The Wisdom Behind Struggle

By Dr. Shadee Elmasry

One of the best things you can teach a kid is how to struggle. The wisdom behind struggle. The great rewards that await those who know how to struggle.

But what if Allah blessed you and you live comfortably? Are you supposed to take that away and make kids suffer? You can't really do that a lot because it's not practical and it's mean, and a mean parent will produce a mean kid. But there are situations which force you into struggle.

Excelling in school, memorizing Quran, studying Arabic, having manners, winning at sports, cleaning the house, and volunteering at the masjid or with the grandparents are all micro-struggles. In the course of these, there will be times they don't want to do it, or they want to give up, or they get frustrated. That's where real parenting comes in if you ask me. Every household has to have a bad guy who insists and persists and refuses to take no for an answer. But it should be done with kindness because a mean parent produces bullies and kids with issues. Here are some basic techniques that can be applied on a daily basis.


TECHNIQUE #1 If something requires knowledge, I'm here for you all day, but if it just requires effort, then I'm not getting involved. If I did I would be making you weak. It has developed that I simply do not answer, nor even lookup if the request is based on laziness.

Finding stuff in the house is a mini-mini-struggle that comes up multiple times a day. But over time, it really piles up and produces a good ethic. I personally never help them find anything and don't take no for an answer if I ask them to get something I know we have. For example:

"Can you help me find a battery for my remote control car, I can't find it." Answer: [Smile] "Recite Duha and keep trying." Think about it. The whole house is like a dozen rooms. Go room by room. Empty drawer by drawer. Be systematic and thorough. Put some effort into it.

Or if I ask,

"Go get me the screw-driver." Two minutes later, "I can't find it." I don't respond to that. Every house has a screwdriver; find it. Look harder.


TECHNIQUE #2 Certain phrases should be emphasized and repeated. For example:

"Figure it out," is simply one of my favorites.

"Do your job," is very important in teaching how to stay focused.

"Put some effort into it," is great because you want the word "effort" repeated as much as you can.

"Do it yourself" is a bit mean but a little bit of meanness is okay because

a) it's like a vaccine for mean people in the world

b) it's easy to wash away by being nice later in the day.

Another mean phrase is "Stop being lazy." It should be used sparingly because it's better to invoke the word "effort" than the word "lazy."

"Hustle!" is a classic single word line with a great punch to it.


TECHNIQUE #3 Another way to do this is to glorify struggle by watching others who had "real" struggles," like the struggle to stay alive or eat. There are a lot of books and movies about this. Maybe people can put their favorites in the comment section. Helen Keller is a classic of course. These are important because they are reality checks that put our micro and mini struggles in context. If I'm defeated by a micro struggle, what chance do I have against the real struggles of life?

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