Today, Muslim couples begin their journey together with the basic agreement that they want to raise children who are respectful and obedient servants of Allah (swt). Perhaps, this is why one of the thoughts that lingered on my mind after my Nikah was that of raising my ‘future’ children. With thousands of parenting books, guides, and other resources, I believed that learning how to raise children would be relatively easy if I followed the guidelines, but my opinions changed when my mother told me:
“My daughter, parenting is a skill that no one can teach you! It is something that you must learn.”
Many days after I had received my mother’s advice, I was left feeling confused and nervous. I felt unprepared because I did not know how I would learn to be a parent before I actually became one. I realized later that my mother was referring to the fact that no matter how many guide books I read and experts I talk to, bringing up children would be a unique experience for me; one that is different for every single person who becomes a parent. At this point, I pledged to myself that I would make Dua for children who would become the coolness of my eyes. I prayed that through the values, my husband and I would teach them to please Allah (swt).
Till today, one of the verses from the Quran that is very close to my heart is, “O my Lord! Grant me from You, a good offspring. You are indeed the All-Hearer of invocation.” (Al-Imran 3:38). It is a beautiful reminder that no matter where you look for techniques, praying to Allah (swt) will always be sufficient.
It was because of my Dua that I was bestowed with countless learning opportunities that made me realize that in order to learn parenting, I didn’t have to look that far, I simply had to observe my parents. As odd as it sounds, I received lessons from my parents as they interacted with, and took care of my grandparents.
It is a well-known fact that age changes the habits, physical and mental makeup of most people. Old age changes one into a child all over again; weak, feeble, and dependent on others for basic needs. Allah (swt) says in the Quran: “And he whom We grant long life, We reverse him in creation (weakness after strength). Will they not then understand?” (Yasin 36:68)
Thus, when they are ‘reversed in nature’, they require the same care, attention and love that we once did when we were children. And my mother and father both through their actions made me understand three important lessons that are integral to parenting.
- Give them attention
Every evening, after returning from work, my father goes into my grandmother’s room, greets her and asks her about her day. Although a simple gesture, it is probably one part of the day my grandmother looks forward to the most. It is truly heartwarming to see her delicate face light up, and this demonstrates a very important lesson.
The more attention one gives to children, and in this case, old parents, the more they want to listen to you, because they feel close to you. Many of us listen to young ones half heartedly, and when it is our turn to tell them something, they turn away. The attention that parents give to their children aids in developing a connection that is integral to parenting.
- Love them and show affection
Several times, I had observed my mother showing physical affection for her mother. When we visit my grandmother, not only does my mother spend time with her, but also hold her close, and remind her what her mother means to her. This uplifts the mood of my grandmother, and adds to her overall well-being. I have noticed that she becomes more positive about her surroundings when she is reminded that she is amongst those who love her and want to see her happy.
Like our aging parents, children also want to be loved; they want to feel special to their parents. They yearn for our closeness, just like a small child who does not want to leave his/her mother. Physical actions of love – such as hugging and kissing children – along with the expression of emotions is an important element of parenting as it serves as a method to make the child understand their place in the family.
It is narrated by Abu Hurairah (rta) that the Prophet (sa) kissed Al-Hasan bin Ali (rta) while Al-Aqra bin Habis At-Tamim was sitting beside him. Al-Aqra said: “I have ten children and I have never kissed anyone of them,” Allah’s Messenger (sa) cast a look at him and said: “Whoever is not merciful to others will not be treated mercifully.” (Bukhari)
- Respect them
Often, mistakenly we link the word respect to elders. And, it is true that elders need to be respected. No matter how old and weak my grandmothers are, my parents respect their wishes and opinions. Underestimating parents, taking them for granted because of their old age, and thinking that they know very little compared to us, are all forms of disrespect and should be carefully avoided.
But, this does not mean that children do not have a right to be respected. Rather, they have to be regarded as individuals too, and their wishes, of course within limits, must be noted. There are times when parents publicly humiliate and shame their children; make fun of their children with others; and underestimate the skills and talents that their child may have. This not only makes children distance themselves from their parents, but also, causes them to disrespect their own parents. Respecting children helps them learn how to respect their parents, and it also enhances their self-respect when they know that they are receiving respect from others around them.