The following is a sample of what you can learn taking SeekersHub Global’s Islamic Parenting: Raising Upright Children course. The Course starts September 1st, 2014, so register soon!
A couple words of advice:Fostering love and sympathy between siblings may seem like an uphill battle at times, however this forum
is very key in how your children learn to behave in close relationships. Emphasizing having adab at home will avoid many common instigators for problems, and it help them to develop good character traits for the long term, when they insha Allah start their own families.
- Really inculcate the meaning of the hadith “you love for your brother what you love for yourself” at every opportunity. One’s foremost instinct should be to always prefer others to oneself. Explain that this is a continuous opportunity to earn reward from Allah Most High, and that these seemingly “small deeds” can add up to vast amounts on the Day of Judgment (insha Allah). This also creates a bond of closeness between the people who practice this, especially when such deeds are reciprocated. On top of this, one can teach the formal niceties of how one would prefer others to oneself. An example that comes to mind is if you make waffles (or a similar treat) at home, kids usually fight for who gets the first one… teach them to rather try and give it to the others first (and they will actually get the most reward). It is very sweet to hear children argue “please, you go first” and “No, I prefer you go first.” (when they actually both really want that thing being served). Another example would be when the children race to the car, instead of shoving each other aside to get in first, to say “please you go ahead” or “ladies first” and opening the door for their sister. All of this done with the intention of seeking the reward of Allah Most High. (And then thanking Allah Most High for giving you the good deed.)
- Promote empathy. Teach children to help fulfill the needs of the others around them. If one sibling is crying, they should make attempts to comfort them, not tune them out or ignore them (Even if they had nothing to do with causing the sadness or hurt feelings). Children are often the best comforters, as they can quickly direct the upset child to focus on something else (like another toy, or entice them into a new game). If they have caused the upset, they need to apologize and “make it right”. A good expression is to say, “I’m sorry about what I did. Is there anything I can do to make you feel better?” And to sit with the upset one until they feel better. This in turn can often be reciprocated between siblings, such that when the other one is upset, the other siblings will notice and try and do something about it.
- Clamp down on derogatory jokes, insults or “put downs” in your home. A firm rule should be that this is not allowed in any form, and there should be repercussions to such uncouth behavior. A book I really like on this subject is “Words Are Not for Hurting” by Elizabeth Verdick. As a parent, we need to be firm about this, and not “pretend not to hear” and “let the kids work this out on their own”. They need to understand what does it mean to have adab and respect for one’s own family members. If they don’t give respect, they certainly won’t receive it. If you notice a particular child doing this more than the others, I would take him/ her aside and talk to them about it. Maybe take them out for a treat and have a heart to heart about why it is important to you that they not hurt the feelings of others. Mention the Prophet (peace & blessings be upon him) as the best of examples and how he treated others. You may also want to find out if perhaps this child is being bullied in some way at school or other social forum, that they feel a need to inflict such pain on others. They should also understand what backbiting is, and how/why this is forbidden in the Shariah. Children should be taught to protect the honor and dignity of their own siblings, in front of others, but especially amongst themselves.
- Don’t compare kids. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. A child that is weak in one area will not feel elevated or motivated by hearing “Why can’t you be more like your brother?” However, if one child does very well in a certain area, you can praise their achievement before the others (with no hint of comparison) so that they in turn try and work harder. Generally all children have various strengths, so there are many opportunities to praise each child for their various achievements at different times. This way they can learn from one another. Specifically comparing children can lead to jealously, and bitter feelings between siblings – which in the long term will work against achieving family harmony.
- Model resolving conflict. Teach children what to do when they can’t agree on something. This is an ESSENTIAL lifelong skill that they need to master, and the best forum for learning this is with their own siblings. Conflict resolution needs to be respectful, productive, and not aggressive. Shouting, throwing, hitting, insulting are simply ineffective ways of resolving conflict. Teach child the stoplight of behavior which says to stop, calm down, say the problem and how you feel, think of all of the best (and realistic) ways to resolve the problem, then together choose the best plan and move forward. (If it doesn’t end up working, try the model again.) This model helps children learn long term, how to deal with differences between themselves as others. This is a very helpful model for adults as well to help them resolve their differences with adab. It also reduces tension in the household, when children learn how to properly resolve differences of opinion between themselves, rather than running to their parents because “so and so did X to me”.
- Don’t always tattle. Also teach them how to give their siblings nasiha kindly. Sometimes children will come and “tattle” that for example “so and so left their toys on the ground” or “didn’t finish their cereal”. Teach them how they can rather be proactive about it by kindly advising the sibling “to pick up their toys” or “put their cereal in the fridge for later or check with everyone if someone else can finish it” etc… i.e. help the person his/herself to resolve the problem rather than running to a parent to complain. This is especially true for the children who are ages 7+, as they have the ability to help problem solve in the best way, and help their sibling, rather than always trying to turn them in to higher authority (i.e. their parents).
Abu Hurairah, may Allah Most High be pleased with him, reported that the Messenger of Allah, (peace & blessings be upon him), said:
“Do not be envious of one another; do not artificially inflate prices against one another; do not hate one another; do not shun one another; and do not undercut one another in business transactions; and be as fellow-brothers and servants of Allah.
A Muslim is the brother of a Muslim. He neither oppresses him nor humiliates him nor looks down upon him. Piety is here – and he pointed to his chest three times. It is evil enough for a Muslim to hold his brother Muslim in contempt. All things of a Muslim are inviolable for another Muslim: his blood, his property and his honor.”
Umm Umar (Shireen Ahmed)
Associate Instructor – Islamic Parenting Course