Developing Children’s Character

How to develop my children’s character?

It is the right of the Muslim children that their parents are a good example for them. Religiosity and character plays a major role in the rearing of righteous children. One cannot get away by telling children to do some things while they themselves don’t do it. Allah says in the Qur'an,

"Enjoin you Al-Birr (piety and righteousness and each and every act of obedience to Allah) on the people and you forget (to practise it) yourselves."[1]

The saying: “Do as I say and not as I do” does not work. Yes, we may be able to force them on that basis, but the children will not learn righteousness that way, instead they will turn into hypocrites; they will do it only because you asked them to do it. If the mother is modest and shy, she wears hijaab, is gentle, exerts herself to worship Allah, then the children will be that way. If she yells, screams and hits, they will do the same. If she controls her anger, so will the children. If the parents are not affectionate and kind, especially the mother, the children will not be either. If the mother backbites or lies, so will the children.

Often parents teach how to lie. For example, if someone calls the house and they don’t want to speak to him, they say, “Tell them I am not here.” They have just taught their child how to lie. The mum might tell her children to hide things from the father. Yet again you are teaching them to lie. Parents should make themselves the best possible examples of good character because character is something which can mostly be learnt by example. Prophet (ﷺ) summed up Islam as being a religion of good character. Malik reported: The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said,

“I have been sent to perfect good character.”[2]

Therefore he stressed the importance of character. We should be an example. The Prophet (ﷺ) made dua’ in the Salah:  “O Allah guide me to the best of manners because no one can guide me to the best except You and keep me away from the worst of manners because no one can keep it away except You.

So we ask dua’ to help us, to develop good manners and we have to make the effort ourselves, to be mannerly even if it means pretending. If we pretend to be good mannered, eventually, that mannerism will be acquired. For some people good manners like controlling one’s tempers, being patient, speaking politely comes naturally. Prophet (ﷺ) said,

Whoever pretends to be patient (with a desire to be patient) Allah will give him patience.” [3]

So character can be achieved if we pretend to do them, because one may know intellectually that yes we should control anger, but when we are in a situation which provokes us, we still get angry in an uncontrollable way. So we have to force ourselves to pretend, while desiring Allah, that Allah will help us to develop this character. Parents should make children know Islam which may seem strange owing to the non Islamic world that exists outside. Therefore they should be the greatest influence on their children. This is one of the strongest methods the Prophet (ﷺ) used to raise the generation of the Sahaba. When he (ﷺ) arrived in Madinah he (ﷺ) taught them from the very beginning to take whatever they needed of Islam from him. He (ﷺ) was the guide.

References:

[1] [Qur’an 2:44]

[2] [Muwatta 1614, Sahih]

[3] [Sahih Al-Bukhari]

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