Children learn most from their parents. They are with you almost 24/7 and watch everything you do, your conduct, your behaviour and how you interact with others especially your spouse. They are even aware of your facial gestures and body language and can read how you are feeling. Children take lessons from you and your actions, they observe and they absorb.
If you can be a good role model for your children you will contribute to their healthy development physically mentally and, most importantly spiritually. You will provide inspiration and motivation for them and enable them to adopt a positive lifestyle and habits that can lead to their success in this life and the next.
Allah says in the Quran “Remember Me, I will remember you” (2: 152)
Islam provides us with amazing acts of worship which not only enable us to gain the pleasure of Allah and gain success in the Duniya and Akhirah but give us protection from Shaitan and restrain us from sinful deeds. This is what our children need to learn from us. Children don’t do what you tell them to do, rather they do what they see you doing. So be a positive role model and show them the beauty of Islam through your own practise.
Salaah is the perfect way to show your child how you communicate with your creator. When you pray encourage your children to join you, even if it is only mimicking initially. Let them see you sitting in submission before Allah and pouring your heart out to Him in dua. Have an audible Adhan in your home to demonstrate the importance of performing salah on time. Likewise when you recite the Quran choose a place where your children can hear you and benefit from the serenity and calm of the Quran. Use Islam expressions abundantly so children grow accustomed to hearing them and assimilate them into their own conversation. For example, “Alhamdulillah” to thank Allah for his numerous favours, “Bismillah” before starting something and “Jazaak Allah khairun” for thanking someone.
Our bodies are an Amanah (trust) from Allah that we need to look after. When we eat sensibly and exercise regularly not only does this improve our own well being but it sets a good example for our children to follow. We should not be excessive in our eating: we eat to sustain ourselves. At the same time it is important to eat a wide variety of foods to ensure we are getting a balanced diet and that the body is receiving all the nutrients it needs.
As far as possible have mealtimes together as it brings blessings to Muslims. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said “Eat together and mention the name of Allah over your food. It will be blessed for you” (Abu Dawd). Eating together helps family members maintain relationships and feel a sense of belonging. Meals prepared at home will tend to be more healthy and the time spent together can bring about an air of warmth, comfort and happiness. Family mealtimes are also an opportunity for children to learn from table talk and assimilate good mannerisms as well as sunnah practices from their parents.
Being a positive role model for your children includes being physically active and exercising regularly. With lifestyles becoming more sedentary for young and old it is increasingly important to incorporate some movement into our lives. An excellent way to stay fit, bond with the family and appreciate the beauty of Allah’s creation is to go on walks and other outdoor pursuits.
The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ taught us that “The best amongst you are those who have the best manners and character.” (Bukhari). Remember parents are children’s first role models so the way we conduct ourselves is of utmost importance to their nurturing. Children are very perceptive and notice when parents are angry or upset with each other. So we should constantly be working on our relationships to cultivate and refine good manners towards each other. A happy couple will be able to raise happy children.
Our manners or ‘akhlaq’ are revealed in how we interact towards others. Islam determines every aspect of the life of a Muslim. It highlights how to have the best conduct towards other people for example in respecting our parents, gentleness with children and courtesy towards our neighbours.
Children observe the relationships we have towards others especially family members. Issues will arise between your parents, siblings and their spouses. Children should not be dragged into such issues. Be forgiving and accommodating so that you reconcile differences as soon as possible. Do not backbite or spread ill- feeling towards others. Children should witness compassion and mercy- qualities which they will take to their future homes.
Display a positive and reassuring attitude and optimism. Do not add to the daily negativity that your child experiences by constant complaining and spreading a feeling of doom and gloom. Difficult times will occur throughout our lives but it is up to us how we interpret them. Some people will wallow in self pity or blame others for their misfortune, and they will not be able to move forward. Others will rise to the challenge and see their adversity as a test from Allah or a valuable lesson.
Have Tawakkul (reliance) in Allah and sabr (patience) when faced with difficulties and testing times. These attributes will radiate positivity which will be felt and adopted by your children. Tawakkul leads to peace of mind. It teaches us to not be disappointed by what we have failed to achieve or acquire because we know there is khair (good) in everything and Allah has made the best plans for us.
