I Live With My Brother Who Hits His Toddler. What Can I Do?
Answered by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil
Question: Assalam aleykum,
I live with my brother, his wife, and my two nephews. My brother and his wife are quite often physically and verbally abusive to my 2.5 year old nephew. When spoken to about this, they state that they can do what they want. It breaks my heart. What do I do?
Answer: Assalamualaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
I pray this finds you well. May Allah reward you for reaching out to us.
Narrated Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al-‘As: The Prophet (upon him be blessings and peace) said: “Those who do not show mercy to our young ones and do not realise the right of our elders are not from us.” [Sunan Abi Dawud]
Ya Latif. This is a heartbreaking situation.
Children are an amanah (trust) from Allah, and parents cannot do as they wish. Parents, like all believers, are bound by the wisdom of the Shari’ah. Our spiritual tradition is replete with child-rearing wisdom, and its basis is one of love and mercy. Parents are called to balance compassion with firmness, and never, ever to strike in anger. Child abuse is sinful and impermissible in Islam.
Your brother and his wife will be called to account for everything they have done to wrong their child. May Allah guide and forgive them, and all parents.
Narrated Anas: Allah’s Messenger (upon him be blessings and peace) said, “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is an oppressed one. People asked, “O Allah’s Messenger (upon him be blessings and peace)! It is all right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?” The Prophet (upon him be blessings and peace) said, “By preventing him from oppressing others.” [Bukhari]
Are your brother and his wife very run-down? Exhausted and overwhelmed parents are more likely to hit their children out of anger. See if you can find ways to help relieve their burden. If you haven’t already, can you offer to babysit on a regular basis? Do they need a night away?
When your brother and sister-in-law are calm, please address your concerns again. Appeal to their sense of love for their child. Suggest alternatives to hitting. Encourage them to speak to other parents of toddlers and ask how they manage. Are there any local support groups they can join?
Please perform the Prayer of Need in the last third of the night. Beg Allah to lift this tribulation from your household. Please make dua every night for your nephews and for their parents. Trust that Allah is the Turner of Hearts.
Having a toddler can be very stressful. By nature, they test boundaries. Parents who aren’t educated about age-appropriate behaviours can misinterpret healthy behaviours as defiance and a refusal to comply. This can cause them to lose their cool and strike out in anger. This very harmful for the bond between a parent and a child.
Many parents, later on in life, wonder why their adult children are distant from them. The root of that relationship fracture often lies in trauma in the early years of childrearing.
It was narrated that ‘Aishah said: “The Messenger of Allah never beat any of his servants, or wives, and his hand never hit anything.” [Sunan Ibn Majah]
The Prophet (upon him be blessings and peace) never hit anyone under his care, including his children. This is yet another proof of the perfection of his character. Yes, only Prophets are protected from sin, but we look to him as the very best example of a father. He was loving, involved, patient, playful, and firm.
Your brother and his wife probably do not know any other strategies to cope.
Please enrol in Parenting in Islam: How to Raise Righteous Children, and encourage your brother and his wife to do the same.
I recommend that you purchase and read this book “Positive Discipline: The First Three Years: From Infant to Toddler–Laying the Foundation for Raising a Capable, Confident Child” by Jane Nelsen Ed.D., Cheryl Erwin, and Roslyn Ann Duffy.
Please give a copy of this book as a gift for your brother and his wife. This book is an invaluable resource, as it helps caregivers understand that toddlers are not developmentally ready to follow all instructions.
Janet Landsbury also offers respectful and firm advice on how to raise toddlers without ever needing to resort to physical abuse.
Please continue to be a source of love and security for your two nephews. Alhamdulilah, they are blessed to have you with them. When they misbehave with you, model healthier modes of discipline for them.
Be kind to yourself in this time. You are not responsible for what the sins of your brother or his wife. All you can do is offer them sincere counsel, show them good character, be kind to your nephews, and leave the rest to Allah.
Take this as a lesson for your future, inshaAllah. Make dua that Allah sends you a pious man of good character, who will be an excellent father for your children. Prophetic qualities like patience, forbearance, forgiveness and mercy are so important, because parenting is so challenging. Strive to inculcate these qualities in yourself.
I pray that Allah guides your household, and helps all of you raise a generation of strong believers who love Allah and His Prophet (upon him be blessings and peace).
Explaining a Hadith on Disciplining Children
[Ustadha] Raidah Shah Idil
Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil has spent almost two years in Amman, Jordan, where she learned Shafi’i’ fiqh, Arabic, Seerah, Aqeedah, Tasawwuf, Tafsir and Tajweed. She continues to study with her Teachers in Malaysia and online through SeekersHub Global. She graduated with a Psychology and English degree from University of New South Wales, was a volunteer hospital chaplain for 5 years and has completed a Diploma of Counselling from the Australian Institute of Professional Counsellors. She lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with her husband, daughter, and mother-in-law.