I still vividly remember the first night I spent by myself in the hospital after delivering my eldest son Shaan. The guests were gone for the day, the hallway lights were dimmed, the nurses were speaking outside my room in muted tones.
Knock, knock! came a cheerful voice from the doorway. Someones hungry and wants his mommy!
The nurse wheeled in the crib that held my newborn, only a few hours old at the time. She cooed over him as I struggled to sit up, then efficiently handed him into my waiting arms, bustling out of the room after giving me a few words of encouragement.
I pulled the blanket away from his cheek and smiled in awe at this fragile, little creature who was being left alone with me for the first time ever. I felt privileged to be trusted with his care, overwhelmed with the weight of responsibility. No one was watching over my shoulder; he was all mine and I could do whatever I wanted.
I felt it was an appropriate time to take care of something that no one had thought of arranging so far introductions.
Assalaamu alaikum, I whispered to the warm bundle nestled against my chest, Im your mommy. I stroked his face and then asked the rhetorical question that every mother has asked since time immemorial. Now how am I going to raise you?
Its a question that I have continued to ask since that first magical night in the maternity ward.
Ive asked it of grandparents, parents, sons, and daughters. Ive asked it of Pakistanis, Indians, Afghans, Arabs, Americans, Asians, and Africans. Ive sat people down at parties, emailed friends parents, called up aunties on the telephone, and stopped uncles on their way out the door. Any family whose practice of Islam has impressed me, any child whose manners have stunned me, any teenager whose conduct with his or her sibling has given me reason for pause, any adult whose balance of deen (religion) and dunya (world) has wowed me, I have accosted and asked,
What exactly did your parents do with you?!
How did you raise your children?!
I beg you, tell me the secret of bringing up Mumineen like the ones I see in your home!
What I have found in my years of field research is that nearly all of these families have stumbled upon the same basic secrets to success. While many of them dont necessarily know one another, time and time again they have given me the same advice, the same tips, the same rules. I would catalogue their stories in my head, thinking I could easily remember them later. So when I was recently approached with the request for an article on Muslim parenting tips, I jumped at the chance to put it all down in writing and thus preserve the valuable insights I have gathered over the course of the past twelve years or so.
Here then, for my benefit and yours, are the tips from the experts, the tried-and-true heroes who have worked hard at (and, inshaAllah, succeeded at) securing their childrens minds, hearts, and souls. These words come from those parents like you whose primary purpose in life has been to direct their sons and daughters onto the Path they believe will earn them the Pleasure of their Creator and the respect of their fellow human beings. Some of the advice may seem common sense, the type you could hear on any daytime talk show or read in any self-help book. Other tips genuinely surprised me at how specific and unyielding they were in their insistence that This is the only way. While there has been a whole variety of advice given to me, I have noticed a pattern emerging where the same ten Rules of the Game seem to keep reappearing in different shapes and forms; it is those dominant tips that I have chosen to focus on for the purpose of my article.
I have seen with my own eyes children under the age of ten who willingly set their own alarms to get up for Tahajjud prayer. I have hosted a young soccer marvel in my home who begins his day before mine by reciting Quran at Fajr. I know of an Ivy League university student who insisted on turning the car around because she realized she had left home without giving her mother salaams. I have been acquainted with doctors who make more money in a single month than most people make in a single year yet choose to live in small homes with no mortgages so that their salaries can be spent supporting scholars of Islam. My husband and I work with a young man who once flew with his mother to Jordan, then turned around and returned on the next flight home all of this so that his single mother didnt have to travel across the world alone. I have witnessed fourth graders who were able to sit quietly with impeccable etiquette in front of Muslim scholars while the adults around them stretched, yawned, and sighed. I have heard children silence their young friends with urgent reminders, Dont say that about him! Its backbiting!
A sign of someone whom Allah loves is that when you see him/her, you remember Allah. The examples I have listed here are all people who have caused me to wonder about my own station with Allah in relation to theirs; they have motivated me to at least try to change, to improve. Im sure readers will agree that, although Allah Alone knows the hidden reality of hearts, these people at least seem to have triumphed both in their embodiment of the true spirit of Islam and in their practical participation in the dunya. I pray that Allah Subhana wa Taala will continue to send examples like them into our lives so that we may continue to learn and implement that which draws us closer to Him. Aameen.
