Values and principles are very important elements in educating children. Every family should have what is called ‘a family value and its principle.’ The Muslim families in this regard are recommended to use the holy Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (saws). The children should be taught to understand these Islamic values and the principles so that they can inculcate them in their attitudes, writes IRFAN ALI.
Imagine the policeman knocking on your door in the middle of the day or night telling you that your son is been apprehended for stealing, drinking, or worse for murder.Imagine your child after his/ her maturity questioning, or denying, a principle of Islam, or worse, claiming atheism. Hence, it is every parent’s nightmare to see their children become someone they do not wish for. So, as a parent of four children myself, I know from first-hand experience that parenting is a very stressful and challenging task that unfortunately every parent will have to endurably embark on.
Sometimes, even after our best effort, our children do not turn to be the persons we hoped for. It is, therefore, vital to continuously remind ourselves with the importance of good parenting and the need to always acquire the skills that can help us along the long journey to a successful and effective way of parenting. Generally, there are many factors that can break or make the child, including, first and foremost, the relationship that exists between the parents themselves.
So, the objective of this paper is, therefore, to give a road-map to the way of effective parenting by starting with the relationship that exists between husband and wife and between parents and the children themselves. However, before coming to that, I will try to define good parenting so as to establish some basic understanding of the co-relationship between the parents’ relation with each other and parents-children relation. In addition, it will highlight some very important steps that, despite all the challenges of the parenting, if they are followed, should make the job easier for parents. I hope this work will contribute to the betterment of the Muslim families, Inshallah.
What is Good Parenting?
As mentioned earlier, being a good parent does not necessarily mean your children will be good. So, it is important to always improve your knowledge of parenting. You should not follow others blindly. What works for A, might not necessarily work for B. Likewise, what worked for your parents when they were raising you, might not necessarily work for yourself in raising your own children. Hence, good parenting happens when a person creates for a child a stable, nurturing home environment, a positive role model, and plays a positive and active part in a child’s life. Good parents provide moral and spiritual guidance, set limits, and provide consequences for a child’s behavior. Good parents accept responsibility for the total development of the child and guide the child in making sound and healthy life decisions through open communication and mutual respect.
Spouse relationship is one of the first areas that parents should examine. Having healthy and comprehensive relationship with your wife at home, especially when your children are around, contributes a lot to the well-being of the family. It indirectly educates your children to love and respect others as they see their parents doing at home. The children usually grow up with the reflection of the family’s values and principles that are set by the parents at home. If these principles and values are founded with true love, respect, tolerance and dignity, the children will mostly inculcate them in their behaviors and carry forward with them in their lives. The lucky ones will straighten on these behaviors or expand them with the education they later get from school and from other experience in life. Unfortunately, the unlucky ones are often altered by bad influences from friends, pressure of some societal factors or bad choices they later make in life.
Patterns of Spousal Relationship
There are three patterns of relationship which determine the kind of relationship a person has with his wife: domination, lack of communication, and Justice and balanced relationship. This third pattern which is based on mutual respect is the closest to the Islamic view point.
- Domination: This happens when one spouse dominates another. It often includes physical, mental or verbal abuses. Lack of consultation and manipulation are very common. It is more similar to the relation between slave and his master than the wife and husband. Unfortunately, these practices still exist in our community. Though the Qur’an has clearly prohibited it. Allah tells us through His Last Messenger (saws):
“O my servants! I have indeed prohibited injustice upon myself and made it prohibited among you, so do not oppress one another.” (Muslim)
“Avoid oppression, because oppression will result in deep darkness on the Day of Resurrection; and avoid stinginess, because stinginess has destroyed those who preceded you.” (Muslim)
- Lack of communication:Sometimes, there is little, if any, communication taking place between wife and husband. The two individuals share the same house, but live in two different worlds. They avoid seeing each other, talking to each other, or even eating together. They feel like prisoners trapped in a marriage. Such a pattern is not in the interest of family well-being or success, and it can lead to divorce. Once it ends in divorce, only the children will suffer the most. Allah (swt) reminded us, He says:
“Treat them fairly. For if you dislike (one of) them then it might be that you dislike a thing but Allah has placed a lot of good in it.” (Qur’an 4:19)
And the Prophet (saws) said:
“Let not a believing man hate a believing woman; if he dislikes a characteristic in her, he would be pleased by other characteristics.” (Muslim)
- Justice and balanced relationship: In this pattern, we see justice and balance in the relationship between husband and wife. Their times are spent together. Though they have their personal or individual time and space, but those do not affect the family one. They have mutual respect for one another, adequate communication always takes place. They consult each other on everything, pertaining to family matters. They are both prepared to compromise on things and accept the responsibility of their actions, both good and bad. Ultimately, all Islamic values and principles are observed. This pattern is more or less, the closest to that of Islam. The goal is to strive to get whatever it takes for the benefit of the family and the success of the children.
