ABU DHABI // A prominent Saudi marriage counsellor has advised Emiratis to keep their family bonds strong by showing love to one another.
Dr Maysara Taher, the chief adviser at the House of Counselling centre in Jeddah, told an audience at the majlis of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, that the best preparation to give children was to raise them with love.
"If you ask children what do they want from parents, the most important thing they will say is love, followed by differentiating between them and their mistakes," he said.
He said too many people today have replaced real love with narcissistic love.
He told the audience that to differentiate the two they should look to the Quran's illustration of real love as a love leading to feeding people, and expecting nothing in return.
"Do we love our kids like this," he asked, "or do we think we didn't get ourselves a car, to get them a car?"
He said it was important for parents to give their children a "look of love", to greet them with open arms, to kiss them regularly and to say kind words to them.
Parents should also learn to feed each other at the dinner table, followed by feeding their children.
"Feed your wife, then feed the children, starting with the oldest and ending with the youngest, then the wife should do the same," he said.
Seeing some in the audience looking puzzled, he acknowledged that it was difficult but insisted such small acts made a difference.
"When they fall asleep, tickle them with your beard until they are almost awake, cover them and kiss them," he said.
He discouraged women from using their children's faults as conversation openers with others and talking about them in their absence, as "they cannot defend themselves".
Mothers should also refrain from praying for their children to be cursed, he said.
Aside from showing love, parents needed to differentiate between their children and their mistakes by making it clear that they were angry at the child's actions or behaviour but did not love them any less.
Parents should not ignore their children for more than 20 minutes at a time, he advised.
"One parent came to me and said he and his wife have been ignoring their nine-year-old for seven months for a mistake he made. Imagine. If a person is raised with no love, they will not have values and always be in a search to find themselves."
He said the last important thing for the family was a "lover's touch". "Keep touching her to keep her looking young," he said.
At the end, men were advised to be patient as their wives shop, trust their intuition and, even after decades of marriage, to always say "I love you". "When women go shopping, God have mercy on your parents," he said. "She might not even buy anything, but she will need to go through all the aisles."
He said in this situation, all that a man can do is pull up a chair and work as an adviser for women.
And near to the end, men need to transform into a "lion", and not give up.