Be Gentle: Islamic Parenting Principles
We often judge ourselves as parents according to how “well-behaved” our children are, especially in public. We give ourselves imaginary points when they act “civil” after a tough talking-to prior to taking them out (oh, hey, did we tell our children yet that they will go to hell if they don’t listen to us or do xyz?). We puff out our chests when we see another parent dealing “weakly” with a misbehaving child, thinking, he really has to toughen up.
The Prophet (saw) said to his wife Aisha: “O Aisha, Allah is gentle and He loves gentleness, and He rewards for gentleness what is not granted for harshness, and He does not reward anything else like it.”
The greatest example of all time was the one who was the best to his wives, the one who children would seek the company of because of his gentle and loving demeanor, and the one who was praised by Muslims and non-Muslims alike for his impeccable character. Being gentle is not equal to being weak. The Prophet Muhammad (saw) was the strongest of men, but also the most gentle.
The Prophet Muhammad (saw) said: “The strong man is not the one who can throw another down. The strong man is the one who can keep hold of himself when he is angry.”
The ability to be gentle, even in anger, is true strength.
Being gentle with your child is hard. Oh-so-hard. Believe me, I know. Sometimes it seems like she is quite literally doing everything in her power to unhinge you and cause you permanent insanity. Like taking permanent markers to the walls, couch and face; trying diligently to uncover you while you pray; running away from you in public places; refusing the have her hair washed (rendering you more soaked than her after giving her a bath); refusing to eat anything except lollipops and gum, etc. And that’s just toddlerhood.
Gentleness is difficult, even with your child whom you love profoundly.
The ability to bite your tongue before you yell or say something damaging to a sensitive and easily-influenced child is incredibly hard. Even harder is the ability to apologize after you have said or done something you regret.
Everyone knows the famous story of a man who saw a dog in the desert licking the sand because of its extreme thirst. So the man gave the dog some water to drink and he was rewarded with paradise. If it was this one act of mercy and gentleness towards an animal that earned this man Allah’s forgiveness and a place in Jannah, then how valuable is gentleness towards your child?
This world is like a desert and every human being is walking through it, tired and thirsty. Your child will find a well of gentleness to drink from – if the water doesn’t come from your well, it will come from someone else’s well. And you won’t know what silently lurks in that water.