1.) Dua, Dua, Dua
None of this is from us, insists one mother of three UC Berkeley graduates who have never voluntarily missed a single prayer. Everything begins and ends with dua. It is only by His Generosity that we have been blessed with believing children; we had nothing to do with it. Now that we have it, we try to hold onto it by showing gratitude and not taking it for granted.
Every single family I have interviewed about raising children in this day and age inevitably began by reminding me about the power of supplication. Every success I have seen in my familys life, I can remember having prayed for it first, admits one grandmother of three huffadh (memorizers of Quran). If my dua doesnt come true in this world, I have faith that it will in the next one, so I have patience.
Another mother of four tells me, I recited Surah Maryam every single day of my pregnancy. I want pious children above all else its all that matters.
A convert friend of mine suggests that couples who are about to embark on the path of parenthood should ask themselves, Why do we even want children? She believes in renewing ones intentions on a daily basis. Who are we doing this for? When she gets embarrassed by something her children say or do, she questions herself, Why am I upset? Is it because Im afraid that theyre doing something displeasing to Allah? Or is it because Im afraid that theyre displeasing people?
Her unwavering dua is that her children live their lives seeking only His pleasure.
Many families shared with me their reliance on Salaat-ul-Istikhaar a (Prayer for Guidance) before making any major life-altering decisions and Salaat-ul-Haajah (Prayer for Need) when desiring something they felt was crucial for their childrens well-being.
All that I have is due to my mothers duas, believes one mother of five children. She was the one who was always praying for us, even when we forgot to.
2.) Suhba (companionship) will make you or break you.
There were times we sacrificed our own friendships in order to do what was best for our children, a couple married for sixteen years tells me. When pressed for reasons why one would end a relationship, they explain, Before we had children, we had friends who drank socially, who played poker, who hosted dance parties. Once our kids were born, we avoided those types of atmospheres. Our social gatherings are now the type where both the respected elders and the innocent children feel welcome and comfortable.
It doesnt necessarily need to be that its the drinking, gambling, partying crowd that is holding you back, muses a mother of elementary school children upon hearing the couples history. I have one set of dinner party friends who believe in a children should be seen and not heard philosophy. They plant the kids around TV sets and video games while the parents socialize in other rooms. Then I have another group of friends who engage their children in the adult conversations, who dont keep the younger ones out of sight, out of mind. Its not much of a mystery which set of adults my own kids prefer to be around.
Sometimes I look around at the people I hang with and I think What happened? laughs a mother who has chosen to homeschool her three kids. None of these people are the type I would have chosen as friends when I was younger, but I admire the way they live their lives and crave the peace and tranquility they trail behind them everywhere they go. They have a sense of purpose and an awareness of Allah in everything they do. I want to pass those qualities on to my own kids, so here we are.
Suhba is of the utmost importance. If you sleep with the dogs, dont be surprised if you rise with the fleas, a respected scholar advises. The words that struck me the hardest with their wisdom?
|When you sit with People of the Dunya, you become a drop in their ocean, but when you sit with People of the Akhira, the dunya becomes a drop in your ocean.|
A person is known by who their friends are, my mother always reminded us.
I had a girlfriend whose company I really enjoyed, remembers one mother wistfully. She was the best person to share a cup of tea with, to go shopping with. So what happened? She and her husband decided that they werent going to raise their children as Muslims. Even though we liked each other a lot, we just didnt see eye to eye on what was appropriate for kids. There were certain behaviors in her home that were complete anathema to us. I decided that I couldnt have an independent friendship with the mom; at some point her kids were going to start influencing my kids, and we needed to part ways so we did.
One father confesses with a sheepish laugh, I dont know if our children are so God-conscious because of anything we necessarily did. My nieces are very spiritual young women, and my own daughters were always drawn to them. I think we got lucky that our children wanted to follow in their older cousins footsteps.
|On the Day of Judgment, youll be standing with the ones you loved most in the dunya,|
reminds another well-loved scholar,
|so choose your friends wisely.|
More than one parent has gushed about the power a charismatic aunt or uncle, imam, halaqa leader, or Sunday School teacher has had over their young ones. Many of the adults gave up a good portion of their weekends, driving long distances to take their children to gatherings and events where they hoped their children would benefit from being around like-minded people. I firmly believe that no friends are better than bad friends, states a father of five childen, but I did go the extra mile to make sure that my kids did have friends with whom they connected.
