New approaches to parenting

Mai Samih , Tuesday 10 May 2022

There are many ways of being a good parent, but sometimes a parenting course may help.



“My son has a very short attention span, and it takes me a lot of effort to help him study. He is constantly online. Whenever there are family gatherings, he stays in a corner and looks at his mobile phone. I have a hard time communicating with him in general, although I do my best to spend as much time as I can with him after coming back from work.”

These words were said by Yasmine, the mother of one child in Cairo. There are many mothers today like Yasmine who have trouble raising their children.  

According to research entitled “The Quality of Life of Children in Egyptian Communities”, only about three per cent of parents take their children out on a daily basis, while 66 per cent go out on a weekly basis with their children.

The vast majority of time parents spend with their children is at sport clubs or shopping malls, while less time is spent with them in activities like cycling, walking, or organising picnics.

The exact distribution depends on the financial status of the family and the places they live in, as well as the availability of spaces for such activities and the time parents have for their children.

Some parents have time-consuming jobs and are unable to spend much time with their children. However, this is very far from being an ideal situation, and various initiatives have been started to help parents do the tough job of raising their children.  


Non-toxic parenting: Family Perspective is an initiative founded by a group of new university graduates in Cairo that aims at abolishing the phenomenon of so-called “toxic parenting” by raising the awareness of parents about the best methods of raising their children.

Sandy Shenouda, co-founder of the initiative, said that “for our graduation project, we came up with the idea of raising awareness about toxic parenting — or parents depending on the habits they inherited from their parents while bringing up their children without realising that some of these habits could harm them.”

She said they had been inspired by many websites containing stories of toxic parenting and how this had negatively affected young people who were now writing about the neglect they felt or stories of colleagues about their relatives.

Shenouda gave some examples of what can go wrong while raising a child. “We found that there were many types of parenting, like authoritarian parenting, controlling parenting, or god-like parenting, which were all definitions of toxic parenting,” she said.

“The god-like parents are the type of parents who tend to make choices for their children. As a result of this kind of parenting, a child is unable to make future decisions. He tends to lose control of his life and thinks his parents are always right and wants their opinion before every decision he makes,” she said.

A controlling parent is one who chooses everything for his or her children, like friends at school and every single detail of a child’s life without really listening to him or addressing his needs.

“There are also addictive parents, who may be drug addicts or alcoholics, for example, and pass this habit on to their children and so harm them. These two types are mostly found in other countries, but there may be some of them in Egypt,” Shenouda said.

Some Egyptian flaws in parenting include “the emotional blackmailing of children by parents,” she added. “This happens when parents tell their children that they are working to get money to spend on things their children want, for example. We try to combat this by posting videos on our Facebook page showing parents how this has a negative effect on a child,” Shenouda said.

After surveying parents and children, the group discovered various types of toxic parenting and the reasons behind them. Emotional neglect was one of the most important. “Some children feel that their parents meet their material needs in terms of buying them what they need, but that they do not give them their emotional needs,” she said.


Remedies for parents: The next step is to give parents tips on how to avoid such mistakes in their parenting. Shenouda’s partners in the project are Adam Khaled and Mavie Emad, also her colleagues at the Faculty of Mass Communication in Cairo.

“Our slogan is to help parents walk in the shoes of their children,” Shenouda said. “This is because some parents think that because they are parents, this means that a child must do what they say. Communication is a one-way process for them, not two ways as it should be,” she added.

A child must be given choices, because it is one of his or her basic rights. Parents should tell a child if something is not good for him without choosing for him, Shenouda said.

“According to the parenting coaches we interviewed, parents who take up the bad habits of their parents in raising a child show signs of intra-generational trauma. This is because they think the way they were brought up is the correct way to bring up their children,” she said.

For instance, if a new parent was beaten by his parents as a child, he may think that this is the most effective way to raise his child himself. He may even think that “we were all beaten as children, and nothing happened to us.” This is not true, Shenouda said, adding that this type of behaviour may be apparent in all classes of society.

According to Shenouda, the reasons behind this behaviour are that some parents, especially very busy ones, are subjected to a lot of stress from work and tend to beat their children because of this stress or even shout at them if they ask too many questions. Another instance may be a mother who resorts to a nanny to raise her children for her and so is rarely involved with them. She may only attend parties at school for them, for example.

As the campaign has developed, it has come up against various difficulties. “The problems we face are that we don’t have someone to sponsor us, because for students to expand a campaign is costly. It is also difficult to reach celebrities to support us,” Shenouda said, adding that they are seeking organisations that have experience in such campaigns for help.

For Shenouda, the things that children should avoid with their parents are telling them they are not doing things properly. A son should tell his parents emotionally what he lacks, however, because any mother or father is convinced that they are raising their children well.

She also has some other tips. “Parents should not feel that because a child expresses that he is upset because of a certain type of behaviour that this means disrespect for them. Instead, they should let their children express their feelings and give them room to do that,” she said.

