I can’t believe in just a matter of a couple months my firstborn will be reaching the big milestone of becoming baaligh (reaching the age of responsibility in Islam). While we have been seasoning her for this new jump into “adulthood,” it’s hard not to wax nostalgic about those early days of innocence.
Every parent knows that with our first children we often do a lot of “experiments.” Will this technique of discipline work or not? How about this method of sleep training? Let’s try and see…. There is a lot of second guessing, and a lot of mistakes. But through it all there is that running constant that this is, after all, our first child. The being that made us parents in the first place.
By the grace of God, our eldest was quite the easy child. She was, and still is, always eager to please and very intelligent.
But this new milestone often has us left with a blank stare. How do we approach praying? Fasting? Hijab?
We have prayed a lot for the strength to make this transition easy and fruitful, for us, and for our daughter. Here are some tips on dealing with the age of bulugh.
5 tips on making the transition to the age of bulugh
- Early communication: As parents we must sit down with our children and communicate these new responsibilities early on, without scaring or burdening our children. This concept of “well one day she’ll be 9 and she’ll just do it” might not cut it for every kid. Prepare your children and it will be a much easier transition.
- Practice makes perfect: We started slightly enforcing praying, fasting and hijab early on, so that in bits and pieces our daughter would get used to it. While we wouldn’t force them on our child, we explained the importance behind it and we enforced these concepts progressively. For example, when she was 6 we started encouraging her to wear hijab outside. Last summer, we asked her to try and fast 2 whole days. And the summer before, we encouraged her to fast half-days. While introducing these obligations, we don’t burden her with all the rules, but rather the point behind it.
- Treats and rewards: And we encouraged her to keep going by giving her rewards. When she completed her first fast, we took her out for her favorite dinner. When she started wearing hijab full time, we let her buy new hijabs for herself.
- Love and encouragement: Each time our daughter would accomplish or complete any religious duties, we showered her with praise and love. And we never made her feel less if she didn’t comply. Our point was simply to communicate why these obligations are in place and what they mean to us as Muslims. Often parents will force their children to undertake responsibilities that they just don’t have to do. This could lead to resentment later, especially if not approached properly with love and nurturing. Teach your children the importance first and God-willing, they will continue on their own.
- A big party: The age of responsibility is a big milestone. And it should be celebrated as such, with due importance given to the fact that now Allah the Almighty considers the child worthy of completing His worship. Have pride in your religion, and your child will follow suit.
Sometimes when my daughter will have questions about her religious obligations, I feel like just saying, “You have to do it. That’s it.” But I have to sit back and realize that it takes time to understand and I am doing a disservice to my child if I just wake them up one day and say, “OK, from today onwards you have to read all these prayers, perform all these tasks, don’t forget this, or that….”
Through progressively introducing these obligations to our children, and communicating with them through love and respect, our children will understand what is coming. And there will be hard days, days when they won’t want to comply. We have to take it in stride, and pray to Allah for guidance and help. May He ease this transition for all our children, and keep them steadfast on the path of Islam.
Editor’s note: Islamic Insights is honored to host the “Raising Faith” column by esteemed guest contributor and student from Qum, Sister Samira Rizvi. Besides being a former newspaper copy editor, Rizvi is a mother of three, an author who writes for Little Muslim Books, and maintains a personal blog. Her column will focus on her experiences in tarbiyat—the upbringing of children based on Islamic values. For past articles in the column see here.