Wednesday 18 May 2022

How to be a good parent to Muslim children growing up in twenty-first century Britain?


From Yahya Birt's Fb page, I found it very beneficial alhamdulilah.

An old friend whose children are much younger than mine asked me how to be a good parent to Muslim children growing up in twenty-first century Britain. I was a bit flummoxed by the question as I’ve never considered myself to be any sort of parenting model. As a father, I am decidedly a work in progress: I still make parenting mistakes even into my third decade as a father. However, after mulling over it for a couple of months, these are some of the rules of thumb that have worked for me. Maybe they will work for you.

1. Don’t squash your child into a preconceived mould of what a good Muslim should be, but facilitate their own journey of discovery. Good parents nurture: they are not dictators.
2. Prepare your children for the world as it is not how you would like it to be. You have to prepare them to be resourceful and resilient.
3. Focus on the fundamentals of faith: on God, the Prophet, and the Hereafter in their youth. Build that bond and connection with the faith, with the mosque, and with pious and holy people, with the gatherings of remembrance and learning.

4. Establish your own prayer and worship if you wish to establish it in your children. Let them see that dua is the first resort of a believer who puts their trust in God.
5. Make the child used to seeing giving in action, helping others; give them money to give to others from a young age. Make them see generosity, hospitality, service and compassion as the Muslim's bread and butter, and their salt and pepper.
6. Try to establish love and attachment to the Quran from a young age. Listening to Quran recitation is an important part of this.
7. If you break your child’s spirit in pursuit of inculcating self-control you will break their confidence. Don’t be your child’s eternal life raft and never be their jailor: focus on teaching them how to swim.
8. Always remind your child their faith must come to centre on their own relationship with God, not on parental approval or disapproval. The latter are props to be kicked away as their faith matures and their understanding grows.

9. Under-confidence is a bigger issue among young Muslims, boys especially, than is egotism. Let us recognise bravado as a sign of lack of confidence rather than of arrogance.
10. Our established systems of moral education (tarbiyah) were not built for Muslim minority status or the structural Islamophobia of the postcolonial period. They need to be rebuilt from scratch with wisdom and love to become fit for purpose.
11. No educational institution, religious or secular, will give everything your child as an individual needs to grow. Be prepared to change things around in the best interests of your child. Be ready to work in active partnership with your child's educators and to challenge them constructively if they are not doing right by your child. You can't leave them at the school and madrasa gates, do nothing else and just hope for the best. That is a failure of parenting.
12. If you find a teacher who inspires your child hang on to them. They are a priceless commodity. Even in adulthood, many of us struggle to distinguish between our interest in a subject and poor teaching -- this is doubly true for children. Teachers have the power to switch us on or off many subjects, either secular or religious, until we solidify our own motives for learning various subjects.
13. Consider holiday time an opportunity to explore the history and culture of Muslims; such educational opportunities are there even in our home countries in the West if travelling abroad is beyond your means.
14. Stay close to your extended family if you are blessed to have one. A child brought up in an extended family is more rounded and confident. The nuclear family structure combined with the current economic requirement for dual income households doesn’t add up to attentive parenting.
15. Keep your kids off smart phones for as long as possible -- at least until they gain a love of reading books. Make book reading with your children a daily practice. Focus on making it enjoyable for them not onerous. If they master the art of long-form concentration and capacity for subtle and extended argument or great prose and sophisticated character studies in terms of nonfiction and fiction book reading they will retain an advantage few others will possess in the digital age.
16. Don’t try as parents to present a united parental front to the children, but demonstrate to them the art of disagreeing and then compromising within a family setting. Teach them to use words and reason to convey what is on their minds.
17. A home without any arguments is one where someone is usually keeping quiet and making all the compromises.
18. Don’t go to bed without making up with your children after an argument. Don’t let things fester.
19. Always strive for open communication with your children above all. Never penalise honesty, especially when they confess to wrongdoing or to having doubts. That way your child will feel safe to tell you what’s really on their minds. This openness is a blessing not a test.
20. Tell your children that doubt is part of faith, and that you will always be there to help answer any question they have, no matter how tough or awkward it might be. If you don’t know the answer yourself, tell them you don’t know, but that you are willing to go away and find out more. Or direct them to someone who does know.
21. Try to teach your children as many practical life skills as possible. Schools do not cover this adequately in my experience.
22. Encourage your children to eat the same food that you eat from a young age. In other words, eat together, not separately. Resist the temptation to give them children’s meals. This is just marketing and the food is normally bad for them.
23. Try to offer them a balanced plate of food. Reduce carbs and sugar, and get them used to vegetables and fruit. Don’t become a household that is reliant on fried foods or a heavy meat diet. Try to source meat and poultry that is organic, halal and cruelty-free (this is particularly important in the case of chickens who are mostly kept in cruel conditions).
24. Encourage them to love the outdoors and sports. Let them muck around in puddles and get muddy when young. Don’t keep them cooped up. Barring a heavy storm with heavy wind and rain, there’s no such thing as truly bad weather but only a wardrobe unable to adapt to Britain’s temperamental weather.
25. Encourage your children to love plants, animals, and nature. Have plants in your home, and even if you have a small yard put some pots in it. Grow some tomatoes or strawberries so that they can see where food comes from. Cats make ideal pets. They are affectionate but also independent and clean. They retain a sense of their wildness and this is important for children to experience.
26. If a parent has to assert their authority by saying that Islam teaches children to respect their parents then usually something has gone wrong. The same goes for shouting.
27. Model good manners to your children. Good manners are gold, but only with the right motives. They are a means to an end, not an end in themselves.
28. If you model good listening to your children, they will become good listeners too, insha’Allah.
29. Help your children to learn to navigate friendships. This is particularly important for girls, who seek out deeper friendships than boys do at a younger age. The most important lessons they have to learn are that friendships come in different shapes and sizes, that they are based on reciprocity and can’t be one-sided, that friends should respect your boundaries, and not to blame yourself for dynamics in friendships that are beyond your control.
30. You never stop being a parent. However your children do become adults, and so the relationship does become more equal and this is natural and to be expected.

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