Parents should see things from the perspective of their children. “Children are human beings with feelings, and they should be given reasons for the way a parent has behaved. The reason should not be ‘because I said so’. This will make it easier for the children, who will then feel that their opinions count when things are explained to them. If parents only give orders, they will never feel that,” Shenouda said.

Parents should not only focus on tangible expressions of love for their children, but also emotional ones.

“In Egyptian culture, children may fear to tell their parents that a type of behaviour upsets them out of respect for their elders. But we want children to be able to express in words what they feel without fear,” she said.

“We intend to visit sports clubs in the near future to raise the awareness of young people about these issues. We intend to interact with them and distribute flyers and organise activities to engage parents and children to help bridge the gap between them,” Shenouda said, adding that they will also launch an online radio channel for their campaign.   

“We want a sponsor to help spread our ideas. We want more media coverage of our campaign so that more awareness is raised about the issue,” Shenouda commented.


Parenting courses: Mireille Nessim is CEO of the Takatof (Solidarity) Association for Development, an entity that works in education and methods for developing parenting through lectures and other activities organised for parents.  

“We have signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Education to work on course appraisal and comprehensive development. By appraisal, I mean infrastructure, and by comprehensive development I mean organising awareness sessions for teachers, parents, and students,” she said.

The association’s evaluation department assesses the needs of parents and children and then organises lectures.

It also works on creating a friendly environment for students and creating room for activities in classrooms using colours that affect children in a positive way. “Takatof was established more than 20 years ago, and thus far we have upgraded about 27 schools in Greater Cairo, Beni Sueif, and Suez in mainly preparatory schools,” added Nessim, who said that they focus on upgrading both teaching and parenting in the process.

“Investing in buildings is not enough, and investing in humans is very important as well. So, we work with teachers based on our assessment of what is needed and in the field of awareness. We then work with parents based on these assessments,” she said.  

They offer different collective activities for both parents and children, like awareness sessions, art courses, singing courses, English courses, cultural awareness sessions, and values sessions like tolerance workshops, all with the aim of maintaining better parent-child relations.  

The parent sessions are based on a needs assessment and start with meetings with the parents to understand their needs. “We discovered that parents want sessions to help them to bring up their children, and so we organised sessions with psychologists in the field to help them deal with their children and organise sessions about positive parenting and discipline,” Nessim said.

 If they detect learning difficulties among the children, they help the parents handle such problems. They also help if children have special needs.

They work with parents on different awareness sessions, like raising awareness about sexual harassment in terms of preventing it and recognising whether someone is harassing their children. There are also sessions about nutrition and healthy habits for children.  

“Some parents started changing their eating habits because their children would tell them about the healthy eating habits that they had learnt in the sessions. So, we decided to start organising sessions for the parents as well, because they wanted to learn more about the topic,” commented Nessim.

Nessim listed some main problem parents face while bringing up their children from her point of view.

“In terms of nutrition, some parents don’t have any idea of what is good or bad for their children to eat. In terms of bringing up children, recognising the difficulties of the children, whether they are learning difficulties or special needs, is very important because with learning difficulties, or with children being different in terms of intelligence, some parents may think that their children are hyperactive,” she said.

“But then the parents may discover that their child has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and then at least will know how to deal with him,” she added.

The association is organising sessions for parents about the new school curriculum for those who are not familiar with it and are continuing to study with their children according to the old method. “Some parents don’t have the opportunity to attend these sessions, but there are many others who are willing to attend them. It makes a lot of difference to those who attend the sessions,” Nessim said.

“We find out through the focus groups or questionnaires we distribute what they have learnt from the sessions,” she said, adding that there are parents who acknowledged that their understanding had been shallow and that it had been much improved by the sessions.

“I learnt a lot from the sessions on how to deal with my daughter. I used to argue with her, but that made her more stubborn. Now I will deal with her with more patience and have changed my attitude towards her. I am working on helping her to build her personality, and I am aiming to be her friend in future,” said one parent who had attended a session about raising children.

“The lecture was great. I learnt not to talk of the negative aspects of my son’s personality in front of others. Another thing I learnt is not to make study time a burden on my son because that will make him neither in the mood for writing nor for studying. They taught us other methods of studying for our children, including using toys to help them,” another parent commented.

“There is a real need for parents to know more and learn more, and they are really avid to do so,” Nessim said. “They came up with the idea of the sessions on bringing up children. Some mothers even ask us for more lectures on the same topics, basically on the new curriculum, how to bring up their children, and how to handle things with them,” she added.

“Our philosophy is to listen to the parents and to see what their needs are, because when they ask for something, they will come and attend. We don’t tell them what they should learn. Our content is always based on what they want to learn,” she said.

“Parents should always listen to their children and spend time with them. This makes a great difference, especially with the new school curriculum that is very interactive. Parents should positively parent their children in terms of encouraging them and avoiding yelling at them.”

“They should see if something is bothering them, as this may underlie the behaviour they don’t like,” she concluded.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 12 May, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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