Allah (swt) says:
“The believers – men and women – they are patrons unto each other. They enjoin the virtuous, forbid evil, Pray, pay the alms and obey Allah and His Messenger. These – Allah will show them mercy. Surely, Allah is All‑mighty, All‑wise. Allah has promised the believing men and believing women gardens beneath which rivers flow, abiding therein forever, and dwellings pleasant – in the Gardens of Eden. But the Good Pleasure of Allah is the greatest (of blessings). That, indeed, is the great triumph.” (Qur’an 9: 71-72)
Imam Ghazali said:
“A child is a trust in the hands of his parents. His mind is a precious diamond; if conditioned on good morals, it has the potential to become perfect. But if conditioned on evil ways, it can also become a beast, degrading itself.”
To make this easier, it is necessary to establish an Islamic environment by carefully selecting your neighborhood. We tend to give more thought or concern to how the house or an apartment looks but we give less concern to its location whether it is in safe environment or the neighbors we are going to share things with are good people or not. For the family to be secure, we need a stable and Islamically evolve environment. Not only should the neighborhood be safe, but the following should be kept in mind when selecting a house or an apartment:
- Its closeness to Islamic Institutions, schools, recreational facilities, and public transportation. With working distance, children can have easy access to these facilities.
- Establishment of an Islamic library in the house. A good family library should include a variety of materials which should provide the educational needs of all ages of family members. It should have books like Qur’an and Hadith, as well as other disciplines, such as science and mathematics. It should also have CDs and audiotapes with variety of topics, Anashid, Qur’anic recitations, lectures, and Khutbahs.
Vision and Goals
A vision can be described as consisting of lifetime goals that defines who you are and who you will become. When you have a vision for you and your family, it gives all the family a focus for channeling your time, energy and money. A vision is more far-reaching. It is achieved through setting specific goals which, if consistently acted upon, will result in achievement of the vision. A family should set goals. This can be done at two levels: personal goal and family goal. It is, however, a good practice to be more realistic in setting goals.
Goals are important because they serve to illuminate a path. Without them, we tend to waste time, and ultimately, find that we have not accomplished anything meaningful in our lives as the years go by. Prophet Muhammad (saws) said:
“Conduct yourself in this world as if you are here to stay forever. Prepare for eternity as if you had to die tomorrow.” (Bukhari)
So, get your family into the habit of setting realistic goals. Have them know that life is not just about enjoying and accumulating, but to have God pleased with them as well. The prophet (saws) said:
“If someone wants to know what position he enjoys in the eyes of God, he has only to look at what place he gives to God (in his life).” (Hakim)
Let family members put Pleasing God at the top of their list. Ensure goals are set in all areas of life so that you and members of your family grow in a comprehensive, rather than fragmented, fashion. The simplified example bellow illustrates how the goals are set.
The goals I am going to accomplish this year that will make significant and meaningful differences are: spiritual, personal, financial, health, household, recreation, career, family, community and friends. At the end of each year, review what has been accomplished, and set new goals for the next year. As we set new goals, remember that the most important goal is to have God pleased with us and to strive for paradise.
