Two Minutes w/Dr. Yahya: To Be a Parent!: A Real Biographic Short Story
Hasan A. Yahya, Ph.D
In my younger life, (in the Middle East), I was the kind of parent that I now ashamed of, an authoritarian bully. I was narrow-minded and quickly angered and become violent. This behavior have changed gradually (positively) through the years.
These are actual examples od behavior ay be shared by many parents lived in the Middle East area. for example, Especially when my kids do not understand my commands or when they disobey my orders. I grew up in the a small town for a poor family, the father works for 14 hours, this is true, you see, if you calculate it, my father was a stone breaker, uses his hands (power) and a heavy hammer to break rocks in the mountain. He used to wake up at four in the morning, makes tea and eat a loaf bread with olive oil and za’ter (Middle Eastern Herbs) , he usually leave at five to wait for the truck to take him with other workers to the mountain, and stays there until seven p.m, so, it is true, from five a.m to seven p.m, fourteen long hours everyday except Friday, ( later I joined him in my high school weekends,) No holidays paid. Friday is the holiday, the only day we see our father. Our mother, however took care of us five brothers and two sisters. She cooks everyday for the family, and sometimes asks me to send one dish to my aunt, who lives few houses away from our home. The family fought to survive as refugees, (fortunately, or may be not) out of refugee-camps. My father managed to have a one room apartment. I was one of five brothers, and two sisters. In my high school, I joined my father working a manual work, also in the mountains. I believed that my wife and children belonged to me as we belonged to our father. My attitude toward others was, stay away from interfering in other’s business. That was what I learned from my mother. Stay away from problems. I thought that was also the way my father thinks. Later I became as I supposed to be. Life was cruel for us, we did not enjoy buying clothes like other children. The pants we use as pajamas, we go to school with, rarely we wash our faces, for lack of water. In our meals, the one dish shared by all the family, when the circle is crowded, my Dad says: sit a military sitting, to make room for other brothers and sisters. The military sitting was to put one leg under self, and make the other leg half stand. I never forget those days, The made me the person whom am I now. I learned there should be a better way, a whole new world. I began to wonder, what the future will be? I obtained valuable input from tens of hundreds of people of all ages when I was taking care of a small grocery opened by my father, in six months it was closed, my father was not able to pay the rent. Scouting after graduation from the high school was a brand new world opened up for me. I was appointed a substitute teacher in my high school. And in three years and half, I worked in 17 elementary, middle, and secondary schools in the district. Our role after the only one month training at the Teachers’ Institute, to substitute in-service old teachers, who were accepted to learn new teaching methods under UNESCO funding project. The experience in the 17 schools was enhancing my already energetic youth. Where I was involved in establishing beside my teaching job, a new boy scout team in every school, in three months. My reputation made me the first elected boy scout general secretary for the district. In that period of my youth, My duties includes girls scouts in high schools too. After marriage and having kids, I began to dread the role of authoritarian father, as my father was. I couldn’t stand the terror and pain in my children’s eyes as they waited for me to address their wrongs. My behavior with them was sometimes violent, as fathers, the bread winners, used to be in the Middle East. I came to America, my dream land in my early childhood and youth, I was enrolled in a respective university to study conflict management in educational institutions. Which was administrative in nature. After completing the M.A, I began to change my parenting style, using my knowledge of dealing with conflict, especially family conflicts. Education pays in this area.
I began to ask my family members for assistance, I told them I simply wanted to love and enjoy life with them. I asked them may be daily to resist any harsh or unfair treatment to each other, and myself, as well as to other students at school. More importantly, I asked them if they caught me acting in angry tone, like a bully or dictator, they have to call me on immediately. Dad….. we are in America! They learn from me to be independent, to do their jobs perfectly as students. The American way of life started to be the norm. Especially when we shared the community in their school activities such as the sucker Mom, trips, and doing business in their early days.
Because my emotions often ran unchecked when discipline was called for, and because I was bigger in size, louder in voice, and stronger in muscles than all, including my wife, we devised a three finger sign (for threatening) , agreed upon on a sign as a traffic cop for anyone runaway mouth including myself for many reasons, the sign shows immediately that there was something wrong. The one who raises that sign will say what was going wrong. The sign in fact became a constitution everybody learn to listen, to comment, and to vote on.
In addition, as taking the father’s role, I have given them permission to “flip off,” any offender in the family, they remain suspicious for a while. They were not sure it would work. One day, my youngest six years old son, after I told him to finish his popcorn flakes dish, he ducked his head under his outstretched arm and gave me the sign. It stopped me like I had been struck by a blot of lightning. I started grinning, then broke into laughter. I grabbed him in my arms and hugged and kissed his uneasy face until we both were laughing and crying. In fact, I thanked him for following the sign game. I told him how much I loved him and appreciate what he had done.
Untill this day, He’s now in his third year in the same university his Dad attended (Now graduated a long time ago), we come to talk after using the sign. I don’t remember why I was so angry in my early life. It doesn’t matter now. It was long time ago, when I used physical or emotional violence against my children or anyone else. The sign was a great lesson. My children used it all the time, with their peers, their friends at school, and at home. It was like a magic, unfortunately when the grew up, I did not completely stopped from losing my temper, until my old son came one day to me and told me that he’s planning to leave and live his life. after showing my anger, he raised his three fingers and said: Dad, you are a professor of conflict management, I don’t want to remind you to make an all-commitment to your philosophy and follow through. It was a great lesson, we all learned to listen, to respect and the explain to each other what annoys us as well as what make us joyful.
This despised, toxic behavior using loud voice or physical act parents used against their children should be stopped, and changed over time. The other method I used and was effective, was not to answer immediately any question or react in anger before counting to ten, until you cooled out. It’s like a habit which is replaced by a new behavior. If parents practice those habits, conflict will be reduced and vanished by time. Such habits will soon goes forever. I was very thankful to my family, and my children, the sign was great, the counting for ten before getting anger to cool out all of us, and to say clearly and to listen to each other and live a joyful life. (1395 words) www.hasanyahya.com