Sometimes kids start to tune out what the parents say because its all been said before, a mother of a middle schooler smiles. My own parents told me to pray all my life, but it wasnt until I connected with an articulate teacher who explained how prayer was for our benefit that I finally got the message and it was my friends who led me to that teacher.
3.) The Prophet (salAllahu alaihi wasallam) was a living, breathing reality in our lives.
What better suhba is there than one who reminds another of the deen? Can there be a better companion than the Prophet (salAllahu alaihi wasallam)? asks a UCLA graduate married to a doctor who also does interfaith work for Islam.
When a learned scholar was recently asked,
|What should we teach our children?, his response was swift and unequivocal The seerah (biography of the Prophet) and nasheeds (devotional songs of praise). If your kids love the Prophet, they will automatically love Allah.|
|The best way to call people to Islam is to have them fall in love with the Prophet,|
insists another scholar.
|Children should fear and love Allah, but teach them about the love first. They can learn about the fear when theyre older. And who loved Allah more than the Prophet (salAllahu alaihi wasallam)?|
An eight-year-old recently burst into tears when he realized that his mother had neglected to wake him up for the Fajr prayer. The adults who were present exchanged glances, wondering what kind of terror the parents must have driven into this young ones heart. Was he afraid that Allah was going to punish him? Did he think he was going to burn in hell? Upon inquiry, the child revealed that the real cause of his distress was the knowledge that he had neglected something the Prophet (salAllahu alaihi wasallam) took very seriously, something he had exhorted the believers about on his death bed. Needless to say, the mother has been vigilant about waking her son on time for prayer ever since.
Many of the parents made it a regular part of the daily routine to recite the sunnah duas the duas for beginning and ending meals, the duas for entering and leaving the home, the duas for studying until it became automatic. It isnt a surprise for guests in their homes to see children as young as three reciting the dua for traveling as they get strapped into their car seats. We didnt minimize any sunnah in our home, one Pakistani-American father tells me. Once you start to think, Oh, that sunnah isnt a big deal; we can ignore it, youve entered dangerous territiory. What comes next?
A co-worker recently asked me to name one thing that makes Islam different from other faiths, my brother-in-law once shared with me. Among other things, I told him that with Islam I got a prophetic example for how to live my day-to-day life. No other prophets life is so carefully recorded as our Prophets (salAllahu alaihi wasallam).
With toddlers and pre-schoolers, I noticed that a lot of the parents mentioned the Prophet Muhammad (salAllahu alaihi wasallam) as if he were a relevant person in their lives. They talked about him the way one would talk about any respected elder whom the child adored. It wasnt unusual to hear parents telling their little ones, The Prophet Muhammad (salAllahu alaihi wasallam) loved green, so lets wear our green clothes for Friday Prayer! or Prophet Muhammad (salAllahu alaihi wasallam) taught us that we should sit down when we get angry, so lets sit down since youre feeling so frustrated.
While visiting my sister in Southern California one weekend, I noticed that an English translation of Imam Tirmidhis Shamail (Characteristics) sat on my six-year-old nephews beside table. She informed me that it was part of their sons bedtime ritual for her husband to share one hadith from that famous ninth century text with him. Knowing personal things like the fact that the Prophet (salAllahu alaihi wasallam) liked to eat dates with cucumbers makes our son feel like he actually knows the Prophet (salAllahu alaihi wasallam).
Todays generation is so fortunate, mashaAllah, says one grandmother. When our children were younger, there was hardly any quality Islamic literature or media out there. Todays kids have so many choices! My grandchildren go through a different seerah book every year. They are constantly humming new songs about the Prophet (salAllahu alaihi wasallam). I pray that they always find joy in learning about (and then following) their Prophet, inshaAllah.
4.) Having fun wasnt haraam in our home, but we kept the home environment as pure as possible.