“And the life of this world is no more than an amusement and play. Surely, the Abode of the Hereafter, it indeed is the (true) life – only if they knew.” (Qur’an 29:64)
Method of Parenting
Generally, there are three methods of parenting and they can be categorized as follow:
- Dictatorial: Here, we see what is called control-oriented. Parents make the rules. The children have minimal rights, they are told what to do. Adults work and dictate work to kids; often do not pray, but order kids to pray. The parents mix their own laws with God’s one. They teach one thing but do another thing. They dictate solutions to the problems.
- Permissive: The parents give unnecessary freedom to the children. They are left by themselves and they can do whatever they like. They are not told what is right or wrong. There is a very little rule if any. No routines, adults go to work and the children have fun. Neither of them cares about prayer. The children sometimes shout and say abusive words to their parents.
- Middle way: The middle way is where; Parents give limited freedom to the children. They are shown what they should and shouldn’t do. They are thought to know their rights and their responsibilities as an individual as well as a member of family. The rules and routines are for whole family members. They pray together. God’s laws and rules are applied. Parents and the children live by what they say. Differences are mutually resolved. This method works better and is the closest to the Islamic approach. It balances the rights and the responsibilities, less confrontation and where necessary, the same rules apply to both the child (ren) as well as parents.
Method of communication
Communication between and among the family members is an essential part of the family management. It is the premium duty of the parents to establish an effective way of communication between and among the family members. This should be carried on until everyone in the family gets it right. Usually, this is done in three different ways.
- One way of communicating: This is done when one member of the family does all the talking and the others do the listening. It is more like dictating on the other side what to do whether this goes to his, or her, favour or not, and they are expected to accept whatever has been dictated to them regardless of their positions or reasoning on the matter. Definitelythis is not a good way of communication.
- Argumentative way of communicating: The members of the family commonly butt heads. They question things they do not understand and seek for clarification. Then, most of the time, they have options to uncompromisingly disagree with the ideas that go against their reasoning and accept that which they think are right.
- Two way of communicating: This takes place when family members get to understand each other based on mutual respect. They try to agree on most of the issues. They ask questions and get answers. They suggest ideas and listen to others. They negotiate and compromise on things they differ. Every idea or person in the family is taken seriously. Equal consideration to the ideas and suggestions are given to everyone. Everyone feels they are being listened to and, therefore, they are important in the family. This kind of communication strengthens the relationship among the family members and makes it possible to have an ideal family that we all look for.
So, it is important to reflect this on our current family communication that is taking place and see whether we want to live with the kind of communication we now have for the rest of our life or if there is a need to improve it or even change it. In addition, we should also impart to the members of our household the Islamic etiquette pertaining to communication. Such as, kindness, not to get angry with one another, not to call each other with offensive names and most of all, we have to be willing to forgive one another.
Values and Principles to be Inculcated
Values and principles are very important elements in educating children. Every family should have what is called “a family value and its principle.” The Muslim families in this regard are recommended to use the holy Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (saws). The children should be taught to understand these Islamic values and the principles so that they can inculcate them in their attitudes. The prophet (saws) in his farewell sermon said:
“I am leaving two things among you, and if you follow them you will never go astray: one is the QUR’AN and the other is my SUNNAH (example).” (Hakim)
In recent days, one of the reasons many families become dysfunctional is that they stop applying principles from the Qur’an and Hadith and live by other ideas and principles instead. Like the Qur’an, each member of the family should be made to cultivate a personal relationship with the Hadith. Children should not only be made to memorize the Qur’an, but also to understand it as well. As parents, we can facilitate this by sharing something from the Qur’an with our family on a regular basis.
One way to condition our children on good principles and morals is to expose them to the Hadith (sayings) of Prophet Muhammad (saws) consistently. This should start from a young age and continue until the child is out of our care. Start with ahadith conveying simple ideas and then move on to more difficult concepts.
For the accountability, a common mistake parents make is to teach their children to be accountable to them rather than to be to Allah (swt) first and foremost. If we teach our children that they are primarily accountable to Allah (swt), they know that Allah (swt) and His recording angels see and record everything they do, even when we aren’t around to see what they are doing. To achieve this, we have to teach our children by using relevant concepts and principles from the Qur’an and Hadith. For instance, life in the womb, life on earth, death and what happens in the grave, destruction of the world and resurrection and accountability in the Hereafter.
