Ages Two to Five
By the time your child is two years of age, he/she is likely speaking or beginning to speak a great deal. In addition, they will begin understanding things much more than prior to this time. Obviously, the older they get, the better their understanding and the more their questions will be. It is important that parents communicate with their children; make sure to listen, talk to them and address their questions.
I cannot emphasize enough how one needs to lead/teach by example. So besides practicing what you preach, be sure to teach the child du’aas in the manner we previously discussed. However, you now need to step things up a notch. Start teaching them our ‘aqeedah (belief system) in a slightly more “formal” way. For example, when you see beautiful trees, ask your child, “Who made these?” The same with the sky, the mountains etc… When it snows or rains, ask the child who caused it to snow and rain and so forth. When eating, ask who provided us with the food and make them understand why we say bismillaah and alhamdulillaah when we begin eating and finish eating respectively. If you teach your child these matters from an early age, you are providing them with a solid foundation.
When you find that your child is learning to read, make it a priority to teach them the Arabic alphabet along with the alphabet of the language they use in their daily lives. Don’t think it is overburdening your child. Children are capable of quite a bit that we are not aware of. Just as you buy alphabet blocks and other educational materials for your child to learn English (for example), spend on materials through which they can learn to read Arabic. The primary goal behind this is of course to enable them to read Quraan. Imagine, by doing so you will receive similar rewards to what they earn every time they recite Quraan. In the event you are not able to teach your child Arabic (here I mean to read Arabic), then do your best to find them a teacher/tutor; it is one of the best investments you will ever make. In addition to teaching your child to read Quraan, do what you can to assist them in memorizing portions of it as well. Early on you can have them memorize simple soorahs; teach them al-Faatihah, al-Ikhlaas and the last few soorahs of the Quraan and slowly add to that. To help them, let them listen to these soorahs being recited on recordings; and perhaps if they hear them in childrens’ voices they will be encouraged to learn more. As a matter of fact, you may find video clips on the internet of young children reciting Quraan; expose your child to these so they can be further encouraged.
Children love stories. Before they learn to read, they love being read to and told stories. Alhamdulillaah, for us English speakers, there are now many kids’ books available in good and simple English that we can read to our kids and eventually have our kids read for themselves. Be keen to make these books available to your children either by purchasing them or borrowing them from your local Islaamic Library (at the Masjid, Islaamic Center or Muslim School). And here let me suggest that if these materials are not available at our mosques, centers and schools, then you as a concerned parent should make an effort to have these made available. Either you can purchase them and donate them to the institution or find people who will get together and do so. Don’t expect those running these institutions to think of everything. As well, television and DVDs are a part of everyday life and are close to impossible to avoid. Living with that reality, look for materials prepared by Muslims for Muslims through which your child can learn matters of their deen (religion). Let me also point out here that just because books and other materials are given “Islaamic” names, they aren’t necessarily appropriate nor good. Therefore, as you would do with any other book or DVD, screen it to make certain that it is acceptable for your child. In the case of Islaamic literature, look for materials which do not promote innovations and which rely on authentic sources for the subjects presented. Encourage your child to read and learn as much as they can about Islaam while instilling in them the importance of practicing what they learn.
Super heroes are a big thing for kids. They look for heroes and role models. As stated previously you, the Mom and Dad, are your child’s first role model and hero. But as they grow, they look for others as well. Before they get hooked on Superman and others, teach them about the Prophets, the Sahaabah and other great Muslim personalities. Tell them true stories of bravery and heroism from the lives of these genuine heroes so they aspire to be like them. Wouldn’t you rather that your child want to be like Khalid ibn al Waleed or Salahud-Din al Ayyoubi or Sumayyah or Khadijah bint Khuwaylid than Batman or a Power Ranger or Batwoman or Hanna Montana? Many of us neglect this aspect and it’s high time we pay attention to it.
Once again, I must emphasize the importance of finding (good) Muslim friends for our children. Besides what we mentioned from the hikmah (wisdom) behind this in our last article, it is also a practical means of teaching our children al Walaa wal Baraa (loyalty and disavowal) and al Hubb wal Bughdh fillaah (love and hate for the sake of Allaah). From early on our children need to be made aware of who is good and who is evil, but they also need to know why. Therefore, when seeking out friends, make mention of the fact that so and so is good because they are Muslim and they love Allaah and Allaah loves them. Point out how they also read Quraan and pray Salaah whereas so and so (a non-Muslim) does not do those things. This may seem “extreme” to some, but it is far from that. It is one of the most effective ways of protecting our children from bad influences, raising them to feel they are special and that they have ‘izzah (honour). They need to be taught not to associate too closely with non Muslims, but at the same time, if they are just running around with them at the park or playing ball with them, we should not prevent this unless there is a good reason for it. From this you understand then that if you are going to allow your child to play with a non Muslim child, then make certain it is under your supervision. The intelligent know very well why I say this.
Although salaah, fasting, hijaab and such matters are not compulsory on children yet, it doesn’t mean we should not teach them these matters and encourage them. From an early age you will notice your child imitating you while you pray. Show them how pleased you are with that; this may be in the form of a huge hug, a gift, or a simple thumbs up. Acknowledge what they are doing and praise them for it. The same goes for your little daughter who wants to cover up (put on hijaab) to imitate her mother; encourage it and praise that type of behavior. And regarding little girls, by the time they reach five, you should start making certain that you dress them modestly. I’m not saying to put them in hijaab from this age, however, be selective of the clothing you dress them in. With regards to fasting, your child will want to fast with you in Ramadhaan. Don’t prevent them! I hear many parents saying they fear for their child's health and that’s why they discourage them from fasting. I recommend that if a child wants to do it, let them. Of course you are not going to be strict and insist that they abstain from food and drink all day; rather, when they feel hungry or thirsty and ask for something, give it to them. Likely the child will eat and say they want to fast again. Accept that and allow it as it makes the child feel good. Soon you’ll notice that your child even manages to fast an entire day. At that point you’ll make a big deal out of it and reward your child for the amazing achievement.
These early years are extremely important and as a parent you need to make certain that your child has a solid foundation to build upon. In our next article we’ll continue looking at the child until he/she reaches ten years of age Inshaa Allaah.