Patience is one of the best qualities our children can learn from us. No matter what difficulty or hardship we come across we remain patient and believe that whatever is happening is by the will of Allah and cannot be opposed. We are assured that a time will come when the test He is putting us through will end, for “After every hardship there is ease” (Quran 94:5).
Show your children the importance of hard work, both at home and at the workplace. Take your children to work with you so they can see how you function in your work life and they can notice ethics such as discipline, devotion and loyalty to colleagues. At home giving children responsibilities outside what is directly theirs (eg hoovering the house rather than just their room) teaches them how to play their part in the family. Children should grow up correlating hard work with strong character. They should also be taught the stories of the Prophets alayhim assalam who all shared an unwavering work ethic outside of their prophethood.
Seek out opportunities to help the community and involve your children too. They will learn that sharing your time, energy or loving kindness can greatly enrich your life. As Islam teaches values that are intrinsic to human nature it is no wonder that we are constantly encouraged to help and to give to others. Next time you visit the sick or bereaved take your children with you so they develop empathy and learn the sunnah associated with these occasions, eg taking some food for the bereaved. Remind your children that “Whoever relieves a believer’s distress of the distressful aspects of this world, Allah will rescue him from a difficulty of the difficulties of the Hereafter.” (Muslim)
We are on a life-long journey of learning in which we should constantly be working towards self improvement. There is always something new to learn in life. We should try new experiences and broaden our horizons so that our children find pleasure in acquiring useful skills and knowledge, particularly life skills. As well as playing with them it is a good idea to do some work together eg cooking or some DIY. This builds relationships and improves confidence and competence in children.
It is important to practise Muhasabah (self-assessment) in which we question ourselves about our nafs and our actions. By reviewing our weaknesses and shortcomings regularly we can ask for forgiveness from Allah and correct ourselves. Children should be encouraged to do the same. As long as we keep trying sincerely to become a better Muslim and put constant effort into it we are already successful in the light of Islam: (And it will be said), “Indeed, this is for you a reward, and your effort has been appreciated.” (Quran 76, Ayah 22)
Our beloved Prophet saw is reported to have said “He who does not show mercy to others will not be shown mercy.” (Al Bukhari)
Children should be told and shown that they are loved. This is one of the best ways to nurture a positive and happy child. It is good to share hugs and kisses with everyone in the family as oxytocin (the love hormone) is released which deepens relationships by creating love, warmth and bonding. Love is also about showing interest in your child’s life and being attentive to their needs. Children need to feel supported. It is important to create an atmosphere of approval and appreciation in the household so that everyone is valued. This boosts self- esteem and productivity of family members and enhances the well being of the household.
Our children should see us practising gratitude and contentment. Islamic teaches us to be content and this involves us appreciating what we have rather than focusing on the things that we don’t have. In this fast-paced world we have become so concerned about the comforts of this life and about acquiring more wealth and material goods that we are failing to prepare for the everlasting Aakhirah. Try to have simplicity and contentment in the home and when children compare themselves to their friends remind them of the hadith: “When one of you looks at one who stands at a higher level than you in regard to wealth and physical structure he should also see one who stands at a lower level than you in regard to these things.” (Muslim)
Demonstrate gratitude to children. Teach them that as Muslims we regard both good times and difficult times as a test from Allah: we should constantly thank Him for His favours, and we should be patient when His favours are withdrawn. Being grateful to Allah also results in an increase in His blessings.
Role modelling is one of the most powerful tools that can influence the direction of your child’s development. If you want your children to be pious, hardworking, patient and kind you need to model these behaviours yourself. To become a better parent you have to become a better person. But to be a positive role model requires effort and self control. Strive to be the best version of yourself because this is what will give inspiration to your child. As children observe you changing yourselves for the better they will learn that part of growing up is self improvement.
When you give children the right kinds of messages you are planting seeds and you will see the fruits of these efforts. Not only will you benefit your children but they will be a blessing for you too. Positive actions by role models create pleasing habits in children that can last a lifetime and beyond. We pray that what our children learn from us benefits them and serves as Sadaqah Jariyah for us, Ameen.
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