A lot of problems we face as parents can be minimized if we develop God-consciousness in our children. This can be achieved by embedding in them the attitude of daily remembrance of God (daily Zikr). This may start with the five daily prayers and the recitation of Qur’an, but should eventually include supplications (Tasbih) for one’s well being and prayer (duas) before or after specific actions.
Discipline is a very crucial value of human life. Everything we do should be based on discipline. As parents, we should always emphasize on this point so that the children can have with them within their day to day routine.
- Let the children find a solution by themselves.
- Send the children for some quiet time.
- Rescinding privileges.
- Writing lines or an essay.
- Send the children to read a relevant stories or books.
- Have the children do the chores of the siblings he or she fought with.
- Have the children go to bed early.
- Explain to them about things considered as natural consequences.
- Educate the children on their actions.
- Withhold part of their allowance if necessary.
- For lying, use a spiritual cure.
- Do not practice favoritism among your children.
In order to maintain children on this path, we should build our family on routine. As individuals, Islam protects us by observing our five daily prayer routines. Likewise, the children can be more functional and better behaved if they are raised on routine. Routine means the children know what to expect and when to expect it. For instance, the children should know the time when to eat dinner, watch TV, do their homework and time to go to bed.
By establishing a planed family routine based or around Islamic five daily prayers, the children will practice worship as a natural part of their routines. In addition, as parents, we should make sure that our children are aware of the safety issues such as, fire safety, intoxicant, drugs, Internet and especially sex; because we live in the society where sexuality is openly discussed even with the students in early grades. It is, therefore, necessary as parents we are not shy to learn and teach the Islamic perspectives. The children should have clear understanding on guidelines about interacting with opposite sex. They should know that they are not allowed to be alone with members of opposite sex unless married to them.
As parents, we should always be involved in our children lives. However, the common mistakes many parents make are that while they are involved in their children lives, they do not let their children to be involved in their own lives or in the household affairs. This can sometimes be a contradictory. Involvingchildren in our lives, allows us to share our experiences with them, builds a stronger relationship and better communication. There are certain ways we can involve children in our lives:
- Household chores.
- Professional work.
- Community work
- Family meeting.
- Praying together.
- Eating together at least one meal a day.
Prophet Muhammad (saws) said:
“No father can give his child anything better than good manners.” (Tirmidhi)
To achieve this, we have to expose our children to the teaching of Islam and be an example to them. This means, we cannot tell or send them to pray while we ourselves neglect our prayers.
As parents, we often make the assumption that we know our children. And often, what we know of them is usually based on what we knew of them when they were much younger. However, as they get older, it is important that we evaluate our understanding of them. This evaluation should enable us to see if we truly know what is going on in their current life. In addition, we should also look out for ourselves. There are times when children can be disrespectful or may try to abuse our rights as parents. If they do so, remind them with relevant verses or words from Qur’an and Hadith. For example:
”Your Lord has decreed that you shall worship none but Him, and (that you shall treat) the parents with kindness. Whether one or both of them attain old age with you, then, say not to them (even) an‘Oof,’ nor repel them, rather, speak to them noble words. Lower to them the wing of humbleness in mercy and say, ‘My Lord, have mercy upon them even as they raised me up (with care) when I was little.’” (Qur’an, 17: 23-24)
“He who wishes to enter Paradise at the best gate, must please his father and mother.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
To stay the course as parents and to keep improving our parenting skills we should utilize the various resources at our disposal. This includes Qur’an supplication, books and internet.
This essay highlighted the factors that can have positive or negative effects on parenting such as: spousal relationship, setting of visions and goals. Moreover, due to the complexity of the concept, different approaches were needed. As such, the paper provided some very methodical approaches which include method of communication, values and principles to be inculcated within that framework, such as discipline.
It is hoped that the work and the ideas of this paper will serve to address many difficulties and issues that the majority of the Muslim community face in upbringing and educating their children. The work is the result of a long and careful study derived from many sources including Qur’an and Hadith. I, therefore, hope this work will go long way to contribute to the general well-being of the Muslim community in terms of parenting.