In educating children, I always believed to use the gentle approach as there are lots of directives urging Muslims to be gentle (rafiqa).However a friend of mine disagrees. He says the harsh approach is good also so that the person is being shook up to change. In Islam there are also many instances when the harsh approach is used, e.g. the boycott incident after Tabuk ghazwah. Also Saidina Omar is a harsh person. Is he right?
What are the situations where it is better to be harsh than gentle?
I do not agree with the idea that Hadrat Omar (ra) was a harsh person. As I see it, Hadrat Omar (ra) was, in fact, a person who was not willing to make any compromise in the implementation of the laws and directives of God according to the best of his knowledge and understanding, while he was made the guardian and leader of the Muslim community. This attitude cannot be termed as harshness.
As for what may be the appropriate mix of the carrot and the stick in the training and upbringing of our children, there seems to be no standard and universally applicable answer to this question. There seem to be innumerable contingent and circumstantial human as well as material factors involved in the issue to allow us to form a universally applicable solution for the issue. In view of this point, it would ultimately rest with the parent to decide what may be the appropriate method of training and disciplining his children.
As a principle, however, I generally agree with your approach of trying to communicate and convince the child regarding what we consider as appropriate behavior. This approach, according to my understanding, is more likely to develop a more understanding and responsible bent in the child. Nevertheless, there are certain aspects of a child’s personality which need to be disciplined and controlled and, therefore, a parent sometimes – for the welfare and well being of the child – has to take actions, which are perceived as a punishment by the child, even though it may not necessarily involve a physical beating.
I hope this helps.
August 26, 2002