Who Says Tweens Are In Control?

What is with this “tween” thing?  Who says these kids are controlling our culture?  Who are the ones giving them the control?

This morning I was reading the USA Weekend magazine from the Sunday Free Press (okay, yes, I know it’s already Tuesday but this is how long it takes me) and usually I don’t read that kind of garbage, but the front page article caught my attention.  It mentioned how “Tweens” are spending millions on “pop culture products.”  Where are these tweens getting the money to spend on the pop culture products, if tween ages are from 8-14 and the legal working age is 15 or 16?

Now, I am feeling a little cautious about preaching on this issue, because this could be one of those instances (and probably is although I really hope not) where I am just standing on my soapbox shouting “wah, wah, wah” with no kids of my own to speak of my experience, and then when the time comes for my little tween to be begging and begging for the pop culture products of his or her generation, I’ll give in and just say okay.  I have no tween, I don’t even have a pre-teen nor do I even have an infant (yet), so where do I get the right to spout off about this issue?

I would hope that by the time my baby in the womb is old enough to walk and talk and request this or that doll or remote control car or fashion accessory, I should hope that I still rule by the same moral compass that rules me now.  I strongly feel that it is simply a matter of saying “no” to our kids.  In the past, I have worked with young kids of this age group in a treatment facility for childen with behavior and emotional problems.  Often they would make demands that were unreasonable, demanding to go off by themselves (truancy risk) or demanding to sit by their “dates” (other boys or girls in the program) at the movies, demanding dessert at the fast food place we took them to on our already limited budget.  Yet they felt they had a “right” to these things, as many of them had never learned the word “no.”

I can hear my own voice preaching this, and it sounds too eerily familiar as being the statement of a non-Mom commenting on the behaviors and attitudes of “other” moms – so feel free to set me straight if I am wrong (or if this is totally not how parenting goes), cause I do admit my own inexperience in raising children.  But after working with these pre-teens at a behavior management treatment facility, I feel I have some knowledge about setting boundaries and limits and all that good stuff, and I also became increasingly good at using the “no” word and facing the music.  Sure they whined, sure they screamed, they threw fits in public and called me names, but at the end of it all, I felt proud to have taken a stand for what I knew was better for them in the long run.

With my own kids, I should hope that “no” also comes along with a patient, one-on-one, eye-level explanation from Mom about why this product or that toy is not a healthy choice or doesn’t fit into the Islamic paradigm, but come on, let’s be real.  In the middle of a busy store with a cart full of groceries and two wailing children, I doubt I’m going to have the time or the patience to say more than just a simple “no” and hope the matter is done with.  But I feel as long as I am consistent, my kids will know what to expect from me, and know that Mom is not likely to say okay to the thigh-high Miley Cyrus boots or the Jonas Bros baseball hat.

I’ve sat and watched the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon and as a Muslim Insha’allah-Soon-To-Be Mother, I whole-heartedly disapprove.  I also am aware of the fact that my kids are SURELY going to watch way more TV than I would like them to, and probably play more video games than I would hope.  I think we all have the ideal versions of our parenting in our heads before they are born, and I know for one that mine is over-bloated with rules carried out to perfection and happy smiles and understanding moments of mutual agreements.  This is all a joke, I know.  But on the very basic level, I hope that I can still stand for the morals and beliefs that our Islam provides for us, and if my children can gain a knowledge of their religion, I would hope that this saves them in the long run from the evils of marketing and advertisements, Western pop culture and Miley Cyrus boots.

So be real with me, Moms…tell it like it is and let me know – is this too much to hope for?

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13 responses to “Who Says Tweens Are In Control?

