One hundred years from now, it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove…but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.
This anonymous poem reflects much of the sentiment taught by our beloved Prophet 1400 years ago.
The Messenger of Allah œ said,
If the son of Adam dies, his actions are ceased except three: A continuing charity, knowledge which benefits others, or a righteous son who supplicates for him. (Muslim and Aḥmed)
In our graves, our wealth will be of no benefit to us. The success of our careers, and the level of our degrees will be of no value. How well we raised our children will. And yet so much of our time, so much of our learning and our efforts are spent for the sake of those things, which are fleeting.
In another ḥadîth the Prophet œ said,
A servant will have his rank raised and will say: ‘Lord, how has this come about for me?’ Allah replies, ‘Through your children’s duᶜâ’ for you.’” (Ahmed and Ibn Majah)
When we leave this world, what will we leave behind? What mark will we make? What will we send forward? What will we take? Our children will inherit this life. In their hands may lay our ultimate salvation-or our ultimate ruin. In their hands may lay the ultimate salvation or ruin of our Ummah. Shouldn’t something that important demand our full attention? Shouldn’t we examine ourselves and do our utmost to perfect this crucial skill: parenting.
Do Not Impose – Instill Love Early
Imagine a child raised in a home where, aside from some cultural norms, Islam is essentially irrelevant. Parents are not serious about salah and whatever Islamic practice they do perform is done more out of ethnic customs than Islam. Now imagine the child reaching puberty. A girl who was never really instilled with Islam before, is now forced to wear hijab. A boy whose life was never centered around Islam is now made to attend Ṣalât Al-Jumuah. Will it surprise anyone if those kids rebel?
Consider, on the other hand, a child who was raised knowing and loving the Quran, was taken to the masjid early on, and performed salah alongside his parents. Would hijab or Ṣalât Al-Jumuah need to be imposed? Or would it only be a natural extension for a child whose very nature is Islam? Instill and reinforce love for Allah and His Messenger from the day your children are born.
Kill Your Television and Video Games
Many parents monitor what their children watch, but not how much. No matter how much you monitor, these things are still harmful for a number of reasons. First, watching television is a learned habit that does not disappear in adulthood. A young child could agree to watch Sesame Street. But chances are, a teenager will not. And few could disagree that television programs designed for teenagers and adults contain far from Islamically appropriate content. Secondly, consider the number of hours that are easily eaten up by TV and video games. Children can literally stay up the entire night playing a video game in order to advance to a higher level. Consider the words of our Prophet œ concerning the importance of time:
The feet of a servant will not turn away on the Day of Judgment until he is asked about four things: his lifetime, how he lived it; his youth, how he spent it; his wealth, from where he earned it and on what he spent it, and his knowledge and how he acted on it. (Tirmidhi)
Lastly, studies show that irrespective of content, children who spend a lot of time with television and video games are more aggressive, less likely to read, and more likely to develop attention problems, such as attention deficit disorder.
Spoil Your Kids with Love, Time, and Attention
One unfortunately pervasive myth is that giving children “too much” love, time and affection “spoils” them. This could not be farther from the truth. It is trying to give them other things to replace your love, time and affection, which in fact spoils them. Children who are “spoiled “with love and attention become the most generous, loving and giving of people. Those from whom this love and attention was withheld, often become narrow-hearted and unwilling to give.
No one was more merciful and showed more affection to children than our beloved Prophet œ. He was once visited by a man named Al-Aqraᶜ ibn Hâbis. He lifted his grandson, Al-Ḥassan, placed him on his lap and kissed him. Al-Aqraᶜ remarked, “I have 10 children and I have not kissed a single one of them.” This was a point of pride, manhood—that one is not soft, that one is tough. The Prophet œ said to him, “Can I help it if Allah has removed mercy from your heart?” And he added, “And whoever is not merciful will not receive mercy.” (Bukhâri and Muslim)
Do Not Reward for Acts of Worship
Do not pay your children to fast, or promise them large gifts if they pray. Instill in them a love for Allah that will motivate them internally to perform salah and fast. Social psychologists have shown that when people are given external rewards or motivation to do some activity, they enjoy doing that activity less and are less motivated, than if they are given no external reward but the reward is internally motivated.
Start Attachment Early
Practice attachment parenting early on. When your children are young, let them sleep next to you, and carry them often. Research shows that doing these things does NOT spoil the child, but creates a secure attachment between the parent and child that allows the child to succeed better as an adult. This attachment is a fundamental precursor to successful parenting because without it you cannot fully instill Islam. Consider, for example, the relationship between the Prophet œ and his daughter Fâṭimah. From very early on, she maintained a close relationship with her father who thereby conveyed his mission to her.
Attachment is the First Step to Discipline
If a secure attachment is created early on between the parent and child, discipline will easily follow. If the parent maintains this closeness with the child and shows consistent love and approval, the child will avoid doing things that would disappoint or jeopardize that relationship. Discipline should not and would not need to be done with a stick, but would rather flow naturally. If the relationship were based on love and respect, the child would be motivated by the desire to maintain that respect.
Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem
Make sure your children know how precious they are. Tell them whenever possible how good and how smart they are. Make sure they know what a gift they are and how important they are as a person. Let them know that they can have the ability to change the world, and show them how much faith and hope you have in them. A child who is told he is a failure will always be a failure. And only a child who thinks he can change the world, ever will.