In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, are we providing our children a nurturing environment? Do we allow our children the space they need to grow and explore?
During his lifetime, the Holy Prophet gave us great examples of how to deal with children. We see the way he treated his daughter, Sayyida Fatima Zahra (sa). The way he addressed her with respect and honor. How he would stand up for her when she entered the room. She, in turn, was known as “Umme Abiha,” or “mother of her father,” because of how she would take care of her father.
Respecting our children doesn’t mean giving them the upper hand. On the contrary it means we honor their existence as creations of Allah. We respect this trust given to us by Our Creator.
Imam Ali (as) in his last will and testament to his son, wrote, “My dear son! You are a part of my body and soul, and whenever I look at you I feel as if I am looking at myself. If any calamity befalls you, I feel as if it has befallen me…”
When we read how our AhlulBayt talked about their children, we see that they indeed respected their offspring as something more than just the next generation. They wanted to raise them with the sense of responsibility and pride of the values they held dearly.
So we should also follow in their footsteps when talking to and dealing with our children. We should not shame them in public, nor make them feel as if they are lower than us. But we should enable them to stand strong and be a productive member of the Muslim Ummah.
We also have the famous examples of how the Holy Prophet (saw) treated his grandsons, Imams Hasan and Husayn (as). How when the Holy Prophet would be in prostration and his grandsons would climb on his back, he would continue his dhikr (invocation) until they climbed off. It is with this gentle demeanor that enables a young child to gain a positive attachment to prayer and worship.
Often we forget that children are born with a nature and personality all their own. While it doesn’t mean we don’t give them realistic guidelines, it does mean that we will have to properly address their needs.
Imam Sajjad (as) has said that a man’s character is made of two things – his genes and his environment. Naturally if there is a problem, it may be easier to address the environmental factor, but it’s not to say one cannot address the genetic influence. It will just take more time.
Some kids get an easy pass to continue with any harmful behavior because we simply address it as being “part of his genes.” But we must be careful to understand that any harmful behavior, if left alone, can be detrimental to a child’s future. A stubborn child can still be guided. It will definitely take more work on behalf of the parents, but with the right effort it can be done.
For some parents they believe they are nurturing their child simply by giving the child whatever they want. But that is a disservice to a child, and only paints a very unrealistic view of the world in their mind.
In the same token, putting too many responsibilities on a child when they are not ready is also harmful. It robs them of their need to play and be free. And when a need is not met in the proper way, it could create a void that yearns to be fulfilled.
These are a few ways to foster a nurturing environment at home:
- Give your child time – Put away the phones, turn off the TV, and just listen to them. Be attentive and look them in the eyes. Don’t let them think for one second that they need to seek attention elsewhere.
- Let them ask questions – Any question should be allowed. If a child addresses a topic that is inappropriate for their age, don’t shush them. Address it simply – “You don’t need to worry about that now.” Or in a small statement – “Babies are born from mommies.” Let them know when they get older, you can explain more. Don’t ever let your children think that their questions aren’t important or are too “taboo” to ask. They will ask someone else.
- Be patient – Sometimes a child needs different directions when it comes to tasks we deem as simple. Don’t rush them. Give them ample time to complete the task. If putting on shoes takes more time than you have, then start early. Direct them toward the task gently, and then be clear – “We have to leave soon. Please put on your shoes and stand by the door.” A young child might not understand time like you, and picking shoes might be a really important decision for them at that time.
- Allow room for mistakes – It’s hard as parents when we have to clean up after our children’s mistakes, knowing that it was bound to happen. But remember that is how children learn. Granted that we make it a teaching experience, and not shame them. Let them know everyone makes mistakes, even parents. But it’s important to learn from them, and try to do better next time.
- Be loving, yet firm and consistent – Sure you might want to just spoil your kids and give in to every demand, but that won’t help your kids. Limits and a proper routine actually will help you raise kids with a healthy foundation. They learn about accountability and responsibility.
May the Almighty give us the opportunity to raise our children in a nurturing and loving environment, where they instill a positive attachment to religion and Allah. And may we follow in the tradition of our Holy Prophet and Imams and deal with our children through love and respect.
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.