The family takes on more emotionality when girls are present at home and the atmosphere in the house is given an air of spirituality. There is no doubt about the high position of girls in the rich Iranian culture. Due to the significance given to them as the mothers of tomorrow and the future builders of the country, a correct upbringing and proper treatment of them is of the essence too.
Resalat Newspaper on 28 August 2014 published an interview with Dr. Zahra Asemi, a psychologist, on the treatment of girls. The publication of the article was timed to coincide with the birth anniversary of Hazrat Masoumeh (Peace be upon her), the sister of the eighth Shiite Imam, which is celebrated as girls day in Iran. What comes below is an excerpt of the interview:
Zahra Asemi, who has a Ph.D. in psychology, knows the entire holy Quran by heart and has done research in the field of psychology. She argues that girls need to be given more parental love and tenderness to be safe from mental harms.
Dr. Asemi, please tell us about how girls are different from boys as far as their feelings are concerned?
First of all I should say that boys’ mentality and behavioral manifestations inherently differ from those of girls as far as certain attributes go. They act differently because of their gender and some biological and social factors. For instance, for boys general issues matter most, but girls pay more attention to specifics.
Boys have a better practical memory, whereas in girls’ minds the area that handles verbal activities is more active. While facing problems and failures, girls act more emotionally and display more excited reactions than boys. Encountering similar situations, boys fail to let out their feelings or they express them less noticeably than girls. Unlike boys, girls like to flaunt their beauty, that is to say, they have more theatrical and show-off behaviors. Girls get more easily influenced by others, whereas boys show more resistance to those trying to influence them.
In the Iranian-Islamic culture, to be a girl means to be the darling of the family.
Another distinction is that girls respond to audio stimuli better, but boys get affected by visual stimuli. Islam draws people’s attention to the duties of men and women in married life, urging men to tell “I love you” to their wives and recommending women appear before their husbands in a well-groomed fashion and with feminine adornment. Such instructions have their roots in the same gender differences.
Why are girls more sensitive, sentimental and irritable? At what age do these character traits come to the surface?
Biologically and physiologically, the left hemisphere of women’s brain which is responsible for controlling and processing emotions and feelings is larger and more active, that’s why moods based on emotions and their manifestations such as grief and sorrow, fear, happiness, love, resentment and irritation are more evident in girls. However, the right hemisphere of the brain which deals with anything revolving around wisdom and cognitive processing is larger in boys. This explains why their behavior is less dependent on feelings and emotions.
The striking point is that throughout universe God has bestowed upon His creatures special talents and capabilities in line with the role He has given each one of them to play. For example, men are responsible for the external management of the household and supporting the family members, therefore they are given a bigger share of logical thinking and wisdom. But the responsibility to manage the household, rear and bring up children, and create a gentle and emotional environment at home lies with mothers. So women are granted the bulk of emotional capabilities and intelligence. That is why women seem to be more emotional, affectionate and as a result more irritable. However we should not forget that the potential God has put in a human’s soul and body could turn into a weak point if it is not brought under control. Thus, the pure emotions of girls are viewed as God-given blessings which are meant to play a prominent motherly role when they are controlled and remain in moderation. These mental characteristics have been there inside the two genders, both men and women, since birth but they reach their peak and show themselves fully in teen years.
What points do you think parents should take into account when treating the girls?
Imagine you have a few flower pots at home. Which one do you think needs more attention and care?
Surely, the one which is more delicate, sensitive and vulnerable. Well, where does Islam stand on girls?
The Prophet of Islam says, “Girls, or women in general, are tender as basil”. You know basil gets wilted sooner than other herbs; it means its innate delicacy and freshness makes it more vulnerable. The prophet states that girls should be given more parental care, attention, gentleness and love so that they can be protected against mental harms. Since they have a great mission to accomplish in the capacity of wives and mothers, they should be able to transfer emotions to their spouses and children.