It would be extremely remiss of me if I failed to mention that every single family I interviewed emphasized the need to severely limit exposure to entertainment media television in particular, but internet and video games included. There were some families who didnt have a television set in the house at all, while there were others who allowed their children to watch pre-screened Saturday morning cartoons or a family night movie. Computers were always set in a public area of the house where email exchanges and internet research were conducted on a set schedule under the watchful eyes of involved parents.
|If Shaytan (Satan) were to ring our doorbell and ask if he could come in and babysit our children, we would throw him out, one scholar says, yet we allow the television set to do exactly that we literally invite Shaytan in when we turn the TV on!|
Preserving my childrens fitra (primordial state) is of the highest priority to us, one mother of two pre-schoolers tells me. Right now, the difference between right and wrong is so clear in their eyes; they really get it when we explain whats what to them. The entertainment industrys depiction of whats normal manages to confuse adults, so just imagine what it does to children!
Were Indian, but we never watched Bollywood films in our home, a friend admits matter-of-factly. We didnt have bhangra dance parties; we didnt wear revealing clothing like skimpy saris and sleeveless blouses; we werent allowed to be overly chummy with our guy cousins.
Basically, what shes letting me know is that what is often excused as culture was not allowed to contradict the Islamic shariah her parents taught her to respect.
But dont think we were bored or deprived! she is quick to reassure me. My parents inculcated in us a love of Urdu poetry. We read classic English literature aloud to one another in the evenings and went on father-daughter hikes in the mornings. My mother showed us how to garden, my father taught us how to fish. My brother had a paper route; the younger ones were Girl Scouts. We had a home life full of energy and activity.
Its important to replace every haraam you stop your child from with at least two halaals they can enjoy, advises a popular Muslim family counselor. You dont want your children to grow up thinking that Islam is just a bunch of nos no, you cant do this; no, you cant do that. She laughs heartily, Make it about yes, we can!
I have a Yemeni friend who has taken that philosophy to heart with gusto. She and her husband may not throw birthday or New Years Eve parties, but you should see the festivities they do arrange. When her twins memorized the thirtieth juz (chapter of the Quran), the picnic in the park was enjoyed with two separate gourmet cakes and party favors for all. When this same brother-sister team went on to memorize the twenty-ninth juz, they came home from school to discover their bedrooms decorated with streamers and presents. My five-year-old son Raahim and his pre-school buddies recently memorized ten surahs under this aunties guidance, and she was quick to organize a party complete with a pinata, awards, balloons, and treats. With memories like these, Muslim adults are bound to look back on their childhoods as a time filled with celebrations, inshaAllah.
There is so much fitna (tribulation) out there in the world. We cant protect our kids from everything bad, warns a devout grandfather of ten children. But it is for that very reason that the home must be an oasis where Allah is remembered and obeyed, where children can relax and feel cherished, where they can practice their religion without feeling apologetic or alien. The home environment should be as halaal as possible. Our litmus test was always Would we be ashamed if the Prophet (salAllahu alaihi wasallam) were to walk into our house right now? Is there anything we would want to hide?.
The result of this familys test was a tidy, simply furnished home where the television set was absent and books lined the shelves. Flowers bloomed outside every window, intricate Islamic calligraphy adorned the walls, and healthful food was served with generosity and enthusiasm to all who entered. The sense of serenity in the air was something tangible.
Ill never forget what one daughter of a highly respected elder in the community told me when I asked her how her siblings remained so close to their parents despite being raised in a small town with only a handful of Muslims. Didnt they ever rebel? How did they resist the siren song of the un-Islamic peer culture around them?
|If you feel love in your home, you dont look for it anywhere else.|
5.) Our parents didnt just talk the talk, they walked the walk.
In other words, they practiced what they preached.
I dont get it when I hear mothers telling their kids Dont tell lies and then in the next breath smoothly tell phone callers, Oh, hes not home right now when the husband is sitting right there in front of them, says a medical school resident who is spending time learning Hanafi fiqh as well. Or how about when parents teach their kids Its wrong to backbite and then complain about the in-laws to anyone who will listen? Its just beyond me.
When pressed for examples of not succumbing to hypocrisy in his own family life, he says that his parents taught him and his siblings the importance of prayer and then never allowed them to miss any, even if it meant praying in the middle of Disneyland. Our dad taught us that while there might be a time for fun and play, it never comes at the expense of giving up our duties to Allah. And since he was always the first to stand up for prayer, we just naturally followed.
Another experienced mother gave me this age-old advice, You can teach your kids the rules of prayer all you want, but if youre not going to pray, theyre not going to pray. Children learn from what their parents do, not just what they say.