  1. Asalaamu alaikum,
    It is not too much to ask for, or expect. However it is hard to maintain consistency sometimes–like extra TV to get some peace and quiet while I put the baby down… It takes a lot of strength. Even if you say the no, and keep them from gross Disney cartoons, it gets hard to compete with pop culture. My Daughter is 4 and has been to public preschool, which is not bad, and watches PBS for the most part. They get exposed to very alluring secular pop culture no matter what. And what lillte they do get is really really alluring to them. My daughter used to like Adam’s World, which was a nice muslim variety show. Now she’d rather watch something on TV, and shows little interest in what I can find that is geared to muslims. No TV would be the best solution. Music, well even if they don’t know what they are hearing (lyrics), the rap is very enticing (!!!), and this is where she would prefer me to stop the radio, if I gave her the choice. It is hard to say no. Do not even joke about how cute that they like hip hop or you’ve already let the shaytan in! Seriously, watch what you let yourself think is cute, because they will like it even more if they see you laughing!
    I do think many kids these days are spoiled. Even if they earn their own money to buy what they want–this can be a bad thing to let them waste it on fast food or music… Even chores, and being responsible to one’s family is needed. Inshallah our kids will do what’s right and resist temptation. I don’t want to be controlling every aspect of their life so I hope that I can properly enlighten them about reality, and obligations, so that they can do it themselves… We’ll see.
    I am constantly asking mom’s with teens what they do. I am so curious.

  2. That is the question: What do moms with teenagers do? I would like to know the answer to that question, also. What have their responses been to you, Aischa?

    I also feel the same – that I “don’t want to be controlling every aspect of their life.” I just want them to be aware of the effects that the pop culture junk can have on them. But I’m clueless how to teach them that. I know it starts from an early stage, but how do you teach them those kinds of things?

    I also want them to have positive role models.

    And I wish all that “poppy” stuff WASN’T so attractive! I know the pull will be there towards popular rap music, tight clothes, etc. How do you compete with pop culture?

    If anyone has any thoughts about this or advice, please respond!

  3. hemm..I have 12 years old daughter. Will be 13 soon on Feb 2009. Also I have another 3 age 11 (boy0, 8 (Girl) and 5 (boy). At the moment, alhamdulillah I did feel satisfied with how they turn to be.

    Mind you, they not perfect! They don’t have that much knowledge as others on their age. My 12 years old daughter still struggling in reading quran. But, alhamdulillah in every problem they have even such they lost some of their thing, they will do two rakaat prayer.

    I have tv at home. I subscribe sky with lots od documentary. They do watch kid channel. They do watch things like zack and codie, but, alhamdulillah they don’t imitate. Either in front of me or back of me. I’m strict in a way but do free in some way. Sometimes it is sound confusing but you have to play a game and push and pull.

    First thing is , you should know your children. Mind you, some people don’t even they stay home and look after them 24/7. The important thing me and hubby always stress on in brought up my children is do not follow or imitate others but stand on what you been teach by us, parents aon Allah commanment. It is tricky sometimes. But, you have to explain to them in child way. Try to think about their capability at the time. It’s not worth we keep telling them but they don’t understand at all what you try to say to them. All the pop and bad things out side there easily win because they study the need of the child and how they think. We usually talk to them as they can understand us adult. We need to put our self in their age and think what we been thinking at that time.

    Well, it’s hard saying and done. It’s so easy to talk about it but when the time come, it’s not easy to bring them into practise. My advise, this need to start from day one. If you don’t give them what they want but give them what they need from first day, than they should be easy to look after later, Insya Allah. Since the first day, all my children , I will not carry them or put them on my lap for no reason. I only carry them to give them bath and to feed them. Otherwide they stay in their cot. They play there and sleep there. They all have routine until and have to follow strict routine such as sleep twice a day until they one year old.

    Alhamdulillah, the result at the moment for my children, they know that the one in control is me not them. What ever I said is the best for them. I never give them such as kiss them, hug them, put them on my lap most of the time and etc. They get my attention in a way they need and don’t give any difficulty for me to run my life. Than they should at the end get a quality care that they need. Not they want as they will start having control and that’s it. The more they grow up, the more they will need more freedom and we will have to loose our control. But, if you already in control before and they already know that I love to always listen to my parents, they should be than trusted and stand on their own.

