A guide to disciplining when distressed

You don’t feel like doing anything around the house. You don’t want to cook breakfast, lunch or dinner. All you feel like doing is staying in bed all day. You’re depressed!

Your kids are running though the house like chimpanzees. They sense your change in mood. They’re less responsive to your requests because they know they have a good chance of getting away with not responding. How do you discipline your kids when you’re feeling down in the dumps?

First of all, you have to help yourself before you can help your kids. It’s hard to accept at the time, but try remembering you won’t feel like this forever. What you’re feeling is a phase that will pass.  Allah says in Quran: “Verily, with hardship there is relief.” (Qur’an 94:6) And Allah  never fails in His promise. In the mean time, allow yourself permission to do less in your home. The house won’t disintegrate if the dishes aren’t washed, carpet isn’t vacuumed, or 3-course-meal isn’t served for dinner. Why not purchase packages of paper plates, cups and bowls and plastic spoons and forks. It works great as an occasional preventive for a dirty kitchen.

Use this down time as an opportunity to get closer to Allah. You already feel sluggish. Let this be a chance to slow down in your prayers and concentrate more on what you’re saying. Read more Quran and hadith. Listen to inspirational lectures on your computer while you’re lying around. Praise Allah through dhikr. Make supplication for His help. Doing these things will help you feel better and make you a stronger Muslim, insha’Allah.

Say the du’as the Prophet (saw) suggested saying during times of difficulty. Here is one inspiring supplication:

 “Oh Allah! I hope for your mercy . Please do not leave me to myself for a moment. Set right my affairs. None deserves to be worshipped but you.”

Second, when correcting your children, think “less is better than more.” Less talking is better than more talking. Less action is better than over reaction. Often, when you’re depressed you have underlying feelings of low self-esteem, resentment, anger or insecurities. When you’re feeling inadequate, you tend to project these negative emotions onto those around you. These feelings can manifest themselves through hostile speech, hurtful remarks and lashing out physically. You want to avoid doing or saying things to your kids that you might regret later.

Avoid using harsh and abusive discipline methods when you are depressed. Instead, use respectful discipline techniques. One such method you can use when you want your kids to stop inappropriate behaviour is the “1-2-3 . . . Can’t Catch Me” technique.  Tell them you’ll count to 3, and if they don’t stop the behaviour they’ll have time-out on the computer or have to go to bed a few minutes earlier or some other penalty you deem fit.  Another effective technique is using praise as reinforcement, although it’s difficult to use when you’re depressed and feeling inadequate yourself. Commending desirable behaviour works wonders if you are up to it. When you see your kids getting along, tell them you’re pleased they’re not squabbling with one another.

Another thing you can do is simply be frank with your kids about what you’re experiencing. Tell them how you’re feeling. “I’m not feeling good today. I want to rest in my room by myself for a while.”  Kids can appreciate such candour. This can be helpful in two ways. First, it might contribute to your children making an extra effort to cooperate more so Mommy will feel better. The second is that it stamps a memory in their mind as to how they should behave when feeling blue–you don’t have to mistreat others when you’re feeling bad yourself.

Speak with your family doctor and visit helpful sites online to find more solutions on how to deal with depression. Grandma Jeddah is not a physician; however she strongly suggests you seriously consider the following information if you are prescribed medication for treating your depression. The following warning accompanies some depression drugs:

Antidepressants may increase suicidal thoughts or behaviours in some children, teenagers, and young adults, especially within the first few months of treatment or when the dose is changed. Depression and other serious mental illnesses are themselves associated with an increase in the risk of suicide. Patients on antidepressants and their families or caregivers should watch for new or worsening depression symptoms, unusual changes in behaviour, or thoughts of suicide. Such symptoms should be reported to the patient’s healthcare professional right away, especially if they are severe or occur suddenly.

