Taming your Tricky Toddler

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  1. You are in the middle of composing an email on a tricky subject to a difficult family member. Your toddler bounces up to you with cries of ‘Mommy, mommy!’ What is your most likely reaction?
    1. Cry out: “Will you let me do ANY work?”
    2. Ignore and keep typing.
    3. Sigh loudly, clench your fists, stop typing and say: “Yes?”
    4. Sigh inwardly, stop typing and attend to the toddler.
    5. Toddler is unlikely to come as you made sure he or she was fast asleep before you tackled this particular email.
  1. You are preparing some snacks for guests who dropped by unexpectedly. Your toddler clings to your legs, demanding attention. What would be your strategy to deal with this?
    1. Tell him or her to get out of the kitchen and bug the guests instead.
    2. Ignore him or her completely.
    3. Say irritably: “Wait till uncle and aunty leave, and I will deal with you”
    4. Give him or her some pots, pans and spoons and allow him or her to play with them.
    5. If guests come unexpectedly, you never bother to prepare fresh snacks; you are likely to serve them something that doen’t need much effort.
  1. Your toddler just threw an object at the maid. How would you react?
    1. Stand on his or her head until he or she apologizes to the maid.
    2. Tell the maid to ignore it completely; if she reacts, he/she will do it more.
    3. Pick up the object and apologize to the maid (when the toddler is out of sight).
    4. Give your toddler a time-out, and then talk to him gently but seriously about how it hurts when we throw things at others and that we can try not doing it again.
    5. Your toddler would never throw anything at anyone because he/she is taught that one only throws balls.

Score Yourself

  1. 1 b. 2 c. 3 d. 4 e. 5
  2. 3 b. 2 c. 1 d. 4 e. 5
  3. 5 b. 2 c. 1 d. 4 e. 3

Your Report

13-15: Excellent. You definitely realize that your schedule needs to follow the toddler. It is also good to note you do not make allowances for others which disturb your toddler. That said, do realize that unexpected and unplanned events happen, and one must be prepared to deal with them.

9-12: Fairly good. At times, you are able to distract your toddler from negative behaviour, but do remember to use time-outs sparingly and at the end, have a chat with the child about acceptable and non-desirable behaviour.

8-5: Good. You mostly employ a strategy to ignore your toddler’s negative behaviour. At times, it is the best technique. However, you need to know when you need to step in and be firm.

4 and below: Oh dear! You seem to be caught up in reactive parenting. Categorize your child’s behaviour into “I can ignore it” and “I can distract him/her”. These two strategies work wonders. Remember toddlers repeat their parents’ oft-used sentences when they start speaking – be positive and inculcate positivity.

Resolve in Ramadan to Set Smart Goals

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“Ramadan is the month for which all other months pass. It is the season of budding. In Ramadan, Taqwa can no longer remain hidden in the seed – the fleshy sheaths of your heart. The sun is on you and what is to become of you finds its moment, its moment in the sun. Do you have what it takes to reap lasting gains from it?” (Hassan Haidi)

Opportunities are seldom labelled. Ramadan is one. It is an opportunity to:

  • Profoundly think about the purpose of your existence.
  • Understand the part you need to play in the bigger picture.
  • Work upon the areas that you have been neglecting.
  • Nourish the soul and in the process, strengthen it.
  • Resolve personal improvement and communal change for the next eleven months.
  • Charge yourself with passion and enthusiasm for gearing towards a crisp and clear goal.
  • Chalk a strategy to carry out the above.
  • Befriend Allah (swt) and prepare to meet Him ultimately.

“O you who believe! Observing As-Saum (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqun (the pious).” (Al-Baqarah 2:183)

Attaining Taqwa itself has a higher purpose.

