An Exploration of Sacred Parenting and Education

Making Little Reflectors by Farah Benhalim

In parenting on February 25, 2012 at 9:21 am

I had the most appalling weekend a couple weeks ago. I was stuck visiting relatives. I say “stuck” because despite being on good and pleasant terms with everyone I had felt completely disconnected from them. After our first meal, I was utterly shocked to find a prominent member of the family sit in front of the computer and put their headphones on. I was like, is this for real or am I imagining this? Aren’t we supposed to be visiting? I thought, okay, let’s try connecting with some other members of the family. Hey, how’s it going? How are you doing? The response was almost one of shock and confusion – as if he didn’t get asked that question very much. A shrugged shoulder and a murmur of some sort is all I got. So, I gave up trying to connect and thought, “Do as the Romans do” and dutifully opened up my laptop and surfed the net. This continued on for about two and a half days and for me, it was like pure hell. Everyone was hooked on to something, a psp, a dsi, a wii, a laptop, a computer, a phone, an ipad. Sitting on the sofa watching tv was considered spending time together. There was very little eye contact and very little if any meaningful exchange. I felt like standing on the dining room table and yelling at all the disconnected people in the room, “What the heck is going on here?!?” It was totally bizarre and so infuriating. I thought how can people live like this? I felt infuriated because I realized that my young and pre-teen relatives hadn’t had the chance to develop the skills necessary to express themselves, to articulate their thoughts and feelings and were certainly not in the habit of checking in with themselves. For me, it is so sad seeing people bounce from one distraction to another, never taking the time to sit and contemplate meaningful things. For me, this is what being human is.

So, the question is, how do we raise children who take the time to reflect? I have a feeling that I’m going to be preaching to the choir…but taking the time to regularly ask your children, “How are you feeling?”, actually forces a child to stop and check in with themselves. Often, they will not have the vocabulary or the ability to articulate how they feel, but if you are attentive you can help them describe and label what they are feeling. Getting your child to reflect on their inner state and the world around them is a good habit and one that will carry them through life. However, as we all know the ultimate reflection is one that is lit with the light of remembrance of Allah. So, I thought I would share a practice with you which I have found to be beneficial and useful in developing blessed contemplation in children. We aim to do this every night, which means, realistically, we get to it about three or four times a week. After all the children have prepared themselves for bed and we’ve read the final bed time story, I gather all the children to sit in a small circle in one of the bedrooms. We dim the lights low to create a calm atmosphere and we make a very light and informal thikr. The key of this thikr is to keep it very short, and very cuddly, and very informal. I started this because I noticed that the children weren’t benefiting from the formal family thikrs we would do, because most of the focus and energy was spent on making sure the children sat still and were non-disruptive. In the end, we were left feeling frustrated and pretty much un-blessed! I do believe children should learn about manners and self-restraint, so we do formal family prayers together where we are fairly rigid and teach the children not to be goofy and disruptive. But, I also thought it necessary to create a way for the children to connect with their creator in a non-rigid and formalized way, such that their hearts become opened, relaxed and receptive to the Divine. We literally do three of every item (about 10 items- Subhanallah, Alhamdulillah, etc) and a few short surahs. This is enough to bring in the blessings and create the right atmosphere. In the end, I make a dua in English so that they can understand what I’m asking, but again, the dua is fairly informal and often contains a personal reflection and even some humour. Afterwards, I invite the children to add in their own dua and reflections of the day. I guarantee you that you will be delighted by what comes out of your children’s mouths! Doing this creates a great sense of sharing and bonding between you, your children, and our Creator in a very sweet kind of way. I think it’s so important to normalize sharing your own spiritual insights with your children and theirs with you. Doing so allows them to understand that life is a journey that we are all on together. You may not be able to protect them from every pain and hardship, but you can equip them with the tools for accomplishing one of the greatest tasks there is, and that is to know and understand themselves. For as the prophetic saying goes, “He who has come to know his own self has come to know his Lord (man ‘arafa nafsahu fa qad ‘arafah rabbahu)

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  1. Farah,
    Thank you for writing about this – finding time for spiritual connection in a detached society. Though I am very informal about it, I use bedtime, while he’s laying down and when he’s very tired and relaxed, to discuss anything that may be on his mind from the day. He inevitably has something to share with me every day. Sometimes it’s just many questions. This is very comforting for both of us that we make this connection.

  2. Thanks Farah
    Very nice article. My daughter would often bring us to laughter with her dua ‘Allah ta’ala please give me more toys’.

    Totally feel the TV culture in family gatherings too. Conversations tend to be opinionated discussions on religion with at least one person getting heated 🙂 or piss-taking humor at each other.

    S

    • Yeah, I love those duahs. This one is a little rude… the other day my 8yr old Aminah says,”Ya Allah, please stop me from eating too many beans because they make me fart”. ( She had let one rip during thikr!)

      yeah, somehow religion and family don’t mix… it’s the hardest subject to talk about.

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