With that warning out of the way keep in mind the following: Allah says in Quran “Or do you think that you will enter Paradise while such [trial] has not yet come to you as came to those who passed on before you? They were touched by poverty and hardship and were shaken until [even their] messenger and those who believed with him said, ‘When is the help of Allah?’ Unquestionably, the help of Allah is near.” (Qur’an, 2:214)

This is such a critical ayat to remember when you are feeling down and low. Bear in mind that the uncomfortable feelings you are having are a means of purifying you and bringing you closer to Allah. They are not emotions that you have to instantly get rid of or cover up. When you are feeling dejected, that’s a time to retreat to your Lord. Ask Him for strength and help. Ask Him to give you sabr (peace) and sakina (tranquillity). Ask Him to relieve you of your difficulty.

In today’s society we have become accustomed to quick fixes for our discomfort–Tylenol for headaches, antacids for overeating, cosmetic surgery for unwanted appearance, etc.  What we often fail to realize is that sometimes these “discomforts” are signs of weightier problems we need to contend with.

For instance, perhaps the headache is due to the intake of too much caffeine or not enough intake of water. Maybe the upset stomach is telling us we need to stop eating particular foods or certain amounts. Perhaps the excessive concern of one’s appearance is indicative of misplaced priorities.

Similarly, maybe the discomfort you are feeling with your depression is a sign for you to get closer to your Lord, rather than an opportunity for you to cover up your hurt and pain. There is benefit in experiencing difficulties.

According to one hadith, the Prophet (saw) said: Know By the One in Whose Hand is my soul (i.e. God), no believer is stricken with fatigue, exhaustion, worry, or grief, but God will forgive him for some of his sins thereby—even a thorn which pricks him.” (Ahmad)


Here is another hadith that is reassuring during times of distress:


Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Messenger (saw) said, “If Allah wants good for someone, He afflicts him with trials.” (Bukhari)


When you contemplate the difficulty you’re having in managing your children while coping with hardship, remember that hard times are blessings and opportunities to get closer to Allah, rather than merely periods of frustration. This perspective can help you cope with your difficulty with more forbearance, insha’Allah.


Here are other ways of helping yourself cope better: Read Quran, hadith, and Islamic books. Listen to Islamic lectures on the rewards of being patient. Knowing the rewards you will receive for being patient can help make being patient much easier when you are going through a depression.


Allah says in Quran: “No one will be granted such goodness except those who exercise patience and self-restraint, none but persons of the greatest good fortune.” (41:35)


Also keep in mind the blessings of not becoming angry when managing your children through a depressed state of mind:

Those who spend (in Allah’s cause) in prosperity and in adversity, who repress their anger, and who pardon men, verily, Allah loves the al-Muhsinun (the good-doers).” (3:133-134)


In another hadith, Abu Hurairah related that the Messenger of Allah, (saw)said:

“A strong person is not the person who throws his adversaries to the ground. A strong person is the person who contains himself when he is angry.” (Bukhari)

Also remember the Prophet (saw) has suggested that when one is angry, he should seek refuge in Allah from Shaitan.

The Prophet (saw) said: “I know a phrase which, if he repeated, he could get rid of this angry feeling.” They asked: “What is it, Apostle of Allah?” He replied: “He should say: ‘I seek refuge in Allah from the accursed devil.’” (Abu Daud)

So the next time you’re feeling down and blue and your child refuses to take his bath after you’ve instructed him to do so several times, remember why you are here:

Allah says in Quran, “We did not create the jinn and men except to worship us.”(Qur’an 51:56)

Let this ayat be your guide . . . when disciplining your children through a depression.

Grandma Jeddah is the mother of 11 children and 13 grandchildren. She has taught hundreds of students at an Islamic School in Los Angeles, California for over thirty years.    She is the  author of, Discipline without Disrespecting: Discover the Hidden Secrets of How to Effectively Discipline Your Muslim Child– And Keep Your Peace of Mind While at It.  Subscribe to her free newsletter at:  www.grandmajeddah.com

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