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How to encourage good behaviour in pre-teens

You need to have a good, strong foundation to keep guiding your child's behaviour. There are two important pillars for this:

good communication

warm relationships

Practical tips for good communication include:

1. Take time to actively listen

Tune into your child fully when they are speaking to you. Watch their body language and listen to their words.

2. Praise

Notice good behaviour and comment on it. Descriptive praise will motivate your child to keep behaving that way. If you consistently note good behaviour, you child won't feel that you only observe their bad behaviour. They will feel recognised for the good that they do.

3. Set family rules

Communicate clear rules about behaviour, outside of when your child has not behaved in a desired way. Ensure all the family, including and especially adults follow the rules too.

4. Follow through with consequences when rules are broken

This needs to be consistent and firm. Whenever a rule is broken, mention it along with the consequence in a simple, straightforward manner, which you don't change after some pestering. For example, 'Because you went over your agreed screen time today, you will have no screen time tomorrow.'

5. Resolve problems calmly

Stay calm during disagreements, even if you have to take a break from the situation and revisit it later. The Prophet (saw) said, “If one of you becomes angry then he should stay silent.” This is an important practice because when we are angry our actions and speech may be disproportionate and unjust.

Wudu can also be a shield against anger. The Prophet (saw) said, “Anger comes from the devil, the devil was created from fire, and fire is extinguished only with water. So when one of you becomes angry, he should make wudu.”

Practical tips for warm relationships include:

1. Give more than you direct.

Spend time together, listen, and have fun with your child consistently. When you then have to dish out consequences for undesired behaviour, it is experienced less negatively by your child.

2. Value their opinions

Show your child that their opinions and wishes are respected and valued. Involve them in decisions and keep them informed.

3. Keep promises

When you do what you said you would your child learns to rely on you, and trust you. Only make promises you know you can keep.

4. Express how you feel

Sharing with your child how their behaviour affects you can have a positive impact on your relationship. For example, 'My head hurts when you make loud noises for so long,' will give them a better understanding of why you want the noise to stop than saying, 'Stop making that noise!'

5. Give them responsibilities

Give your child responsibilities in certain areas to shape their independence and sense of accountability for their actions. For example, you could allow them to choose their own clothes when you shop, as well as assigning duties like unloading the dishwasher.

As Muslims, the moral code that should inform our behaviour comes from what Allah has guided us to. So build a phenomenal connection with Allah for your child and educate them with utmost love on how He expects us to be with our parents, neighbours, elders, teachers and so on.

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