But its not enough to just teach your children to pray, interjects another mother who was raised a secular Jew but is now Muslim. What about how you pray? Do you have presence in your prayer? Are you sad if you ever miss a prayer? Those lessons are all just as important as learning to pray.
I was once working with an African-American convert friend when the time for Maghrib prayer came in. I had been busy taking care of some tasks, but I stopped and said, Well, I guess I better go get my prayer out of the way.
Startled, she looked up and then chuckled. In our house, we say were going to get prayer in the way.
SubhanAllah, what a difference one word makes! What a difference in attitude!
I was sitting in my room reciting my morning dhikr while the kids were completing an art project in the family room, an Egyptian friend shared with me the other day. It suddenly struck me that I always recite my litanies in private, so I got up and joined them in their area of the house. They continued to paint while I continued with my prayers. They need to see me doing this and they need to see me doing this happily.
The other day one of my sons became frustrated while searching for an elusive pencil in the writing desk. He shoved papers aside and slammed the drawer shut when no pencil materialized, grumbling the entire time. I began to lecture him about the merits of patience when I realized that I had behaved in the exact same manner while looking for my keys a few days earlier. Children really are like sponges; they soak in everything around them. Garbage in, garbage out, cautions one teacher.
Children need to see that Islam worked in our home, says another scholar. Islam isnt just about praying and fasting and charity. Islam is an attitude that must be infused in the mundane day-to-day dealings with life. Do parents treat each other with respect? How do they react to the ups and downs of life? Children are constantly learning from their parents, even when the parents dont think they have anything to teach.
6.) I wasnt afraid to be the Bad Guy, but I never behaved badly.
I know more than one mother who doesnt feel comfortable telling her child to pray or maybe to dress more modestly, thinking that her kid will be mad at her if she starts holding him/her to higher standards. I know of a couple of fathers who have turned a blind eye to certain immoral behaviors witnessed in their teenagers, never once speaking out, telling their exasperated wives, I dont want to judge our kids. Its a tough age and they have to fit in.
The adults Ive asked for parenting advice had no qualms about upsetting their children from time to time.
There were times when I knew that I shouldnt go to this place or go out with that person, but I would ask Ammi anyway, wanting her to be the one to put her foot down and she always did, remembers my brother. Kids want their parents to set limits and be authority figures, even if they wont admit it.
I enjoy my childrens company; we laugh together, we read the same books, we even share each others clothes, chuckles one mother of two teenage daughters who race to give up their seats for her. But at the end of the day, they know that I am their Mother. I am friendly with them, but they cannot treat me like a girlfriend.
Weakness in those who are supposed to be in a position of authority only invites contempt, contends a mother of two. Its important to know whos boss.
One father of four looks back on his youth and laughs appreciatively, My mother didnt worry about not rocking the boat when we were in high school. She was willing to capsize the boat if she found us doing something that wasnt okay with her!
Other parents impressed upon me the importance of having high expectations of their children. We have to gently push kids out of their comfort zones, an Afghan father says. If you expect more, your kids will often pleasantly surprise you, but its important to communicate those expectations.
One mother always assumed that her children would eventually begin praying simply because they saw that prayer was a priority for her. When a friend asked her why her ten-year-old daughter didnt join the other girls for prayer, this mom realized that she had never communicated her hopes to her own daughter. It was only a matter of discussing it! she exclaims with genuine surprise. I sat her down for a serious grown-up talk. I said, Honey, youre older now and prayer needs to be a regular part of your routine. She listened so attentively! When Asr came in, she ran to get her prayer rug and misbaha (prayer beads) and joined me for salaah. Shes the one who wakes me for Fajr now. Its almost as if she was just waiting for me to tell her, This is what I expect of you.
While these parents were quick to lay down the law with their children, there was one old world law that they all shied away from corporal punishment. We did not hit our children, they say adamantly.
One grandmother feels very strongly about this issue. Only uneducated, uncivilized people who are incapable of communication resort to hitting little kids.
Well, there might be a place for a good old fashioned spanking every now and then, argues a mother of four college students. When my daughter was four years old, she ran out in public without her underwear on for the umpteenth time. In my opinion, it was too dangerous to let her keep getting away with that kind of behavior, so I finally let her have it. She got the message and never forgot it and I never had to spank her again.
