Here’s how three fathers approach the same situation with their children in three different ways:
Each of them sees his son playing games when his exam is due the next day.
The first one says to his son, “Ahmed! Revise your lessons!”
The second says, “Majid! If you do not revise, I will hit you and not give you any pocket money!”
The third says, “Muhammad! Would you please revise your lessons? It would be better than playing games, don’t you think? When you exert efforts, Allah will make it easy for you and make you successful, in sha Allah.”
Which of the three do you think is the best approach?
Undoubtedly, the third, since he presented his order to him as if it were only a suggestion, backed with reasoning that would make sense to his son at that point.
Likewise, when your child errs, try to rectify it in ways in which he would think that rectification was his own initiative.
For example, if your son is often not present for prayers in the mosque, you can say to him, “Sa’d, don’t you wish to enter paradise? If you do, then guarding your prayers is the best way to do so.”
Lecturing our children is easy. Does that stop them from repeating the same thing? Rarely.
Instead, guiding them to realising their mistake and arriving at a solution themselves is more practical than threats or taunts.
Here’s how the Prophet ﷺ did this.
Once, in a Bedouin tent in the desert, a woman was groaning in pain when giving birth to her child, while her husband sat beside her. The labour became severe for the woman, and she finally gave birth, but to a black child!
The husband was perplexed as he and his wife were fair-skinned. The devil whispered into his heart saying, “Perhaps, this baby is someone else’s. Perhaps a black man fornicated with her, and thus she became pregnant! Perhaps…”
The man became confused and approached the Messenger of Allah ﷺ whilst he was sitting with his Companions.
He said, “O Messenger of Allah! My wife gave birth to a black child! We have never had any black person in our family!”
The Prophet ﷺ looked at him. Although he was well able to lecture him about having good thoughts about others, and that he should not have accused his wife without evidence, he solved the problem in an ingenious way.
The Prophet ﷺ said, “Do you have any camels?”
“Yes”, said the man.
The Prophet said, “What is their colour?”
He said, “Red.”
The Prophet said, “Is there any black amongst them?”
“No”, he replied.
The Prophet said, “Is there any grey amongst them?”
“Yes”, the man replied.
The Prophet said, “From where did that come?”
The man thought for a while and said, “Perhaps it is due to heredity”.
Then the Prophet ﷺ said, “Perhaps, your son has also inherited this colour because of heredity.” (Muslim and Ibn Majah)
How beautifully the Prophet ﷺ solved the man’s confusion without raising his voice at him or giving him a ‘class’ on speaking well about others! Our history is full of such valuable lessons.
Similarly, when your child is in such a vulnerable position, we must approach the matter with wisdom. As the saying goes, “Strike when the iron is hot”.
The approach you take at such a point will forever be imprinted in your child’s mind and that’s the learning that will stay with them instead of the hours of lecturing we may put them through otherwise.
If your child shows laziness in offering Salaah or reading the Qur’an, begin with things that you both agree on.
You can say to him, “If someone did you a favour, would you expect him to thank you for it?”
No doubt he would reply, “Indeed!”
Now present your advise as a suggestion, saying, “In that case, doesn’t Allah favour with you things you never even ask for? Don’t you think we should worship and thank Him for it?”
When we want our children to learn about Islam, we should make them feel Islam rather than feeding them with it. It’s their soul that needs nourishment here, not their body.