The Islamic Garden
Building Bridges Between
Parents and Children
By Selma Cook
Most parents are filled with joy at the birth of a child. Held gently and considered precious, the child grows. Confident in the parents’ love and attentiveness the child reaches out to others. Because he is loved, he learns how to love. As parents we do love our children, but the question is, do we love our boys a little more than we love our girls?
If the answer to this question is a resounding ‘No! Of course not!’ perhaps you should search your heart and think again. You should be sure there is no difference in your love and treatment of boys and girls because the overwhelming evidence is that boys are indeed favored more than girls in Egypt. But don’t just listen to me. This is what young Egyptian people are saying.
I asked a number of Egyptian youth, both boys and girls, if they felt boys were favored more. The resounding reply was that this is in fact a sad reality. The young women I spoke to were educated and confident, coming from ‘good’ homes. I asked them if this treatment was obvious. They replied that in Egypt nowadays it is widely acknowledged that both girls and boys should be educated. So where, I asked, is this favoritism felt? They replied that it is felt keenly in the home. A look, a word, an expectation will tell the girl indirectly that she is inferior and second to her brother.
“It’s all done in the name of love,” said one young woman. “I know my parents and grand parents love me but they love and consider my brothers that little bit more.”
I asked them how this impacted on their relationship with their parents. With sad faces they agreed that it made them feel resentful. They young men agreed and admitted that they know they can get off with much more than their sisters and although it works well for them, then can see that their sisters do suffer.
The young women added that knowing deep within that they are not considered as important as their brothers made them much less close to their parents. They felt this especially when they were growing up in the pre-teen and early-teen years. “We don’t confide in our parents. We deal with them as they do with us – on a superficial level. But if there is a problem or something we need to talk about, we never think of our parents – we turn to our friends,” agreed both young women.
Next, I asked them if they will repeat the same treatment with their children one day. The resounding reply was, “No! I hope not but really it depends on the man I marry because my parents will value him and his opinion more than mine.”
Hearing these young people talk so frankly made me think where this attitude comes from. Surely the Creator created all human beings equal in His sight and everyone has rights and status and deserves respect and good treatment.
Surely, as parents, we want to be the first ones our children turn to if they have a problem.
Surely, as parents, we want to build strong character and dignity in our children.
Surely, as parents, we want to be that soft place for our children to fall.
What would you think if you heard your children; especially your daughters, talking to their friends saying, “My parents say they love me but I’m just a girl. I’m not as important as my brother.” How would you feel?
With the alarming increase in self harming among young people in Egypt, we must take care that all avenues of communication are open between us and our children. If they have fears, worries or insecurities that they cannot share with a trusted adult and they feel overwhelmed, they might end up hurting themselves. If that were to happen to your daughter what would you say, “Your brother would never do such a thing?”