Parents are responsible for bringing up their children according to the Prophet’s (sa) teachings. Quran tells us to train our children with desire for Jannah as the final, ultimate goal. Everything else is transitory. “O you who believe! Ward off yourselves and your families against a Fire (Hell) whose fuel is men and stones.” (At-Tahrim 66:6)
Our children, therefore, have the right to be raised as responsible adults. Especially mothers have to be aware of this fact and take a proactive approach to guiding our kids.
In order to raise children into responsible adults, who will benefit society, certain characteristics are mandatory. Learning the Quran and doing Salah are obvious skills. However, we ignore such other basics as faith in our leaders, good listening skills, understanding of a given command and obedience to the source of this command. These skills will enhance critical thinking abilities of our children.
While our children are young, we should concentrate on developing good listening skills. Once listening is developed, all other skills follow.
- Hearing and Listening
We should highlight the importance of hearing in relation to listening and interpreting what is actually being said – reading between the lines as they say. Listening is a process, by which noise is being actively processed in the brain. We tend to listen to what we find attractive. Hearing, on the contrary, is a physical term. We might be hearing noise made by an angry person but not processing what the message is. Listening is the first step to obedience, and it is followed by understanding. When we teach our children to listen and understand, instead of just hear, they will become obedient to Allah’s (swt) commands.
- Active Listening and Interpretation
In order to understand, what is being said, children should be able not only to process sounds, but also observe the tone of voice, identify language cues and comprehend the body language of a speaker. How can children acquire these skills? We have to cultivate in our children active listening skills, so they can understand not just what is being said verbally, but also comprehend the situation and gauge the feelings of the speaker. We, as mothers, are the teachers and the role models for our offspring. When we become active listeners ourselves, we will witness the same in our children.
- Repetition with a Twist
When we read the Quran, we find the same idea repeated several times but in a slightly different manner. The words might be interchanged, a small detail might be added or the tone – different. Have you ever reflected, why this is so? If we are unable to understand once, Allah (swt) explains in a varied tone, with a few additional details. Repetition is the key to building effective listeners. Repeat the message in different ways, untill your message is received at the other end. For this, one must exercise patience. Approach your child, hold his/her hands, make eye contact and then gently but firmly get your message across.
- Leading by Example
“Do as I say, not as I do,” is a very common mantra today. We ask our children to obey, what we say, while we fail to do so ourselves. For instance, we expect them to be completely truthful, even though we indulge in lies for our comfort or to get a better deal at the store. Children might fail to listen but they never fail to imitate. The impact of a mentor or role model is apparent in the Sahaba.
History notes the seemingly harsh and unfavorable terms of Treaty of Hudaibiya. Prophet Muhammad (sa) asked the companions to shave off their heads and slaughter their sacrificial animals. He repeated the instruction thrice, yet none of the companions obeyed. Umme Salamah, the wife of the Prophet (sa), advised him to carry out the rituals himself, without uttering a single word. The companions imitated the act of their beloved Prophet (sa), even though they did not understand the wisdom behind it. The connection of love and faith drove them to obey, and by following the example, they also were listening to what he was saying.
5. Training for Respect and Patience
Kids are impatient and unable to delay gratification. As mothers, it is our duty to train them to respect others. Children can be easily taught to wait for their turn and give others the chance to speak. An easy way to do this is to teach children to pray, as soon as they can memorize Surahs. Salah is the first act of worship that establishes a direct connection with Allah (swt). When the child realizes that he can have a conversation where Allah (swt) listens, he will also learn to listen to others, be patient and calm. The best way to inculcate this habit of patience and tolerance into a child is to make him do it constantly and with you accompanying him.
Positive reinforcement is crucial to producing effective listeners. Give your child a good deed card, whenever she patiently waits for her turn and gives others a chance, without being judgmental. Love never spoils, care never weakens.
In order to make a child listen to us we cannot scream, yell or be impatient. Instead of being rude and commanding, we, as mothers, will always get our way by offering our kids alternatives, so they feel empowered, when they make a choice. For instance, we can ask them to choose between two different outfits that we have selected. This gives them some independence and establishes a connection of love and trust between you and your child.
Listening requires focus, and once we teach our children how to focus, they will be armed with the tools to follow Allah’s (swt) commands. Raising confident, happy and well-adjusted children starts with mothers being good listeners and then transferring this skill to their children.