Between Overburdening Children and Being Overly Lax: The Healthy Balance

I have certain rules that my children have to abide by:

If you make a mess, you tidy it up yourself.

If you get something dirty, you clean it up yourself.

If you break something, you fix it yourself.

If you have work that needs to be done, you must do it yourself.

So if one of the children gets Legos or blocks or toys everywhere while playing, they are responsible for picking up all the pieces themself and tidying them away when they’re done playing. If one child spills water on the floor, they have to dry it up themself with a kitchen towel. Each child does their own work and responsibilities: they make their own bed; they take care of their own chores after breakfast; and they complete their own personal assignments during homeschool.

Of course, help can be given and received. Similarly, the workload can be shared, as long as it’s distributed evenly. My children are naturally close with each other, and they tend to help each other organically⁠—without having to be told to do so⁠—, which I absolutely adore and love to see. May Allah strengthen their bond and increase them in care and consideration for one another. Amin.


One thing that I try to be very careful about is to never make my children overly responsible for one another or overly dependant on one another. I am cognizant of trying to never hold one child accountable for the actions of another child.

This is unfair for both parties, because it means one child becomes overly responsible and the other becomes not responsible enough. And this harms both children.

It’s a tricky situation because, as parents, it’s natural for us to teach our children to help one another and to love one another. If one of our children is struggling, it’s normal for us to ask one of our other children to step in and help. And it’s also reflexive for us to ask our elder child to help their younger siblings with things that they find difficult to do by themselves.

But parents can allow this to be taken TOO FAR if they aren’t careful.

Some examples:

“Did your brother finish his homework? No? Well, can you do it for him?”

“Your sister has an important project due tomorrow! You’ve got to help her finish it because there’s not much time left, as she was busy playing all throughout the weekend, otherwise she’ll get a bad grade in class!”

“Go clean up after your little brother. He made a big mess.”

“Why is your big sister dressing that way?? Make her stop!”

“Why did your big brother get into smoking weed? Help him quit drugs. It’s not good for him.”

Some parents tend to take the older child to task for the misbehavior of a younger, more wayward child. It’s almost as though the elder child was also their parent.

Some parents have a habit of forcing or pressuring one child into doing the work of another child.

Some parents make a child, one who is naturally more responsible, pick up the slack from a lazy or neglectful child who the parent finds difficult to manage.

Basically, what happens is this:

Instead of the parents themselves working harder to correct the attitude and behavior of a more difficult child, they take the easier route of simply making the more obedient child bear the extra burden.

Is it really parental oversight in taking the easier route; or just plain laziness?

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This ends up creating an unhealthy dynamic, which leads to an imbalance in the family, where certain people are having to work too hard, often beyond their capacity; and other people are not working hard enough or pulling their own weight. This has a significant impact and damages both the obedient, hardworking child and the disobedient, lazy child.

What the child who is relatively easier to manage, more obedient to the parents and more agreeable by nature learns through this type of upbringing is:

“I am always responsible for other people. I’m responsible for their feelings, words, actions and anything that happens to them. Everything is my fault.”

This will severely harm the well behaved child, even deep into adulthood. It can cause this person, typically a natural empath, to over empathize with others, feel excessive guilt unnecessarily and also take on far too many responsibilities and burdens from others, at their own expense. This often leads to disease, deterioration in physical and mental health, as well as emotional exhaustion or burnout. This person will also eventually experience mounting levels of resentment and frustration because they feel others take advantage of them. They also typically never learn to stand up for themselves; express their own needs; or maintain healthy boundaries with others in life.

Basically, this type of person is taught by the parents to operate beyond their capacity, at a level that will ultimately be harmful to them, leading to overworking and unmanageable stress, which may very well result in a strokes or heart attacks.

Then you have the second child, perhaps less willingly obedient to the parents or just more disagreeable or difficult or contrarian by nature, who learns the following through this kind of upbringing:

“I don’t have to take responsibility for my actions because others will do that for me. I don’t have to work hard or exert myself much since the work will get done anyway. I can simply coast through life on easy mode and just do whatever I want.”

This will, again, severely harm the child, both in childhood and adulthood. This type of person often becomes entitled, lazy, selfish, oblivious and insensitive towards others. They lack self-awareness and become incapable of taking responsibility for their own actions. They never acquire a sense of accountability. They can also become truly incompetent, having never learned what it means to work hard at something or to overcome hardships. Their determination, stamina and willpower are usually lackluster and fragile. They’ve never exerted themselves, never pushed themselves, thus these essential attributes were never properly developed. They can also very easily fall into depression, despair and anxiety due to a lack of resilience, never having had to face rejection and never having triumphed over challenges. Things had always just been handed to them. These types of children often grow into fragile, weak adults who don’t know how to do anything for themselves or how to be self-reliant. They’ve always depended on others to pick up their slack and do all the heavy lifting. They’ve never faced any consequences and have grown accustomed to being bailed out by others.

Basically, this type of person is taught by the parents to never exert themselves or fulfill their potential, ultimately ruining their own lives and any chance at happiness. Even the bare minimum is too much to expect from them.

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I try earnestly to be vigilant when it comes to this issue. I strive to teach my children to function at the right level for their age, developmental stage and personal capacity. I don’t want to create a culture where it’s okay for one person to be a perpetual giver and for another to be a perpetual taker. I want to avoid inadvertently instilling within any of my children, a tendency to function above or below what is healthy for them.

That would not only give rise to injustice and imbalance; and harm both the overburdened individual as well as the lackadaisical individual; it also contradicts something we read often in the Quran.

Allah, Mighty and Majestic is He, says:

Say [to them]: Shall I seek a lord other than Allah, while He is the Lord of everything? Nor does a soul earn anything [sinful], but [that it is counted] against itself. Moreover, no sin-laden soul shall carry the [sinful] load of another. Then to your Lord is your return [on Judgment Day]. He shall then tell you [the truth] about that which you have been disputing. (Qur’an, 6:164)

Yet no sin-laden soul shall carry the [sinful] load of another [on Judgment Day]. Thus should one so burdened call [upon another] to [help bear] this [sin], nothing of it shall be borne — even if the one [called] be a close relative. Yet you, [O Prophet,] can only forewarn [of a nearing Judgment] those who fear their Lord [while He is] in [the domain of] the unseen, and who have, therefore, [duly] established the Prayer. So whoever seeks to be purified is but seeking purification for [the good of] his own soul. For to Allah alone is the ultimate destiny. (Qur’an, 35:18)

Allah, Exalted is He, does not take a person to account for the actions of another. Each of us will answer to Allah for our own personal actions and decisions. We will be required to carry our own sins on Yawm al-Qiyamah (The Day of Judgement).

There is no injustice with Allah. He is the Most Just and the Most Wise.

May Allah guide and help us, as parents, to avoid any and all injustice in relation to our children; and may He help us forge and maintain healthy, well-functioning families. Amin.

RELATED: Muslims: Stop Coddling Your Children… Before It’s Too Late!

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Why did you big brother brother get into smoking weed?
That was smooth 😂