Physically beating your children for the simplest infractions seemed to be an acceptable mode of discipline a generation or so ago. The parents I spoke with are loath to raise their hands on their kids. Every time you hit your kids, you have to keep upping the levels, a financial analyst tells me. I knew of a parent who used to twist her kids ears. After a while, that had no effect, so she started smacking them on their hands. When the desired behaviors were no longer obtained using that method, she resorted to swatting them on their bottoms and shaking them in frustration. I mean, where does it end?
I spent a good portion of the afternoon just yesterday baking banana crumb muffins from scratch. I offered one to a son of mine and sent him out on the back deck to enjoy his snack. As I watched in horror from the kitchen window, I saw him breaking off big chunks of the fresh muffins and forcefully slamming them down on to the floorboards outside. I rushed out the door and surveyed the crumbs all over the deck, the same deck I had washed just that morning. What are you doing?! I screeched.
He looked up in surprise. Oh.
WHAT are you doing?!
Im trying to kill a spider thats bothering me.
I clenched my hands at my side and whispered through gritted teeth, Son, please walk away from me right now. Im very upset and I am sure that I will spank you if you are near me and this mess. I need time to cool off, so you better run.
His eyes grew wide and he scampered off.
Im so grateful that Allah Subhana wa Taala allowed me to restrain myself in that moment of anger. The crumbs were easily swept up, there were still plenty of muffins left, my son learned his lesson about not wasting food, and I was eventually able to laugh at his logic for dealing with arachnids but only after an hour had passed. Letting out my frustration on him by hitting him might have felt good in that moment, but the resulting misery would have lasted much longer for both of us.
7.) I always kept them close by.
I wasnt surprised to see that nearly all of the families I spoke with had the mother at home caring for the children, but I was shocked by how many of the families shared the same steadfast rule No sleepovers.
Every night I know which bed my kid is sleeping in, says a homeschooling mom of two and wife of a university professor. And that bed is one I can check on whenever I want.
Friends were always welcome to come to our home for sleepovers, reminisces a young woman who grew up with a twin brother. My mom went all out popcorn during midnight movies, pancakes for breakfast, privacy for chatting and giggling late into the night. But we could never sleep in anyone elses home unless our parents were there with us.
I saw too many weird things in other friends homes when I was younger and that was just during the daytime, remembers an attorney and father of three. The first time my best friend saw a dirty magazine was when he spent the night at his neighbors house. I might have resented their strictness a bit when I was younger, but in my heart I knew that my parents were right to keep us in our clean, safe, and cozy home.
I never let them go far from me when they were little, explains a mother of two when asked by me how to raise a dutiful son like hers. My kids could have gone on camping trips and overnight field trips with other parents as chaperones, but unless my husband or I were there, they didnt go. My husband was once willing to consider a prestigious boarding school for one of our gifted children, but I said, No way. I just couldnt let my family be split in different directions; the time we had with them was already short enough.
No nannies or daycares for our family, says a grandmother of five. And dont think that I wasnt tempted! I raised three babies on my own without any help from grandmothers or aunts. A one income family meant that we only took local vacations and drove second-hand cars. We lived in a small home. I went back to work only after the kids were in school, but I was always at home in time to greet them with a smile, a hug, and an after-school snack. Even now, my children tell me that the smell of peanut butter and jelly gives them a feeling of security.
8.) We didnt spoil our kids nor did we praise them too much.
Its important to me that my kids dont grow up ingrained in this Sibling Society, a college professor and father of three tells me.
When asked the definition of a sibling society, he explains that its the environment where grown adults behave and are treated like children. Weve extended adolescence where we excuse bad behavior by saying Oh, hes just going through that rebellious phase. Hes only sixteen; hell outgrow it. Outgrow it when? Throughout history, puberty has been considered the onset of adulthood; nowadays we have university graduates who behave like babies tantrums, irresponsible behavior, no sense of accountability.
This father celebrates his childrens birthdays every year by giving them a new toy and a new duty. When my son turns seven, hell get that monster truck hes been craving, but hell also get a new responsibility for the year he has to make sure that all the doors in the house are locked before going to bed.
He and his wife believe that having responsibilities, even small ones, inculcates in children a sense of contribution and chivalry.