What are the behavioral and educational no-go zones for parents when it comes to girls, especially when they are in teen years?
Teen age is a time when people experience different crises, namely puberty, sexual desires, identity formation, peer pressure, disorderliness and restlessness, and conflicts of values. This period makes teenagers, girls in particular, stressed or depressed, confused and unsafe. Improper behaviors parents may show in their interactions with children, especially with teenage girls, would aggravate such harms. This renders it more than necessary for mothers and fathers to practice self-control to avoid such problems.
What are the behavioral musts when it comes to treating girls?
Not only teenage girls, but also all children, are in need of four vital things in their lives:
1. Unconditional acceptance: I love my child because s/he is my kid. So my love, affection and care for her/him are not a reaction to his/her behavior or conduct, rather they are unconditional and permanent.
2. Respect: More than anything else teenagers need to see the family respect their characters. The more parental respect they get, the more immune they would be against delinquency and social disorders. Also the amount of respect children are given by others mainly depends on how much respect parents accord to them.
For teenage girls, who are getting close to the age of social and sexual puberty, any mental development such as a sense of dismay and disappointment, morphological changes in girls such as developing feminine body organs, as well as social events like failure to pass a test make them feel confused and disturbed, overshadow their self-esteem and self-confidence and push them toward aggressive behavior or isolation. Nonetheless, the girls could easily face all these situations and regard any obstacle as removable if they are loved and respected by their parents in the family environment.
Girls are always viewed as dad’s endeared kid, mom’s companion and a helping friend and caring sister of their siblings.
3. Love: Children should be given constant love and affection, and they should receive affection through their parents’ verbal and behavioral expressions as well as the way they look at them. Parents should make sure they constantly express their love for children and their belongings. In other words, you need to love your child and at the same time prove to him/her that you love and respect whatever associated with them such as their field of study, their friends and their taste.
4. Facilitation: It is a call for taking everything easy, but we should not forget that it does not mean to allow the family’s educational borders to be overstepped. It means to be or remain flexible within the framework we have agreed on for the family atmosphere. For example, if your teenager prays, you should thank God, but if s/he says their prayers late or does not opt to observe secondary prayers, you shouldn’t get tough on that.
Isn’t a lack of self-confidence to blame for many conflicts teenagers face? And what should be done to boost the girls’ self-belief and self-confidence?
If I do not get your confirmation and respect, or your respect for me is tied to something special, I won’t believe myself and I will always want to use certain tools in order not to affect the way you look at me. Well if I respect the values because of you or my parents, I won’t be studying, practicing chastity and modesty or doing other things which are politically correct just because of their positivity and merit, rather I am using them as a tool to gain acceptance. So once I end my relationship with you, I immediately put these tools aside because I don’t need them anymore. Therefore, I am not myself and my viewpoints and behaviors will change daily and in different situations involving different people. So unconditional acceptance and respect for teenagers by family members is the core tool we need in order to bolster their self-belief and self-confidence.
What should be done to institutionalize the Islamic culture in society and leave a positive, guiding mark on the youth, especially girls?
Although we know that institutionalization of a culture takes place when many factors go hand in hand, because time is at a premium here, I just take a look at the role the family plays in this regard. To have constant and durable training, we need some factors to be present in the family:
1. Time management: It means, for example, if I want to teach my daughter the way girls should practice modesty and chastity I should know that I should start to do it at the right time. I shouldn’t let precious time slip away. Sometimes families ask us what they can do after the fact. They say their teenage boy or girl does not obey them. Well, these parents have begun to work out a solution too late. Childhood is the ripe time to educate a girl about modesty and chastity, not teen years.
2. Parents are role models: If parents fail to pay due attention to their behavioral patterns, their educational advice will not be heeded. For instance, imagine parents who want to have a disciplined daughter that acts in an orderly manner. If their behaviors show impatience or if they do their jobs with no proper time and financial management, what they do concerning their daughter is like flagging a dead horse.