The Prophet ﷺ said,
He is not of us who does not have mercy on young children… (Tirmidhi)
Are you pushing your child to grow up too fast, into what I like to refer to as a “mini-adult”?
In this article, we will focus on a newly emerging phenomenon: the raising of mini-adults.
The Pressure Cooker
There is a lot of pressure in Western society for kids to grow up quickly, and learn more, faster. In addition to educational and societal pressures, there is also an ever-increasing pressure on kids to take on more responsibilities and adult-like behaviors earlier in their lives than ever before.
Do you remember what it was like to be a kid? I do, my days consisted of uninterrupted playtime, summers of swimming and playing games with my friends in my backyard…simple and unstructured fun.
I did not feel hurried on a daily basis, nor did I take on more than the responsibilities of any normal kid.
What I really appreciate about my mom, now that I’m a mom myself, is that she allowed me to just be a kid.
Nowadays, we see children – not teens – acting like little adults. Wearing make-up, revealing clothing…or on the opposite end of the spectrum we see some parents in our own Muslim communities requiring their children to wear jilbâbs and hijabs, everywhere, daily.
While, it is a good practice to get your child into the groove of the Islamic lifestyle and prepare young girls for adulthood and, most definitely, to practice modesty…it is going way too far to make wearing abâyas, khimârs, jilbâbs and hijabs a mandatory dress code for children before they reach the age of puberty.
Doing so is a hindrance on their ability to be kids. Children should be able to be carefree and not be required to “cover”. Some may say, “I am preparing my daughter for her life.” And, to that, I say: “Your child will learn by your own example….and that of her sister, aunt, grandmother and cousins (if they cover).”
It is almost like we want to push our children into more than what they are responsible for, too early for their own good.
I once noticed a sister exiting a masjid one afternoon harshly reprimand her four-year-old daughter for allowing her hijab to come loose and her hair to show.
I thought, “show” to whom exactly? She was only four.
On another occasion, I witnessed a father scold his five-year-old son for eating something off of the table before ifṭâr.
Seeing these episodes always made me wonder what affect they would have on those children. Rather than Ramadan being a joyous occasion, would he remember his childhood and be resentful? Or, in the case of the little girl, would she grow up and be bitter about covering so early in her life and attempt to re-live the freedom lost in her childhood as an adult woman and shed her scarf? May Allah forbid!
There are already more than enough pressures on children today that we do not have to add to them by forcing them to take on more.
Islam has prescribed the time of adolescence as a coming of age for Islamic attire and fasting, and – after that time – this will be the time for obligations to be observed.
As adults, we should be able to look back at, and fondly reminisce about, our childhood, which can and should include dressing up in special clothes to go to the masjid – or trying to fast the entire day as a young child…but, not forcibly so.
Harshness Is Not the Way
Harshness with children was certainly not the way of the Prophet ﷺ. He allowed children to be children as demonstrated in the following aḥâdîth.
Anas ibn Mâlik narrated:
The Apostle of Allah ﷺ came to some children who were playing and he greeted them lovingly. (Abû-Dâwûd)
Ibn ᶜAbbâs narrated:
When the Prophet ﷺ arrived at Makkah, the children of (Banu) ᶜAbd Al-Muṭṭalib received him. He then picked up one of them and placed him in front of him [on his mount] and placed the other behind him. (Bukhâri)
Anas narrated (reminiscing about his childhood):
I served the Prophet ﷺ for ten years, and he never said to me, “Uf” (a minor harsh word denoting impatience) and never criticized me saying, “Why did you do so or why didn’t you do so?” (Bukhâri)
It is clear from numerous aḥâdîth that the Prophet ﷺ was kind and gentle with children and did not object to their playful behavior. In fact, he even carried his grandchild on his shoulders, as displayed in the following aḥâdîth:
I heard the Prophet of Allah ﷺ say, with Al-Ḥasan [the Prophet’s grandson] upon his shoulders: ‘O Allah! I love him [meaning Al-Ḥasan], so pray love him too.’ (Bukhâri, Muslim, Tirmidhi)
We should all take heart of the beautiful and loving character of the Prophet ﷺ. Anas said about him:
I swear by Allah. I have never seen anyone show more mercy to his family than Allah’s Messenger ﷺ. (Muslim)
Again, the Prophet ﷺ loved children, and allowed them to play and act like children, rather than adults.
Problems for Parents Raising Mini-Adults
The problem lies in expecting too much, too soon. And, if you push too hard, chances are that you will regret it later. It’s like pulling a string …if you continue to pull and put more pressure on it, sooner or later, the string will snap.
If you find that you have started to raise a mini-adult, loosen up a little, recall the fond memories of your own childhood, and see to it that your kiddo makes his/her own fuzzy memories to cherish.
By realizing that being overly-strict can cause rebellion in later years, you can re-focus your parenting strategy on the true way of Islam and the actions of the Prophet ﷺ who showed gentleness and tolerance towards children and their childish behavior.
Try to learn to be a kid again yourself by spending more time playing with your kids, hugging them, and showing them affection – again, another noteworthy and heart-warming example of our Prophet ﷺ.
The fact is kids are not supposed to live with the burdens, responsibilities and obligations that we must deal with as adults.
Raise your children to love Islam, and to also care about the reasons why they cover modestly, why they fast and why they pray, for this will enable them to become productive and caring adults in the world—who love and understand their religion.
Stifling the freedom and fun of childhood will eventually backfire.
When you teach love and forbearance in all things, you will also discover that childhood is an exciting time for everyone involved…adults included.
And, no doubt, that approach to parenting will also be fondly remembered.