I was recently given cause to reflect when a friend of mine politely refused an invitation for her daughter to recite her award-winning poem at a masjid event. MashaAllah, she has received a lot attention and praise this past week for that poem, she sighed. The other day she just happened to be interviewed for a local science program on television too. I just dont think its beneficial for her nafs (ego) to be in the spotlight too much, so Im going to have to say no.
This mother believes that praise becomes cheap when it is given for that which children have no control over; she feels that kids should have to earn the praise that comes their way. Whats the point in telling a child who always gets As, Youre so smart? Or telling a pretty child, Youre so beautiful? Telling a child whos struggled through an assignment, Im proud of how hard you worked on that difficult worksheet is so much more meaningful.
One mother who is often asked the secret behind her kids contentment with life has this theory to offer: Its actually something Ive discovered by accident. We have never been motivated to buy the latest gadgets and gizmos for our kids. To compensate for the things that we wont buy, we give them something thats free yet still very valuable our time. I bake with them, their dad wrestles. We snuggle on the couch and read together. I think theyre rarely dissatisfied with material goods because they are just so grateful for what little they do get. They dont have a sense of entitlement. And since whining has never worked anyway, they just dont bother.
The father adds, Well, to be honest, we are spoiling them, except that were spoiling them with something thats lasting, not fleeting our love.
9.) Talk to your kids.
I was once singing Rain, rain, go away; Come again another day; Shaan and Ameen want to play with my kids when my brother interrupted us.
Dont teach them that! Rain is a blessing! You dont want them rejecting blessings just because they want fun, he chided.
After experimenting with the lyrics, we ended up singing, Rain, rain, pour, pour, pour; Youre a mercy from our Lord; Rain, rain, fall on me; I turn to Allah gratefully. To this day, whenever dark clouds dampen a day that they had hoped to spend outside, my kids console one another by saying, Its okay. California needs the rain. Allah is being Kind to us.
This suggestion by my brother is a reminder of another piece of advice that families have repeatedly given me Never miss out on a teaching moment.
When your kids are younger, you should take advantage of every opportunity to guide them, remind them, advise them, instructs an Iraqi father of two girls. Of course, theres a fine line between nagging and teaching, between being judgmental and being perceptive. Nevertheless, I encourage my children to look at everything through the eye of discernment . What does everything around us mean? Why is that billboard saying that their brand of soda will guarantee a successful party? What was the real reason that car driver honked his horn like that? Why does this movie make parents look like bumbling fools? Is having to wait in a long line ever a reason to lose your temper with a bank teller? Talk, talk, talk to your kids! Even if they dont say anything, believe me, theyre listening!
I want to get my voice into my kids heads while theyre young, says one mom. There are so many forces competing for our kids minds; I want to get in while I can. There will come a time when we all have to let go, but Im hopeful that my children will always remember their root values once theyre out on their own, inshaAllah.
The families Ive admired have all made a point of being present with their children, answering their questions patiently and respectfully, not getting annoyed with their seemingly random thoughts. The kids feel that they can ask any question and discuss any subject without any judgment on the part of the parents.
You know that cliche Theres no such thing as a dumb question? asks a Persian friend. Well, that was always true in our family. I could ask my mom anything, and I was always confident that I would get an honest answer. There were times when I was told that I would have to wait a bit before she was ready to teach me certain truths, but I was able to be patient because I knew that the truth was eventually coming.
10.) They had a pious father who engaged them.
Yes, there are pious mothers who have raised wonderful Muslim kids despite having husbands who not only didnt support them, but even disapproved of their attempts to teach their kids the basics about the deen. And there are single moms who are doing an incredible service to the Ummah by sacrificing, striving, and successfully raising the next generation of believers. We all are more than aware that the mother is the first madrassa (school). And there are examples after examples of mothers who spend the night on the prayer mat weeping in prostration for the future of their families; their secrets are known only to Allah.
But over and over I have seen lackadaisical mothers with pious husbands and the kids have turned towards their fathers like flowers to the sun. How many of us know of young adults who roll their eyes at their mothers religiosity while holding their fun-loving , worldly, secular fathers up as paragons of rationalism and intelligence? There is a power that fathers have over their offspring, the depth of which we can never fully comprehend; the truth manifests itself when we witness which parent the kid most often chooses to emulate.
