بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Unfortunately, many of us have! We should all remember that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) never raised his hands on any human being, EVER, except on the battlefield!
Now, many of us find reasons to justify why the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم)’s behaviour is not realistic enough for us to emulate. Though we all know very well that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) was sent as an example to guide us to Siraat-ul-Mustaqeem (the Straight Path), we justify how we are unable to follow him with respect to his noble character. At times we present the justification that in this day and age our children are much worse than the children of the past. Let’s look at examples from the time of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) and see how his interaction with children around him was.
When Anas (رضى الله عنه), as a young child, was asked by the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) to go to the market-place to get milk and he did not return on time, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) found him eventually and at that time covered Anas (رضى الله عنه )’s eyes with his hands in order to surprise him.
Now, if we had sent one of our children to do something and if they forgot to do as they were told – and instead went to play with their friends – many of us would be very angry, perhaps so angry as to yell at the child, or even worse, hit them ! And yet, Anas (رضى الله عنه) was greeted with amusement by the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) .
Once, when Anas (رضى الله عنه) was ten years old and living in the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) ‘s home, he began to play with his food. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) did not tell him to stop it. He did not threaten to take away his food if he didn’t behave. Rather, He proceeded towards doing something truly reflective of his great character. He did something that many child-psychologists would recommend today. He practiced positive reinforcement. He told Anas (رضى الله عنها), “Eat with your right hand, and eat from what is closest to you.” (Bukhari)
Instead of reprimanding him by highlighting what he should not be doing, he told him what he should be doing.
Many of us, today, highlight the negative behaviour:
“Don’t hit your sister.”
“Why did you drop the milk?!”
“You are so messy!”
“Why are you so loud?”
We don’t need to mention the negative behavior, but instead should point out the positive direction the child should be going in.
Several studies have been published studying criminals in jail. What has been discovered about criminals is that the greater the severity of the crime, the greater the incidence of violence in their childhood. As a matter of fact, 90% of the prisoners were found to have regularly been disciplined through physical force.
(Article:The influence of corporal punishment on Crime)
One may reason that, as children, these criminals were already disobedient and that was the only way their parents could have controlled or disciplined them. Yet, when social scientists studied adopted children whose biological parents were or had been in jail, the findings were interesting. If the children were raised by adoptive parents who used physical discipline, then they too, ended up in jail as adults just like their biological parents.
One may think that genes are responsible for this . Yet, when other adopted children who had parents in jail were raised in homes that did not practice physical discipline, these children grew up to non-violent; they did not land up in jail as adults. To the great astonishment of the researchers, the greater the lack of punitive treatment during childhood, the greater the amount of years spent in education. PhDs reported the least amount of physical discipline being shown towards those who grew up to become adults with college education, and the next in line were the students of Masters. Now, one may reason: ‘all right, so hitting our kids is not such a good idea. However, we must discipline them verbally, right?’
We saw in the examples of Anas (رضى الله عنه) that he was not verbally reprimanded either by the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم). So, how exactly is one to raise their child without physically or verbally reprimanding ? Shall one let their child grow like a weed, completely wild? No, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) didn’t do that either. Rather, he brought up the children through love and respect.
There is a narration of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) serving tea to some elderly guests. A young boy had been sitting to the right of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم). The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) asked the boy, “Would you give up the right to be served first, even though you are sitting on the right, so that the elders may be served before you?” The boy said, “No.” The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) accepted this and began by serving the young boy before all the elders.
Now, many of us would think, “What a rude child!” Yet, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) gave no verbal form of admonition to him. He merely asked the young boy’s permission to give away his right.
How many of us ask our children’s opinion on anything? We just expect them to give in to us, and if they don’t, then they are “rude”. We do not seek their opinion, and even if we do, we do not respect it when it conflicts with ours.
Clearly, in this example, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) desired to first serve the elders that were seated there. Yet, he respected the right of the young boy over the right of the elders.
Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) tells us in the Qur’an to stand firm for justice.
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ كُونُواْ قَوَّامِينَ بِالْقِسْطِ شُهَدَاء لِلّهِ وَلَوْ عَلَى أَنفُسِكُمْ أَوِ الْوَالِدَيْنِ وَالأَقْرَبِينَ إِن يَكُنْ غَنِيًّا أَوْ فَقَيرًا فَاللّهُ أَوْلَى بِهِمَا فَلاَ تَتَّبِعُواْ الْهَوَى أَن تَعْدِلُواْ وَإِن تَلْوُواْ أَوْ تُعْرِضُواْ فَإِنَّ اللّهَ كَانَ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرًا
“O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah , even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted.”
[Al-Qur’an:Surah An-Nisa(The Women):135]
What did the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) understand 1400 years ago that we still don’t understand today? – That if you want to teach a child to respect others, you must respect the child first. In other words, you model the behaviour you wish to see emulated in the future.
Another example of this is when Fatima (رضى الله عنها), the daughter of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم), would enter her father’s majlis (gathering), he would stop speaking, rise to greet her, and kiss her. And when he would enter upon her majlis, she would stop speaking, rise to greet him, and kiss him. He modeled the behaviour he wished to see in his children.
Oftentimes, our child is screaming and yelling and yet, to quieten them, we don’t speak in a soft voice, but yell at them even louder to be quiet. The child may become quiet in that moment, but you have lost the opportunity to show the child how you could have controlled your emotions and spoken to them calmly. You have lost the opportunity to affect their future behaviour.
We learn from the following ayah that screaming and yelling is not liked by Allah (سبحانه و تعالى).
وَاقْصِدْ فِي مَشْيِكَ وَاغْضُضْ مِن صَوْتِكَ إِنَّ أَنكَرَ الْأَصْوَاتِ لَصَوْتُ الْحَمِيرِ
“And be moderate in your pace and lower your voice; indeed, the most disagreeable of sounds is the voice of donkeys.”
Also, in this example, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) gives his daughter a great deal of importance. When we are busy with our friends, how many of us get up to greet our children upon their arrival? Imagine the child’s emotions upon receiving such “importance” from parents.
We must remember that parenting is not a completely stress-free job nor is it for those weak of heart. It challenges us in every way. Yet, we let go of these challenges by falling into old patterns and copying the parenting styles we see around us. In doing so we don’t rise to the occassion in trying to change and improve our future generations. We need to make a strong resolve towards trying hard to practice that parenting style which will bring us and our children upon Siraat-al-Mustaqeem (the straight path), Insha Allah.
May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) enable all of us to become excellent role models for our children to follow and may they become the coolness of our eyes. Ameen.