Be fair to all your children

One day, a Chinese teenage girl presented with her mother to the PSYCH clinic as a new case that was assigned to me for full clerking.

I diagnosed her of Major Depressive Disorder, to rule out Borderline Personality Disorder.

The reason her mother brought her to this clinic was because she has been hurting herself by slashing her wrist a few times in the past.

She did not talk much during the clerking. She admitted that she felt very angry at her mother because her mother seemed to give more loving attention to her younger brother.

I asked the patient to go out and then I called her mother in to ask her whether this was true. The mother said, “Ala, adik dia kecik lagi maaa. Baru lapan tahun. Mesti lah saya akan bagi perhatian pada dia. Lelaki sorang woh”

Terus aku rasa macam meluat dengan mak dia ni. Hahah.

“Dia pun selalu marah-marah adik dia. Dia pun selalu dengki sama adik dia. Rajin gaduh. I pun pening lorrr.”

I gave the mother a nice, wake-up call. “Look at what your injustice has done to your daughter! And to her relationship with her younger brother.” but I  phrased  and elaborated the message in a nice way, of course. So that it would be easier for the mother to swallow the fact that her parenting skills left much to be desired.  

But at the end of the consultation, I allowed NO DOUBT in the mother’s mind that she should be more fair towards all her children.


I am so lucky that I was born in a family of all girls. I could not imagine how my parents would behave if they have one much-coveted son among all five thorny roses that are me and my sisters. (in my case, I have more thorns than petals, haha)

But knowing me (and my sisters), we are very used to not let any resentment fester and putrefy. It is not in us to just keep quiet when we don’t feel satisfied.

We will speak up and will tell our parents straight out, “Mak dengan ayah tak adil!”

So, if my parents were indeed not being fair, they would come to realize it, and thus they would try to adjust their actions and make it fairer. (We voice out –> they realize –>they adjust. Simple algorithm.)

But if it was only our perception that our parents were not fair, because we have voiced out what we thought, they would be able to explain their actions and sooth our resentment. (We voice out –> they explain –> we realize –> we adjust our expectation –> resentment settled)

See? Voicing out is important!

At the end of the day, because we siblings voice out what we feel, we get our justice. There is no misunderstanding. Our bond as siblings are very tight because we don’t allow unfair treatment by our parents to create prolonged resentment between us. We just performed a debate and argued back and forth in the living room and said it outright and got it done! (Those who are watching our, ehem, ‘family conference’ and not used to us would think we are a bit too much to handle. hahah).

When I was 16 year old, my mother asked me to do a task that was supposed to be completed by my 9 year old youngest sister. So I said, “Tapi tu kerja Wani. Kenapa pula angah yang kena buat?”

“Ala, dia kecik lagi. Tak payahlah berkira dengan adik. Kesian dia”

And you know what I said, “Mak, kalau nak kira umur, sampai bila-bila pun dia akan kecik daripada angah. Dah dia memang lahir lambat daripada angah. Kak ngah pun pernah kecik dulu, tapi kak ngah buat ja kerja kak ngah.” I thought my logic was indisputable. I was so proud of my spontaneous argument which really consisted of ‘kalau nak ikut umur, sampai bila-bila ke nak kena ikut umur?. Hahaha. (and like I said before, you don’t get to me via vague argument or by using emotion such as ‘kesian adik’. You deal with me using logic. This is my pattern of thoughts since I was a child. And I have no problem saying it straight. When you deal with Afiza, you better make sure your argument is sound.)

Just like that, my mother did not say anything else. My youngest sister still had to do her task. And I was satisfied. Justice win!

So you see, ours is a democratic household. Everyone gets to have their say.

Never have I ever felt that “Sebab Kak Long paling tua, so aku kena ikut cakap dia.”

Never have I ever felt that “Sebab aku lagi tua, tiga lagi adik-adik bawah kena ikut cakap aku”

In fact, if I ever try to ask them to do what I say simply on the merit of me being older, they would probably laugh me out of the room. Because really, allowing unfair treatment simply because one is younger or older than you is a laughable concept!

It just doesn’t make sense, people!

We siblings can get very sarcastic if we are expected to follow what one of us said without any justification, “Who died and appoint you as our leader? Pffft!? Awat pula aku nak kena ikut cakap hang?”

We don’t play by any other rules other than sound argument and plain fair justice. And to me, that is the best formula for creating a good bond between all your children and between yourselves and your children.

When my own friend told me that her own parents favour her elder brother than herself, I told her to speak up. She told me, “Hang lain, Afiza. Bila hang kompelin, mak ayah hang layan.Tapi mak ayah aku tak layan pun aku kompelin. Kalau aku kompelin depa bagi duit lebih kat abang aku beli rokok la, minyak motor la, mewahkan dia macam-macam…. bapa aku akan cakap, ‘suka hati ayah nak bagi kat siapa pun. Ni duit ayah’. Lagi sakit hati aku dengar. So baik tak payah cakap.”

I see. So this is how learned helplessness develops.

My mouth swung open when I heard her telling me what her father said. Her father had no reasoning whatsoever and so irrational. Can you imagine yourself in the position of her father? When someone complain against you that you are not being fair, you give stupid answers of ‘suka hati aku.’  which does not address the issue at all. It is so stupid, isn’t it? How can someone that stupidly moronic raise such an intelligent daughter like my friend, I have no idea!

