How to Discipline Your Child as a Muslim

How to Discipline Your Child as a Muslim

Know that a child is a trust on his parents and his heart is an uncut jewel which is open to every inscription. So if good is presented to it, it will be raised on that and will share in the rewards with his parents or teachers. Yet if he becomes accustomed to evil, he will be raised on that and the burden of that will be around his neck and also around the necks of those who cultivated him on that. Thus, a child has to be protected, taught manners, well-trained, taught exquisite etiquettes and protected from negative peers. A child should become accustomed to receiving favours and rewards or love high standards as he will then waste his life in seeking that when he grows older.

Rather, he has to be observed from the start of his life and permit none but a woman of virtue and religion who consumes the halal should nurse and raise him; as the milk which arrives from the haram will have no blessing in it whatsoever.

If the first sign of puberty with a child is shyness this is a sign of nobility and is a glad-tiding of sound mind which helps in teaching the child manners in his life.

The first negative trait to take control of him will be greed for food, as a result a child has to be taught the manners of eating and become accustomed to eating a single load of bread at times and overeating should be made out to be vulgar to the child, and made out to be the way of wild animals.

He should be encouraged to like white clothing rather than silk garments, so that it becomes acknowledge by him that such material is of the attire of women and effeminate men.

He should also be encouraged not to mix with those children who are accustomed to luxury and comfort [i.e. spoilt].

He should start preoccupying himself in the library learning the Qur’an, the traditions, and narrations of the good people, so that love of the righteous people becomes ingrained in him. He should not memorise love songs or poetry and rhymes which discuss love and passion.

When beautiful manners and praiseworthy actions manifest in a child, the child has to be honoured as a result and rewarded in a way which makes him happy, the child is also to be praised in front of people for those good qualities. Likewise, if at times the child may do contrary to this, this is to be put aside and not exposed as he is to rather be admonished secretly and made to be fearful of people finding out. A child is not be admonished often as this will weaken his desire to listen to the one who reproaches him.

Similarly a mother should make the child become fearful of the father, and the child should be prevented from sleeping during the day as this will lead to laziness in the child. Yet the child should not be prevented from sleeping at night, but he should be prevented from sleeping on a soft bed as this will weaken his limbs.

Also he should become used to a coarse bed, coarse clothing and coarse food.

He should acquire the habit of walking, moving about and taking exercise so that he does not become overcome by laziness.

He should be prevented from boasting in front of his peers due to something which his parents possessions, whether these be anything he eats or wears.

He should become used to humility and honouring those whom he associates.

He should be prevented from accepting anything from other boys.

He should be taught that taking is lowly [and blameworthy] while giving is the upper-hand [and honourable].

He should always be made to judge the love of gold and silver as vulgar thing.

A child should know that spitting in gatherings is improper etiquette as is to clear mucus from one’s throat in public. The child should also know that it is inappropriate to yawn in public, and to place his leg over his other leg in public gatherings. He should also be raised to know that it is inappropriate to speak excessively.

The child should also be cultivated on not speaking except when answering questions, and that he should listen attentively when others are speaking who are older than him. And that the child should stand for those who are above him and sit in front of them out of respect.

The child should be cautioned against immoral speech and foul language, and mingle with those who speak in such ways. This is in order to preserve the child from bad company.

It is good and advisable to let the child play after leaving the school, so that the child can relax after lessons. As is said, ‘Relaxation of the heart encourages remembrance.’

He should be taught to obey his parents and his teachers, and to look upon them with respect and admiration.

When the child reaches seven years of age, he should be instructed to pray and that it is not allowed to abandon ritual ablution. He should also be warned against lying and deception, and then as he approaches adulthood he will come to understand the reasons for these matters.

Know that foods is a means of maintaining health, and that its purpose is to enable man to gain strength for the worship of Allah, and that this world will not endure, and that death must bring its pleasures to an end and it should be awaited for at each hour. The intelligent one is the one who makes provisions for the Afterlife. If his upbringing is righteous therefore this becomes ingrained in his heart like an inscription is ingrained in stone.

Sahl ibn ‘Abdullah said: ‘When I was [only| three years old I used to get up at night and see my maternal uncle Muhammad in Suwār praying.’ One day he said to me: ‘Do you not remember Allah who created you?’ I said: ‘How do I do that?’ He said to me: “Say in your heart, without moving your tongue[1] three things: ‘Allah is with me, Allah is watching me and Allah is looking at me? So I said that until I learned it, then my uncle said to me: “Say it ten times per night.’ So I did so and its sweetness entered within my heart. A year later my uncle said to me: ‘Memorise what I have taught you and keep doing it until you reach your grave. So I did not cease doing it for all of these years and I found its sweetness within myself. Then my uncle said to me: “O Sahl, whoever has Allah with him, watching and looking over him, will he disobey Allah?’ And so I went to school, where I memorised the Quran by the time I was six or seven years of age, then I fasted for a lifetime, ate just barley-bread, and then I prayed through the entire night.’

[Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth by Imam Ibn Qudamah Al-Maqdis, p.35-39]


[1] According to the jurists this is not to be defined as “dhikr” as the tongue has to be moved.

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