Parenting is a noble but difficult task. It is an enormous responsibility that presents numerous challenges, perhaps the hardest being instilling a sound, spiritual identity in the child.
“O you who have believed, protect yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is people and stones” (Chapter 66 verse 16) The Holy Quran
Raising children is the primary duty of parents. Parents must provide a foundation of religious belief, be consistent in their obligations, and be good role models to their children. A proper upbringing is essential to prevent a child from going astray. We will ultimately be judged on how we raise our children.
There are two dimensions to a child: the physical and the spiritual. Physical development is insured by providing necessities (food and drink) and protection or shelter. Providing this aspect of a child’s being only insures that they are strong and healthy. The essence of being human is our soul and spirit. Human beings have been selected by God to represent Him on earth; therefore, we must also have the spiritual dimension. This dimension has the same two aspects as the physical: necessity and protection. Necessity of sound belief, sense of fulfillment of obligations, and building good character; and protection from sins, bad habits, and bad companions which would impede spiritual well-being.
Prophet Muhammad (sawa) divides parenting into various stages. The first being the Master stage, which covers the first 7 years of a child’s life. The second being the Servant stage, when a child is between the ages of 8 through 14.
The Master stage focuses on raising and developing the child. It does not emphasize on formal academic programs or training. However, that does not mean that parents avoid teaching their children. This stage is important in helping to build the identity and behavior of the child.
During the Master stage, the child’s environment is extremely important. Children learn from their parents, siblings, and surroundings in a way that will affect their behavior, language, and mode of interaction. If the environment is positive, the child will learn good values. Therefore, parents must be positive role models to their children. If the parents are telling the children what to do and they themselves are not doing it, it presents a confusing message.
Children don’t listen to what you say. They see what YOU do.
As parents transition to the next stage of parenting known as the Servant stage, they must maintain strict control over their child. The parents start to become more assertive.
“The right of the child on the father is that the father has to teach the child how to read and write.” – Imam Jafar Al-Sadiq (as)
In addition, parents should be able to familiarize their children with new tools of learning. They should be able to understand the new technologies that their children are being accustomed too. However, they also must be mindful of the harm that the technology can cause.
Education is important in this stage, but the psyche of the child is also very important. The parent must pay attention to the physical and emotional changes that each child goes through. Children will go through hormonal and social changes, therefore they need to be able to talk with their parents. They want time with their parents, not gifts.
During this stage, because the parent is more involved, the child will need to be disciplined. This discipline should not make a child fear their parents, and must be administered with the idea of reform, not punishment. Whenever disciplining a child, it is vital that the parent does not ever let the child feel like they can never get forgiveness from their mother or father.