    The one big problem is given them control since day one. Remember, once you see the tiny baby face, it’s easy to let your heart melted. To get in control, you had to be a stubborn mum. But, it will benefit you and your children at the end. I’m srtict and stubborn for the sake of my children. For the sake of Allah. Alhamdulillah, I found that I can least my control now without worry about too much as they grow bigger.

    May be you can follow my day to day routine. Intention is important. Alway renew our intention that we look after our children for the sake of Allah. Insya ALlah.

  4. Asalaamu alaykum Ummuseif – Thank you! This is great advice for new mothers like myself. I do want to have that kind of control, the control where the kids know that you love them and care for them and they will listen to their parents (teaching them how to please Allah) before anyone else’s guidance.

    I know I am going to struggle with maintaining my “stubbornness” as you call it – because I am a bit of a softie and my mother was, too. I remember I knew the “tricks” to get her to do what I wanted, and I’m hoping I can be strong and not be swayed by the kids. I think it’s important to be strict with them when they are little so that you can loosen up as they get older, knowing that they already know right from wrong. I want to be that kind of mother and not worry about if I’m being too harsh with them or not, cause in the end it will be better for them that way.

    I understand about explaining to them in a way they understand based on their age. And I like that you reminded me that intention is what is most important, that always we should be “looking after our kids for the sake of Allah.” Thank you for that reminder.

    Salaam to you.

  5. Assalam-alaikam,
    I’ve been enjoying reading your blog and your post above and comments have made me think. I agree with soem of what UmmUseif says but not all. I agree with being a little strict and setting boundaries. So when you say no, you stick to that and you set boundaries. Also any other adult in the house backs you up and doesn’t show sympathy. But I have told my kids that if they give me a good reason why, I can think about changing my mind, this makes them a bit more thoughtful and a bit less whingey.

    Because I and their dad have stuck to our guns when we say no, they now don’t argue.

    As for pop culture, the effect is so pernicious. We don’t have TV, but my five-year old is still mad about Bratz dolls (which I detest) and lelli-kelli shoes which she sees in the kids channels at my mums. I am just grateful she doesn’t know about Hannah Montana and High School Musical.

    I disagree about holding and kissing. My mum used to say to not pick the kids up because they get spoilt and clingy. But I see all the teenagers on the street with boys looking for approval and affection because they don’t get it at home, so I insist that me and hubby are very affectionate so that they don’t need to go elsewhere and especially as they get older.

    I feel that the best thing to do is to keep reminding them gently and to set an example, this is where I have gone wrong as my kids are fairly-well behaved and do listen to me but my three year old son swears like a trooper.

    I am terrified of what to do when they are teens. All I can hope to do is shower them with love, keep the deen in every aspect of our lives, let them know they can always come to me or dad and if all else fails act like my mum and chase them round the house with a slipper (joking!!!).

    One friend told me something beautiful, which she attributed to Ali ibn Talib (RA) but I could not find a source for. The first seven years of your child’s upbringing are for love, the next seven for discipline and the next seven for friendship. I like that idea.

  6. Asalaamu alaikum.

    From the authentic collections of Imam Bukhari:

    ‘Aisha reported that a bedouin went to the Prophet of Allah, upon him be peace, and asked him if he ever kissed his children. After that, he said, “We do not kiss our children.” The Prophet replied, “Can I help it if Allah has stripped your heart of mercy?”

    (This hadith was related byt he author in his Sahih, and by Muslim and Ibn Majah.)

    Abu Salmah related that Abu Hurayrah said, “The Prophet of Allah, upon him be peace, kissed Hasan ibn Ali while Aqra ibn Habis was sitting nearby. Aqra said ‘I have ten children and have never kissed one of them.’ The Prophet looked at him and said, ‘Those who show no mercy will be shown no mercy.'”