“Say: ‘Shall I seek a lord other than Allah, while He is the Lord of all things?’” (Al-Anam 6:164)

“The Forgiver of sin, the Acceptor of repentance, the Severe in punishment, the Bestower (of favours), La ilaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He)…” (Ghafir 40:3)

“…Allah will assemble us (all), and to Him is the final return.” (Shura 42:15)

Ramadan is not about losing weight. It is not about mindless starving and uncontrollable feasting, or about shopping and endless planning for the Eid-ul-Fitr. It is indeed the best time to renew intentions and to set resolutions for the remaining year. Yes, for Muslims it is not January or Muharram but the blessed month of Ramadan that is divinely designed to help them achieve specific goals. Today’s scientific research proves that it takes thirty days of constant practice to break a bad habit and instill a new desired one. How Merciful and loving is our Lord towards the sinners to bestow them with Ramadan as a golden opportunity to turn a new leaf and be rewarded for it, Alhumdulillah.

Abdullah Khan shares: “It is customary among people to set new year resolutions. However, the majority of people lose their newfound resolve within just a few months. This is mainly because few of us know how to set goals for our self-promises. Even less have an action plan to achieve it.”

In order to grow closer to the Lord of the worlds, you have to push yourself to rise to a level of performance beyond the comfort spheres of faith you have already achieved. This requires a SMART goal. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.

  1. Specific

When you have a vague or unclear goal, it has little chances of being accomplished. Narrowing it down to an exact target that needs to be achieved doubles your chances of attaining it. You must work out the 6 ‘Ws’ when setting your goal. For instance, if the task at hand is to establish the Sunnah prayer along with the Fard prayer (which you are already offering), the following should be answered:

  • Who is involved? (You: a Muslim, who is firstly a servant of Allah (swt).)
  • What do you want to accomplish? (You want to establish your Sunnah prayer on a regular basis.)
  • When do you want to achieve it? (During Ramadan and carry it forward after the month ends.)
  • Where do you want to attain it? (At home, at college, at your work place, etc.)
  • Why do you want to achieve it? (It has uncountable rewards and benefits in this life and the hereafter.)
  1. Measurable

Abdullah Khan offers: “Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of your goals.” You may chalk out the following questions for yourself

  • How much? (The number of Rakahs of Sunnah I will begin with, for example, 2 or 4 in Zuhr prayer.)
  • How many? (How many Sunnah Salahs will I begin with? Fajr and Maghrib as Sunnah Mukadah and then build on that, or all five Sunnah Salahs together?)
  • How will I know when it is accomplished? (Maybe you can prepare a chart that helps you mark the daily Sunnah Salahs performed, until you fall into the habit of praying without having to chart it.)
  1. Attainable

A far-away goal comes closer, if you plan your steps, prioritize and demonstrate determination to achieve it. The goal doesn’t shrink; you grow and expand to match what it takes to meet the expectations.

Shaitan, as usual, will intercept and try to weigh you down, reminding you of past sins and causing you to despond of Allah’s (swt) mercy. But Allah (swt) expedites the attainment of that servant’s spiritual goal, who exerts himself or herself spiritually. The Lord (swt) states in a Hadeeth Qudsi: “I am as my servant thinks I am. I am with him, when he mentions Me. If he mentions Me to himself, I mention him to Myself. If he mentions Me in an assembly, I mention him in an assembly better than it. If he draws near to Me an arm’s length, I draw near to him a fathom’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

  1. Realistic

A realistic goal means an objective that you are both willing and capable of achieving. It does not mean something easy. Rather, it means something doable. Similarly, it also does not mean something that is next to impossible under present circumstances. For instance, one cannot set a goal to scale the mountain with no prior training or expertise; it spells failure to begin with. You are bound not to achieve your goal, as you do not possess the skills required to do it. Hence, the goal should be to train first. Similarly, goals set with half-heartedness and under coercion are highly unlikely to be attained, as your heart and soul are not into it.

Abdullah Khan advises: “One way of knowing if your goal is real is to determine if you have accomplished anything similar in the past. Also, ask yourself what conditions would have to exist to achieve this goal.”

