By Amina Salau
Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem
Aisha, the wife of Allah’s Messenger (sa), reported that he said:
“Whenever kindness is found in anything, it adds to its beauty, and whenever it is withdrawn from anything, it makes it defective.” (Muslim)
In every culture and religion, kindness is a universal language that uplifts humanity and spreads a message of love. Adults understand that being kind and good to others is an excellent attribute, but have we also considered the need to consciously encourage our little ones to be kind? I hope so!
More than culture, Islam encourages kindness amongst all the creation of Allah, including children, and for this reason, it becomes a duty for parents/guardians to encourage their children to be kind, through the following ways:
There is a famous belief that children learn more from what they see you doing rather than what they are being told to do. This is quite true. If we want to encourage our children to be kind, we need to show them how to be kind. What do you do to help strangers you meet on the streets? How do you treat your neighbours? Remember that Prophet Muhammad (sa) emphasized kind treatment of neighbours till the Sahabah (Companions) thought that he was going to assign them a share of inheritance. (Muslim) When children see adults showing kindness to others, they get the message that this is a good way to behave.
Teach them to be kind to others
As much as we can show children kindness from our own interactions, we should also consciously teach them things they can do to show kindness towards other people. Nurturing good behaviour in children right from the start will help them grow into it and become kind and helpful Muslim adults. Teach your child that it is an act of kindness to donate money to charity, to help the less privileged, or to simply remove a stick from the road so that it does not hurt someone else. Not only will you teach them good behaviour, they will also learn how to empathize with others.
Reward acts of kindness
Rewarding children for their kind behaviour is an excellent way to encourage them to keep up the habit. If your child helps someone who falls in the playground, assists an elderly neighbour to shovel snow from their driveway, or always tries to say something kind to younger siblings, be sure to reward them. Reward them by giving them things that they love, or by allowing them some privileges. I should say, however, that this is not the same as them doing what is naturally expected from them as household duties.
You can also remind them that all acts of kindness are sadaqah (charity), and will Insha’Allah (Allah willing) be rewarded by Allah (st). (Al-Adab Al-Mufrad; sound) This reward system makes children feel appreciated and more willing to keep up the good behaviour.
Show them how not to behave
Part of encouraging kindness in children is also teaching them about behaviours that are unkind. It is never okay to bully or beat other kids, and no matter how much you want something, it is not acceptable to take things that belong to other people. It is not kind to make fun of people, embarrass them, or be mean towards them.
This is as much an issue of having good manners as it is of being a kind human being. If you find a child committing acts of unkindness to others, simply remind them of the importance of being kind and the rewards attached to it by Allah (st).
Here are some tips to encourage this behaviour in children:
- Include activities that encourage kindness into the family’s daily routine. Let the kids share their lunch with another kid who possibly does not have as much as they do.
- Encourage kids to sign up for age-appropriate community services, or voluntary activities in the Masjid (mosque).
- Teach them the importance and benefits of sadaqah as a way to learn empathy and show kindness.
When we encourage kindness in children, we not only help them or ourselves seek rewards from Allah (st), we also take positive steps to raise righteous Muslim children.
Amina Salau is a freelance writer who is passionate about women’s issues in Islam
© IIPH 2015