    (This hadith was related by the author in his Sahih, and by Muslim)

    The problem with modern culture is not that children are given too much affection that spoils them. In fact, a lack of holding, fondling, and kissing of children has been shown to create children devoid of sympathy or empathy, and with feelings of insecurity. Known sociopaths are known to have had affection withheld from them at early ages. As Umm Salihah mentions, many teens who have not received sufficient affection from parents go on to look for it in the wrong ways and from the wrong people. There are numerous studies that prove this fact, and one need only to ask any young woman who is sexually active at a very young age why she is doing it and she will tell you that she “wants to be loved”.

    The spoiling of children in the modern age has nothing to do with giving affection too freely. In our society, parents are too quick to give material things that are not necessary, too quick to give inappropriate freedoms (in order to free up their own time and not have to deal with their children), and allowing them to do whatever they want whenever they want. This is what has spoiled children. And the reality is that these same parents are usually not very affectionate to their children; they give them a new I-Pod rather than a hug. They reward them for every little thing, not with words of appropriate praise, smiles, and affection, but with material goods. Many many many teens and 20-somethings (and indeed, many in my generation of 30-somethings)say that they wish their parents had given them less things and instead ever told them “good job!” or spent quality time with them.

    Too much parental affection is hardly the problem with kids today. Quite the opposite.

  7. In response to Umm Salihah – I am glad you have enjoyed my blog and I hope you continue to visit often. Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I like how you point out that “because I and their dad have stuck to our guns when we say no, they now don’t argue.” I think this is so so important – consistancy – when it comes to children of ANY age. I think it is the number two best thing to teaching your kids in a good way. (Number one: to be the example that you want them to be, as you also mentioned.)

  8. In response to Aaminah’s comments: First of all, thank you for these hadith. I have trouble finding appropriate hadith for my topics, so I am so appreciative when one of my readers can provide them for me – it adds so much to the message. How do you find them; did you just know of these two and then go searching for them or perhaps you have a collection of your own?

    I think you make such an excellent point when you wrote: “parents are too quick to give material things that are not necessary, too quick to give inappropriate freedoms (in order to free up their own time and not have to deal with their children), and allowing them to do whatever they want whenever they want.” Sometimes I believe I worry TOO much about raising good kids and about what to do when they are teenagers, cause I can never see myself doing these kinds of things – giving my kids material items like i-pods and neglecting to give them my time and my affection. I think my own mother did such a beautiful job of raising me and my three older sisters, and using her as my example, in addition to being a devoted Muslimah and teaching my children Islam – these are the very best things I can do for them. Allah is in control – I have to remember that – so as long as I take good care of my kids and do my best, then insha’allah everything will work out for the best.

    Now…someone please remind me of this in 13 years when my teeny-bopper is running amok ;)

  9. In this post I have asked for experienced mothers of our teenage youth to answer the question: “How do we raise our children so that they can be strong in their teenage years and resist temptations?” For another in-depth answer to the question I pose in this post, please see Aaminah’s post “Spoiled Children”:
    http://writeoussisterspeaks.wordpress.com/2008/08/17/spoiled-children/

  10. Asalaamu alaikum.

    Yes, those are hadiths I just happened to be familiar with (that doesn’t happen often enough, LOL), but I also knew that they were in a book I have so I grabbed the book to look them up. I would never want to misquote something that important, inshaAllah. I happen to have a copy of the summarized Bukhari that a sister very generously gifted me several years ago. But the book I took these from is a lovely collection called “Imam Bukhari’s Book of Muslim Morals and Manners”. It is a collection of hadith on various subjects, and they are listed by specific subject so that they are easy to find by looking at the contents. These two are listed under “Kissing Children”, for example. It does not have commentary, as I know you have been looking for, but it is still very handy and a wonderful reference that I have found very beneficial, alhamdulAllah. http://www.islamicbookstore.com/b2895.html

    Which reminds me, I have something I would like to send you inshaAllah, if you would be comfortable swapping addresses, inshaAllah. You can email me at the address that shows for my comment.

  11. Salaam ‘Alaikum

    I started to write a comment, it got too long. I posted it here: http://www.sunnisisters.com/?p=3062

  12. Pingback: Anger Management « bessie.viola

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