  1. Timely

When you bind your goals to a timeframe, it will give it a sense of urgency. “I will start praying the Sunnah Salah some day” will not work as well as “I will start praying the Sunnah Salah from the 1st of Shaban.”

This due date will serve as a motivation for you to get started and stay on track. It will also help you determine whether or not you have fulfilled your goal.

All super goals can be broken down into smaller and smarter goals, in order to aid with assessment. For example: From the 1st Shaban until the 7th, I will pray Sunnah Salah of Fajr. Once that is in place, I will begin from the 8th of Shaban to the 14th to pray Zuhr Sunnah Salah as well and so on. In time, I will be ready to offer all the Sunnah Salawat in the blessed month of Ramadan and carry it on, Insha’Allah.

A life without a plan is a plan for certain failure. A devout worshipper and believer is never ad hoc, mismanaged or unplanned. He realizes that the time he has been spared in this world is of very high value and about which he will be questioned. Recharge your Iman and set up SMART goals for yourself without further delay. Ramadan is the perfect time for change. And change begins with you.

Inspired from a series of articles titled “R is for Ramadhaan and resolution”, written by Abdullah Khan.

Implementing Sunnah in Today’s Classrooms (Part 2)

Sunnah in Classroom

4) Earn Respect

When Allah’s Messenger (sa) began to preach the message to the people, they raised all kinds of objections about him and his person. In response, the Quran directed him to tell them: “Verily, I have stayed amongst you a life time before this.” (Yunus 10:16)

Here, the audience is being reminded about what they already knew about the Messenger’s (sa) character. Didn’t they already call him as-Sadiq (the truthful) and Al-Ameen (the trustworthy)? His entire life had been spent with the Makkans, and his record was sparklingly clean. Why was it surprising for them, if he declared himself to be a Prophet (sa)? Even Abu Sufyan attested before Heraclius, the Byzantine Emperor, that Muhammad (sa) had never lied or cheated anyone in his life. Heraclius then declared that someone who didn’t lie about anything in his life must also be telling the truth about Allah (swt).

The lesson to be learnt here is that you must earn a position of respect, before those around you begin to develop faith in what you say. Just the fact that you have been appointed as a teacher doesn’t give you much credence with your students. You will have to earn their respect. Then and only then they will start to trust you and listen to what you teach them.

Also, be well-prepared for your class, and if you are asked a question, to which you don’t know the answer, be brave enough to respond: “I don’t know, but I will have the answer soon, Insha’Allah!” Your honesty will win more hearts than you can imagine.

Another way to earn respect is punctuality. Being on time is part of the fulfillment of one’s promise and a characteristic of a true believer, mentioned repeatedly in the Quran: “Those who are faithfully true to their Amanat (all the duties which Allah has ordained, honesty, moral responsibility and trusts) and to their covenants.” (Al-Muminoon 23:8)

Reach your class on time, and if you promise something to your students, make sure you fulfill your promise.

5) Best Manners

Allah’s Messenger (sa) had the most perfect manners and behaviour. He said: “Surely, I have been sent to perfect manners (Akhlaq).” (Bayhaqi) The teacher’s own manners must be an ideal role model for the students. A teacher should be unbiased, rise above personal likes and dislikes and behave with everyone in such a way that people aspire to emulate his or her personality.

6) Feel your Responsibility

The Prophet (sa) said: “…Each of you is a shepherd and each of you is answerable.” (Muslim) As a teacher, this essentially means you are responsible and accountable for your students and your classes. Belief in accountability is an article of faith. The very fact of being accountable to Allah (swt) instills in a person a sense of responsibility that forms the basis of a commitment towards one’s jobs.

