From One Generation to the Next – What We're Doing Differently in Our Muslim Parenting
Jul 7, 2023
Dilshad Ali
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Image source: Pixabay; photo by Esra Korkmaz
What unserious generational trauma or curse are you breaking?
I’ve been seeing this trend pop up recently all over Tik Tok and Instagram as content creators talk about how they throw away or recycle yogurt containers and other forms of “tupperware” after usage instead of keeping them. Or this one emotional video by a woman about how she lets her kids always buy something (relatively inexpensive) at a store if they ask instead of always being told “no.”
These things we always did or weren’t allowed to do when we were kids - there were often reasons behind it, sometimes ones that were good and made sense, and other times it made no sense. Like how many yogurt containers does one really need?
This trend has amused me endlessly as I reflect on my own childhood and how my parents, who were immigrants to this country and built whole lives and communities here, raised my brothers and I as first-generation American Muslims.
I grew up with the most fantastic set of parents. My folks were literally pioneers in figuring out how to straddle American living with our Islamic deen in a way that always prioritized our lives as Muslims but also had us threading ourselves into the American fabric in ways that didn’t compromise our beliefs and values.
That was the goal, at least, and I think my folks did a pretty good job of it.
Throwback to when I was a new(er) parent, a brand new hijabi, and my daughter - my middle child - was two years old.
We fasted in Ramadan (quietly albeit) and the common teenage boy-girl hangouts were verboten. We also all played musical instruments and were part of junior high and high school bands. We did speech and debate clubs, played tennis (my eldest brother), basketball (my middle brother), worked for the school newspaper (me) and all sorts of stuff.
But there were definite restrictions – things that were unique to us on top of the types of unserious curses or restrictions many adults are discussing in these ongoing videos. I mean, parenting will change from generation to generation, and things my parents did or didn’t do will be different from what I do or don’t do with my kids.
My parents were figuring things out as best as possible, and part of their parenting technique was restricting my brothers and I, particularly me (as a daughter), from leaving the safety and stability of home for other adventures. So while my brothers went away to college, I commuted to college and never did study abroad (neither did my bros) or took an internship that would have me moving out of the home.
I’d say these things were bigger than the “unserious curses” many Tik Tokkers are content creators are sharing. But I wouldn’t classify it as trauma. Did I like everything my parents had me do or stopped me from doing? Definitely not. But do I respect how hard they tried and everything they gave up and put into raising us in a country that was so different from what they knew? One thousand percent.
Frankly, they were (and are still) amazing parents.
But also, there are things I am doing differently as a parent. One of the many things that makes my mom so amazing was this loving piece of advice she gave me when I became a parent nearly 23 years ago – if you like how we raised you, do the same with your kids. If there was something you didn’t like or would change, then change it!
So here’s the mid-serious generational change I’m making: My kids – as long as they give me no reason to doubt them – have much more freedom to go places and do things (and move out for college if that’s what is best for them). My biggest step in this direction came this summer with my daughter embarking on a study abroad program.
They grow up fast! My daughter last fall at college.
She’s never gone this far before from her family, and if she had proposed doing this last summer when she was in a different place in her life, I would’ve discouraged it. But here’s what I love about my girl (among many things) - she knows herself fairly well, when she is ready to push herself and when it’s better for her to reign it in a bit. I’ve watched her stumble, grow, mature, flourish and learn some tough lessons these past few years of college, and so when she pitched a summer study abroad to her father and I, we were (after the requisite amount of questioning) on board.
At some point, you say Bismillah, you pray to Allah (S) to be with you and guide you in your journey, and you take that step.
Parenting is hard. That’s the understatement of the century. Raising strong Muslims sons and daughters who can navigate and flourish in this country while maintaining a good balance between deen and dunya is the biggest responsibility we have as parents. It’s a kind of beautiful joy that often makes sleeping hard and our anxieties climb.
And so, I’m parenting my kids in much of the same way my parents raised me. They were, after all, parenting geniuses and pioneers. And I’m also doing some things differently, trusting in myself, my children and my Allah (S). I’m letting go of some unserious generational things and some more serious ones, and I’m holding on for dear life to other generational parenting lessons.
Which all is to say, if you’re trying to communicate with your kids and trusting in Allah (S), you’re probably doing this parenting thing better than you think. Even when it all feels impossible.
Are you parenting your children in some different ways then your parents raised you? Share with us in the comments below!

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