By the way, even if it is his money to do whatever he wishes, he still should not give the answer of ‘suka hati aku’. The answer hurts his other children tremendously because it shows such lackadaisical disregard to their feelings. Like they don’t matter at all to the father. But even more relevant is the fact that  there is a specific hadeeth about the adab of giving gifts to your children. This is not a general hedeeth that is subject to various interpretation. This hadeeth is VERY SPECIFIC to just such a situation. You must abide by this!

The Prophet (peace be on him) said, ‘Do justice among your sons,’ and repeated it thrice. (Reported by Muslim, Ahmad, and Abu Daoud)

The story behind this hadith is that the wife of Bashir bin Sa’d al-Ansari requested her husband to give a gift of a garden or a slave to her son, al-Nu’man bin Bashir. She asked Bashir to go to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and request him to be a witness. Bashir went to him, saying, “The daughter of such and such—meaning his wife—has asked me to give a slave to her son.” “Does he have brothers?” the Prophet (peace be upon him) asked. “Yes,” he replied. “Did you give the same to each of them?” inquired the Prophet (peace be upon him). “No,” said Bashir. The Prophet (peace be upon him) then said, “This is not correct, and I can never bear witness to other than what is just.” (Reported by Ibn Hibban in his Sahih.)

Some other hadith in this regard are as follows: Do not ask me to be a witness to injustice. Your children have the right of receiving equal treatment, as you have the right that they should honor you. (Reported by Abu Daoud) “Fear Allah and treat your children with equal justice.” (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim.)

Let me repeat. Fear Allah, and treat your children with equal justice.

Which means, treating your children with equal justice is directly associated with having fear of Allah. Associated with takwa itself! That is pretty heavy, guys! Whenever you are treating your children unjustly, it means you have no fear of Allah. That’s pretty serious, folks! So boleh suka hati kau lagi ke?

Dan aku tak hairan kenapa benda ni ada kaitan dengan takwa. Benda ni berat sebab just look at the effect it has on your kids if you are not fair! Look at how it affects relationships between your children and how the pattern of jealousy and resentment will continue even when you are already gone from this world! Look at how they feel so tortured that they might end up having personality disorders or affective disorders.

And remember, you are not only destroying the self-esteem of the child you neglect to be fair to. But you are also destroying the decency of your favourite child by spoiling him/her into a rotten, self-absorbed, irresponsible person who thinks he/she can get whatever he/she wants unfairly. You are destroying all your children when you favour one over the rest! Even the favoured one is not spared the side effects of your unjust conduct because he/she will grow up into a weak, despicable, entitled human being!

The favoured and unfavoured children are both your victims!

So, yes. There is no reason to wonder why being fair to all your children is associated with takwa! Because the effect is huge, people!

YOUR CHILDREN HAVE  THE RIGHTS FOR JUSTICE. Hak! Bukan suka hati kau! Hak! Faham tak maksud hak tu apa?

Regardless of age!

Regardless of gender!

Kau ingat kau sorang jer ada hak sebagai mak bapak? Anak kau tak ada hak?

Aku rasa semua anak-anak kena memorize and keep this hadeeth in their minds. Setiap kali mak ayah tak adil, keluarkan hadis ni sebagai reference. (Hahah. Terus mak ayah sentap)

And I am the sort who argue based on facts, so I keep this hadeeth in mind as one of my secret weapon that I can pull out anytime the situation arise. (Just in case my parents need me to say it to them. Haha. But so far, I never had to say it to them. Either I end up understanding why they do what they do, or they end up adjusting what they are inclined to do so that it becomes fairer to everyone.)

Of course, there are times when I still feel I was unfairly punished, but it was not as a result of inequality among siblings. Usually memang aku buat silap, dan aku kena punish dan aku rasa macam punishment tu unnecessary. Tu ja. Tapi kalau lima orang buat silap, lima-lima orang kenalah. Mana boleh sorang kena, sorang tak kena. That never happened. If it did, I would be the first to question it.

The most important thing is, you have to create an environment that would allow your children to feel comfortable voicing out and telling you when you are not being fair. Otherwise, they would keep quiet and suffer inside. Some suffer so much to the point of depression or having chronic low self-esteem.

And kau yang rugi! Kau tak ada anak-anak yang boleh ingatkan kau yang kau tak adil. Sebab kau tak create that sort of environment. Dan kalau kau rasa hidup kau lagi senang sebab anak-anak kau semua tak berani nak persoalkan kau, kau memang agak bodoh. Anak-anak macam inilah yang bantu kau untuk jadi orang yang lebih bertakwa. I think my parents are blessed for having me (haha, allow me to perasan kejap). I am the most vocal of all. My epithet in the family is ‘kak ngah singa’, denoting my fierceness.

But I point out to them, “Singa bukan saja garang. Singa juga berani. I take being called singa as a compliment,” I have no problem confronting issues. I might not like having to do it, but when push comes to shove… I shall push, shove and smack down! Hahah.

You can learn from kids. They are very honest about how they feel without bothering with diplomatic crap. But their honesty will be tarnished if you never respond properly to their honesty. If you never reward them with justice when they point out the obvious, they will soon behave with learned helplessness. “Cakap kat mak ayah pun tak guna. Mak ayah memang lagi sayang abang sulong/anak lelaki.”

Learned helplessness is one of the worst thing that can happen to anyone. You just give up and suffer. You have zero initiative and just accept whatever injustice that come your way.

Is that what you want your kids to become? Is that your legacy to your children? Would they always remember you as the parent who destroy their self-worth for all time? Is that how you would like to be remembered?

So parents, you better buck up and do it right!

One thought on “Be fair to all your children

  1. Pingback: Moral Injury – My Life Poetry That May Not Rhyme

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