I would like to know what is the proper age at which one should start giving children Islamic knowledge? And also what is the proper way of doing so? Actually I have a nephew who is ten years old and I am observing that day-by-day he is developing a lot of habits, which are not right and quite contrary to our Islamic values. He is becoming disobedient and doesn’t seem to like what we elders tell him. Now I want to talk to him about Allah and give him the basic knowledge about Islam but in a way so that he starts to love Allah and Islam and start practising it in his daily life to become a better human being. But the more I try the more it becomes difficult for me because we are living in a society which is quite un-Islamic and unhealthy for a sound spiritual development of a child. I, myself sometimes find it difficult to cope with situations that I face. It would be a great help to me if you kindly help in choosing a way in which I can start.Â
From the time a child is born he/she is to undergo Islamic teaching. It is obvious that I am not talking about formal education but rather parental education. A newborn is taught about Islam through the parent’s love, care and nurturing attitude. Growing up in such a beautiful environment develops the child and the Muslim mind. It takes tremendous effort because parents have to be aware of their child’s behavior as well as their own. They must reinforce the good and correct the bad. A child is merely clay, ready to be molded and shaped into the best person he can possibly be. However, if the “molder” or “sculpturer” him/herself has not developed the proper knowledge and technique within themselves then surely it may show up in their efforts. Children are beautiful, unique individuals. Each child needs attention according to their temperament and an educational style conducive to their needs. Therefore, instilling Islamic knowledge and practice must come in the form acceptable to the child; force, generally, is not a viable option. The best method for developing a child’s character is by example. A child, just like a sponge, soaks up everything he/she sees, hears, touches etc… So you must be fully aware that the child will pick up your wrongs and rights. Sometimes, it seems that the child is not learning from the parents; however, later in life, amazingly, things begin to click. All the hard work and effort pays off but don’t expect it to happen immediately. This is especially important to remember so that you don’t lose hope. Get the child involved in fun activities, with other children. Allow your children to learn all that they can possibly take. Be very aware of their friends and associates. Remember patience and gentleness is required. You must also realize that different children and children of different age groups learn differently. A ten-year-old child may not be the most receptive to praying. So you must come up with clever and creative ways in which he would want to participate in such a beautiful act. Love the child for who the child is. Help the child and encourage his actions when they are good. Discourage the bad in a calm, kind way and help him understand why something is wrong. Although, he is ten speak to him as you would speak to an adult. Be straightforward with him. Never try to bring yourself down to his age, you can understand his ten-year-old mind frame, but don’t try to communicate on his level especially since he might take it as you trying to mock him. Include him in good activities and surround him with those who have the same concerns about their children as you do about your nephew. Read him some stories, even if you have to create them yourself from real events. For example start with, “Once upon a time there was a man named Muhammad…” Make whatever you are teaching him interesting for him to follow. There are tons of resources out there; books, songs, toys etc… Here is a thought, not from an Islamic source but quite relevant and very much in harmony with Islam:
Children Learn What They Live
If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight.
If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy.
If a child lives with shame, he learns to be guilty.
If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient.
If a child lives with encouragement, he learns confidence.
If a child lives with praise, he learns to appreciate.
If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith.
If a child lives with approval, he learns to like himself.
If a child lives with acceptance and friendship, He learns to find love in the world.
As I have stated, Islamic teaching comes as the development of life evolves into adulthood. It is a process that is interwoven within the fabric of rearing children.
For more detailed and specific guidelines, it would best that you refer to a Muslim psychologist and a child educationist.
I hope I have clarified the issue.
God knows best.