Embrace the Uniqueness of your Child: Islamic Parenting Principles
The Prophet (saw) was known for his proficiency in observing the skills and talents of his companions. He knew precisely who to appoint to be a judge in cases of disputes between members of his community. He knew who to appoint to be the leaders of his army, who to rely on to aid him in writing letters to kings of surrounding nations, and those who were knowledgeable and patient enough to be sent as teachers to different tribes. He knew who the talented businessmen were, and encouraged them in their trades. And they, in turn, supported him with all that they had of wealth and property.
Case in point – the story of Zaid ibn Thabit (ra). As a young teen, Zaid wished to fight alongside the Prophet Muhammad (saw) and his companions in battles. But the Prophet refused to enlist him until he was older. Zaid then turned his attention to the study and memorization of the Quran. The Prophet soon recognized Zaid’s linguistic abilities, so he asked Zaid to learn Hebrew to facilitate communication with the Jewish tribes. He learned the language in a very short time period.
Eventually Zaid would be given the great trust of being one of the Prophet’s scribes, writing down the revelation as Muhammad (saw) received it, and writing letters to various tribes and leaders.
Had the Prophet asked another companion besides Zaid to study additional languages to facilitate communication and help the spread of knowledge, the task may not have been done to the same level of precision.
But the Prophet Muhammad (saw) was a master of observing and understanding a person’s potential, helping him or her water the seeds of faith and knowledge, and utilizing those talents towards the betterment of the individual and the community. No job was belittled or worth any more or less than another job. Every Muslim in every position was needed to make the community work well.
Likewise, observing your child’s natural tendencies/interests and fostering her development with this in mind is paramount to her success. Provide her with a wide array of learning options, then allow yourself over time to notice how best she learns and what subjects interest her more than others. She may learn best by experiencing, or hearing, or seeing, or a combination of all three. Not impeding a child’s learning means diligently observing the positive things she naturally gravitates towards and supporting her learning journey in that.
Then, like the prophet (saw) did with his companions, continue to water the seed of potential in your child.
Be content with the plant that grows, even if it isn’t quite what you were expecting.
Not every child must grow up to be a doctor or a teacher, or even a “professional” per se. Your child may not want to take on the family business. She may not want to attend the same school, or be involved in the same activities as you. And that’s perfectly fine. Pigeonholing your offspring from a tender age into the narrow compartment of what is an “acceptable” professional path in life will only bring discontent to your family.
This is not to say that you shouldn’t promote a well-rounded learning journey for your child. Rather, tread carefully so as not stomp over that fragile sprout of potential that is emerging as she grows. Understand that every child is unique, and will grow up to have a unique contribution the world. That is something that should be encouraged and respected.