Moral Training of the Child
Adapted from lectures given by Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmood Ahmad (ra) outlined in the book Way of the seekers
1) First step towards its education
As soon as your child is born, the first step towards its education is to proclaim Azaan into their ears.
Your child should be kept neat and tidy. How can you look after their inner cleanliness if you do not look after their external cleanliness? Let the child have a clean body. Its impact on his mind will be great. As a consequence your child will come to have a clean mind and will become immune to sins, which are caused by uncleanliness.
3) Feeding your child at fixed hours
Your child should be fed at fixed hours. This will breed the habit of self-control and save it from a number of vices. Lack of self-control can lead to other negative traits. It is a grave mistake not to inculcate food habits in a child and instead just feed anytime they cry.
Regular food habits will further lead to the following good habits:
➢ Good health.
➢ Cooperation. Such children will not be egocentric and selfish for they will have learnt to eat with others.
➢ Frugality. Such child will not suffer from the bad habit of wastefulness and extravagance. The child who is given to eating at odd hours will eat less and waste more. But if it is fed to a fixed measure and at fixed hours, it will make the best of what it gets and remain content with it without a tendency towards waste.
➢ It will develop the inner strength to resist temptation.
Children have the tendency to demand for things and you will experience this when out shopping for example. If you do not give into demands then the child will learn the habit of fighting temptation later in life.
Similarly if a child wishes to snack at home, rather then allowing them to eat outside of meal times, teach them patience. This will fortify self-control and enable them to exercise restraint.
4) The call of nature
A child should be helped to form the habit of relieving nature at regular hours. This is very helpful for its health. But a greater benefit is that its limbs come to acquire a sense of punctuality. Bowels become conditioned to move at fixed hours and evacuation takes place at the proper time. The child, who learns to perform its natural functions regularly, readily forms the habits of praying and fasting.
5) Food intake
Food should be served according to a prescribed measure. This will teach the child contentment and discourage gluttony.
6) What to eat?
Your child should be given a variety of foods. It should have meat, vegetables and fruit, for dietary habits affect morals and a variety of food is necessary for a variety of morals. Vegetables should be given more priority over meat.
7) Teaching responsibility through positive play
As your child grows, they should be asked to do small tasks under the guise of playing. For example, fetching a utensil, to replace or carry an object and other such small tasks. But they should also have the time to play on their own.
A child should be allowed to acquire self-confidence as a matter of habit. For instance, if it wants to have an object, which it has just seen, it should be told that it would get it at a certain time. Hiding the object is no solution, for it will imitate and try to hide things, which will breed the habit of stealing.
9) Over pampering your child
Your child should not be over-indulged, to much pampering or caressing leads to vices that can be exposed when having to fit into society.
10) Teach self sacrifice from your own example
Parents should be capable of self-sacrifice. Foods, which are prohibited for an ailing child, should neither be brought into the house nor should the parents eat them. The child should be told that they are abstaining on his account. The child will thus learn the habit of self-sacrifice.
11) Scaring your child
Children should not be told tales of horror. This would make them cowards when they grow up. Your child should be told stories of courage.
12) Choosing the right friends
Parents should have an active part to play in what friends your child chooses. They should choose well-behaved children as associates for their children. The parents too will benefit from this arrangement. They will come to know the parents of other children whom they have chosen as associates for their child. It will lead to a kind of inter-parent cooperation. Also when they choose playmates for their child, they will watch over their behaviour.
13) Teaching responsibility through sports
Games like football, etc., are a useful exercise for this purpose. But in sports too we should be ever watchful lest the child picks up bad habits. In the event of a difference of opinion in games, parents usually support their child and force the other child to accept what their child says. This leads their child to be obstinate and it always wants to have its own way.
14) Be polite and avoid promoting negative attention
Address a child politely and courteously, for a child is a great mimic. If you address it rudely, it will return the compliment in kind.
The Holy Prophet (on him be peace) said: Do not curse a child for when you curse, angels add: Let it be like that; and like that he becomes.
Incidentally, this also means that angels are responsible for the consequences of actions. When you tell your child that they are bad, it can lead to negative attention where the child becomes that image of bad you portray them to be. Therefore, do not be abusive towards a child. Praise them and teach them to be good.
15) Be mindful of stubbornness
A child should not be allowed to become obstinate. If it persists in being stubborn, its attention should be diverted to something else. Later, the cause of its obstinate behaviour should be traced and removed.
16) Do not lie to your child
A child should be especially guarded against it. Lying has a variety of causes, some of them very abstruse. Given the causes, or some of them, a child is bound to contract this vice as a matter of course. A child is highly imaginative. Whatever it hears, it turns it into a kind of reality. To a child every image is real and they should be helped to realise the difference between fact and fiction.
17) Influence of drugs and other intoxicants around your child
Safeguard your child against all intoxicants and make them understand from an early age the negative impact they have.
18) Stop children from playing in privacy
Use of computers, ipads, and phones can take your control away and allow your child’s mind to be filled with improper messages and images. Parental controls need to be understood when it comes to these devices.
19) Teach children to admit their mistakes
This should be done as a matter of habit. For this the following methods would be helpful:
➢ Do not try to hide your own mistakes before a child.
➢ Be sympathetic when it commits a mistake. Let it feel that the mistake is a kind of loss it has suffered. Hence so much sympathy. Also let it feel that a particular mistake has resulted in a certain loss.
➢ To guard against the repetition of a mistake, talk to the child in a manner that brings home to it the trouble its mistake has occasioned to the parents. They could, for instance, pay for the loss its mistake is supposed to have caused. This will make it realise that the result of damaging things is not good. The doctrine of atonement is not valid but the method is useful for the training of a child.
➢ If you want to reprimand a child, do not do it before others; do it in privacy.
20) Give them money to look after
A child should be given a little money. This will teach it three virtues:
➢ Managing money
➢ Helping relatives
For instance, if it has three coins, let it purchase some eatable with one coin and share it with other children. With the second coin, let it buy a toy and the third it should be asked to give in charity.
21) The virtues of sharing
Children should also be given common ownership of some property. For instance, they should be given a toy and they should be told that it belongs to all of them, that all should play with it and that no one should try to damage it. This would teach them to safeguard common property.
A child should be given constant guidance in matters of etiquette.
23) Physical exercise
Due heed should be paid to physical exercise and stamina of a child. This would be helpful towards its moral education and progress in the world.