to make sure we are dedicating ourselves fully to the task of being positive, gentle parents like the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. 

Additional Resources 

Recommended Reading 

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk (The How To Talk Series) by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

Raising Human Beings: Creating a Collaborative Partnership with Your Child by Ross W. Greene, PhD.

Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Maté

The Explosive Child [Sixth Edition]: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children by Ross W. Greene, PhD.

Recommended Podcasts 

Podcast | Brave Muslim Parents

Good Inside with Dr. Becky on Apple Podcasts

Authentic Parenting on Apple Podcasts

Laura El Alam is a freelance writer and editor and the author of the book Made From the Same Dough, as well as over 100 published articles. A wife and mother of five, Laura lives with her family in Massachusetts. You can visit her online at

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