A majority of the families I spoke with extolled the virtues of the Amir of the House: the man who led his children in congregational prayer, the father who gently but firmly encouraged his daughters modesty, the husband who fulfilled his wifes rights without demanding his own, the responsible breadwinner, the dad who put a stop to gossip the moment it started, the Muslim who held fast to his principles (whether it was a father who refused to allow his co-workers to shorten his name from Mohammad to Mo or the dad who wouldnt travel on Fridays so that his Jumah prayer wouldnt be jeopardized ). The grown children remember their fathers integrity and quiet examples long after they have entered parenthood on their own, voluntarily choosing to mold their own lives in honor of a man who didnt force his way of life down their throats when they were younger.
My mother lectured and taught and scolded and reminded us the entire time we were growing up, one mother of three sons remembers with amusement. My father told me maybe only five things related to the deen my whole life and yet I remember every single one; Ive never forgotten. I only wish he had shared his thoughts with me more often.
While I have always been a fan of how to and top ten lists, I have never allowed myself to be deluded into believing that there are any guarantees for raising righteous children. It hasnt been lost on me that the greatest man in humanity, the Prophet Muhammad (salAllahu alaihi wasallam), was intially raised by a single mom and that too after being sent away to live amongst the bedouins in the desert while still a baby. Many of the rules here didnt apply to his blessed life. His was a singular circumstance, having been raised by Allah Subhana wa Taala Himself. All we can do is try to lay out a safe framework in hopes of trying to reach what he (salAllahu alaihi wasallam) reached through Allahs largesse.
If we want to be successful at something, it behooves us to look at those who have succeeded before us. Each of us has something we can learn from the experiences of another.
There may be some who will read through the list of tips I have collected and think, We didnt do any of those things, yet our kids turned out just fine!
To them, I say, Alhamdulillah! Its true that there are many kids who didnt have a single one of these rules applied to their lives, and, by the Grace and Mercy of Allah, have turned out to be exemplary Muslims.
And without going into unnecessary details, I will say that I have also seen the most pious, practicing, loving parents be disappointed by their children at every turn. These parents are in the company of prophets like Prophet Adam and Prophet Nuh (upon whom be peace) who had sons who rejected their teachings yet these were fathers who were from among the best of humanity, parents who were in a constant state of supplication and prayer, who received guidance from Above. We can only pray that Allah Subhana wa Taala will not test us through our children the way He tested these great men and their wives. Its interesting to note that many of the men and women in my article have confessed that there were times they felt that they had failed in their duties as parents but took heart knowing that with Allahs help all obstacles could be overcome. Eventually, they all came to the conclusion that there was only so much they could do; they needed to submit to Allahs will.
There is great comfort in knowing that parents will be rewarded not for how our children turn out but for the intentions we had while raising them, for the steps we took to facilitate their deeni success. All we can do is take the means; the end is up to Allah. Even if ones kids go astray, advises a scholar, one should always leave a door open for them and pray that they will one day come back. We should never cut off relations; we should never despair of Allahs Mercy and Guidance.
Parenting and living in this dunya is such a struggle, reflects one friend. We have aspirations of who we want to be as parents and we strive to achieve them, and then are saddened by seeing our failures. I guess its really about the courage to continue to renew ones intentions and to pray for tawfiq (success).
None of the parents I interviewed felt safe or believed that they had won and were now done with their work. They continued to pray for daily tawfiq long after everyone had started lauding them for the fine job they had done raising their children. It doesnt matter how wonderfully we live our lives, says one local scholar and father of two girls. What really matters is how we end our lives (husn al-khatima). ..were not safe until we die with imaan (faith) in our hearts.
It is with that knowledge that we pray that Allah Subhana wa Taala grants us the dua for a pure progeny that He granted Prophet Ibrahim, Prophet Zakariya, and the mother of Maryam (upon them all be peace). We pray that we are able to be worthy teachers for our children who will carry this noble religion on, a precious trust to be handed from one generation to the next. May we not be the weak link. Aameen.
| O my Lord! Make me one who establishes regular Prayer, and also (raise such) among my offspring.
O our Lord! And accept Thou my Prayer.
O our Lord! Cover (us) with Thy Forgiveness me, my parents, and (all) Believers,
On the Day that the Reckoning will be established!
~ The Holy Quran (14:40)