Feb 27, 2012

Child Neglect

by Khadeejah Islam


Relationships are fragile. If they do not receive adequate love and attention, they begin to wither. In fact, all of Allah’s creations are fragile. Due to neglect, even the best of buds may not bloom. Due to neglect, even the purest water-bodies can become toxic to the extent that it chokes sea-life. What’s more? Due to neglect, many living beings, such as the dodo, may cease to exist. How much more important is it for humans to care for relationships, a subset of Allah’s creations? To preserve relationships and to ensure that they have a positive impact on our surroundings, we need to actively nurture them. Otherwise – as recent developments indicate – relationships will be marching towards extinction, creating an overall vacuum in the society.

Individuals share relationships with each other by means of kinship, friendship, marriage, and association through work, recreational activities, neighbourhood, places of worship, etc. On a broader domain, groups and nations share relationships with each other. Although relationships form the basis of a society, it is unfortunate to witness a downfall of or an imbalance in relationships.

Spousal violence, cyber-bullying, character assassination, workplace conflicts, discrimination, human rights abuse, child abuse, elder abuse, false allegations, gas-lighting, sexual harassment, ragging, peer pressure, religious persecution, abnormal sibling rivalry and aggressive foreign policies – which result in decades of war – reflect deterioration in relationships. Amidst a plethora of problems involving interpersonal and international relationships, child neglect is perhaps one of the most overlooked ones, in my opinion. We often come across resources on the prevention of spousal violence (men physically / psychologically abusing their wives or women abusing their husbands) and elder abuse (children hitting their parents for instance), but we hardly come across materials related to the prevention of child neglect – although they are all forms of domestic violence (not that I approve of any and not that there should be more or less emphasis on any).

Child Neglect – Definition and Statistics
“Child neglect is defined as the failure of a person responsible for a child’s care and upbringing to safeguard the child’s emotional and physical health and general well-being and the persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical and/or psychological needs resulting in serious impairment of health and/or development.”[1] It includes neglecting a child’s physical, emotional, and financial needs and failing to protect the child from inadequate supervision and exposure to violence. Child neglect falls under the category of child abuse.

“Children are suffering from a hidden epidemic of child abuse and neglect. 78.3% of children suffer from neglect [considering America alone!]. Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education. About 30% of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children, continuing the horrible cycle of abuse. Children who experience child abuse and neglect are 59% more likely to be arrested as a juvenile, 28% more likely to be arrested as an adult, and 30% more likely to commit violent crime. Children whose parents use alcohol and other drugs are three times more likely to be abused and more than four times more likely to be neglected than children from non-abusing families.”[2]

Dealing with Child Neglect
Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children, and no theories.” – John Wilmot.

One reason behind writing this article was to create awareness about child neglect and to address this problem effectively. Although most parents want the best for their children, they get so overwhelmed by the responsibility of having to raise children properly that they unwittingly open the doors of child neglect by being either too strict or too liberal, ignoring a child’s individual needs and not discarding “theories” which may have worked on other children. Subtle forms of child neglect have become acceptable in most households due to a lack of awareness, as the following examples suggest:

Upbringing is not all about fulfilling financial needs…!

Your children need your presence more than your presents.” – Jesse Jackson.

When children complain of a lack of bonding or a feeling of void in their lives, their concerns must be taken seriously. Parents should never ask, “Have we not paid for all your expenses?” Financial needs are not the only needs of a child. They deserve your time, attention, understanding, and affection.

Apart from that, many mothers dislike being “disturbed” while they are watching their favourite sitcoms or doing something else, such as chatting with friends, which is insignificant when compared to the duty of raising children. As a result, hungry and tired children often approach their mothers only to receive a cold reply, such as, “Go and make your own food!” Although asking a child to cook or to tidy his or her room is a great way of teaching a child to be responsible and independent, mothers must be aware of the right time, situation, and method. Overwhelming a child with responsibilities while he or she is stressed out, tired, or hungry will only alienate him or her from the joys of bearing responsibility. If taking responsibility is made to appear fun, it will be a habitual process for children.

In addition, parents need to allocate about an hour or so every day – preferably before going to bed – to converse with their children. The issues discussed can be as simple and short-term as, “how was your day?” to much more complicated and long-term, such as career objectives. This way, many problems which a child may shy away from sharing or which he/she cannot identify alone can be unearthed.

On Letting it Go…
It kills you to see them grow up. But I guess it would kill you quicker if they didn't.” – Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams.

Parents should – and usually do – make most of the decisions on behalf of a child as the latter cannot differentiate between right and wrong and he / she often seeks guidance from experienced elders. However, as the child enters the phase of adulthood, parents need to loosen the reins to avoid stifling the child’s development as an independent decision-maker. Surprisingly, many parents decide the colour and fabric of the child’s bag, select the courses that he/she will study, and even do the homework for him/her! Although parents should continue to play a key role in the choices that children make, they must also delegate authority to children. Failing to do that, children – when grown up – will suffer from dependence, indecision, and inferiority complex.

Parents must facilitate a smoother transition of power by allowing the child to take responsibilities and to participate in making decisions – all of which will then be reviewed periodically by the parents themselves. Living in chaotic times, it is very natural for parents to feel apprehensive about the freedom of children. However, being pragmatic is indispensable. Remember that you will not be accompanying your child during a business meeting or throughout the marital life. While teaching – for instance – ice-skating, the instructor has to let go of the hand of the student in order for him/her to ice-skate by him/herself alone.

A Responsibility, not a Favour!
Each of you is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock. The ruler who is in charge of people is a shepherd and is responsible for them. The man is the shepherd of his household and is responsible for them. The woman is the shepherd of her husband’s house and child and is responsible for them. The slave is the shepherd of his master’s wealth and is responsible for it. Each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible for his flock.[3]

Child abandonment is the practice of relinquishing interests and claims over one’s offspring with the intent of never again resuming or reasserting them.[4] It is by far the most spine-chilling form of child neglect. While it is prevalent – and understandably so – among the poor (although I do not approve of it under any circumstances), it is gradually creeping into the affluent society who have all the resources to raise children. In one case, a mother abandoned her two children because she “was reported to have wanted free time for herself and was quoted as saying that she had grown ‘tired of feeding and bathing’ her two children on her own.”[5] I have personally witnessed a situation in which a well-off, educated father was threatening to abandon his daughter if she did not abide by each and every command of his! Allah has entrusted parents with the responsibility of children. Therefore, shrugging off such a responsibility is a heinous crime that must be addressed by stricter laws and greater awareness.

Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” – Elizabeth Stone.

Children are blessings endowed by Allah. Children symbolize the love and dreams that one shares with one’s spouse.

Fear God and treat your children fairly.”[6]

[1] Retrieved: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_neglect
[2] Retrieved: http://www.childhelp.org/pages/statistics
[3] Saheeh Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim.
[4] Retrieved: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_abandonment
[5] Retrieved: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osaka_child_abandonment_case
[6] Saheeh Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim.

I'd love to hear your views on this article. Please tell me in the comments section below :)


Asalaamu'alaykum sis,

Is it 78.3 % of ALL children suffer neglect, or 78.3 % of ABUSED children suffer neglect? Because that percentage is way too high... In any case, it is sooo sad, subhanAllah.

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