7) Make the Learners Feel Welcome

Safwan ibn Assal (rtam), a companion, came to Allah’s Messenger (sa), while he was in the Masjid. He said: “O Messenger (sa)! I have come to seek knowledge.” The Prophet (sa) replied: “Welcome, you seeker of knowledge. Indeed, the angels surround the knowledge-seeker with their wings, and then they pile up on top of each other, until they reach the lower heaven out of love of what he is seeking. What have you come to learn?” (At-Tabarani)

The warm welcome that the Prophet (sa) accorded the student is a clear manifestation of the manner in which a new student is to be initiated. The Messenger (sa) explains to him the great status of a student in the eyes of Allah (swt). Bear in mind that if this is the rank of a student, what would the rank of a teacher be? However, the Messenger (sa) did not refer to that. He indirectly encouraged the student, in order to make him feel the importance of learning. Teachers can make students feel welcome by greeting them with a smile and saying ‘Assalamu Alaikum’.

8) Dealing with Students

Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “No person can be a believer, until he likes for his brother what he likes for himself.” (Bukhari) Indeed, how can one be really sincere, unless his standards for others are the same as those for himself? Teachers should ask themselves: “How would I like my teacher to treat me?” Within reasonable limits, one should implement the same for one’s students. Put yourself in the shoes of your students, and consider your own self as a teacher: are you a demon or a mentor?

9) Be Pleasant and Cheerful

Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “Be cheerful and do not be repulsive.” (Muslim) He himself was the embodiment of love and compassion. Ali ibn Abi Talib (rtam) says that those who met him were impressed, and those who came to know him loved him. The companions used to say that they had never seen a face more smiling than his.

Likewise, a teacher who is a picture of love and mercy attracts more students to his subject than the one who is repulsive. Allah’s Messenger (sa) has recommended that people should be greeted with a smile and the manner of speaking should be cheerful. It should not repel people.

10) Be Gentle and Kind

The Quran states: “And by the Mercy of Allah, you dealt with them gently. And had you been severe and harsh-hearted, they would have broken away from about you.” (Al-Imran 3:159) The compassion of the Messenger (sa), not just for his companions but for all those with whom he came in contact, is unmatched in the history of mankind. Generally, people are kind towards their loved ones. However, the Messenger (sa) showed compassion even for his enemies.

Similarly, teachers, too, should be a fount of mercy and forgiveness. Students cannot love and respect their teachers, unless they feel compassion flowing from their personalities. Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “The worst among people is he, whom people avoid due to his harsh demeanor.” (Bukhari)

Here, we must clarify that being kind and gentle does not imply a disregard for rules and regulations, which are in place for the betterment of the students. Making students adhere to discipline is not considered to be unkind. Didn’t the Messenger of Allah (sa) punish certain individuals? Of course, he did, when he deemed it to be necessary. However, his attitude was not vindictive or revengeful.

11) Speak with Clarity

It is narrated in a Hadeeth that the Messenger (sa) would always speak clearly, with pauses. These momentary breaks were such that the one who was sitting there was able to remember what he said. (At-Tirmidhi) This manner of speech takes into consideration the different levels of comprehension of his audience. Modern psychology tells us that the level of comprehension is directly proportional to the vocal speed of the speaker. Speaking slowly and clearly allows all to understand the lesson properly.

12) Do not Tire Students

Abdullah ibn Mubarak (rtam) used to give a lecture to his students every Thursday. One day, a man told him that he wished he would give a lecture daily. Ibn Mubarak replied: “The only thing which prevents me from doing so is that I hate to bore you. No doubt, I consider your state, when preaching, by selecting a suitable time just as the Messenger (sa) used to do with us, out of fear of making us bored.” (Bukhari)

Remember that the attention and the devotion of the companions cannot be matched with any student in this world. Yet, the Messenger (sa) took their state of mind into consideration. Similarly, a teacher must be aware of the students’ disposition and avoid making lessons dry and bothersome. A joke or an interesting anecdote can be related between the lessons. However, these diversions should be in moderation and should not go too far.


Adapted (with permission) from “How the Messenger of Allah (sa) Taught his Students” written by Maulvi Jahangir Mahmud (jahangir@ser.com.pk).

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