بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
By Ruhaifa Adil
The best of us have a hard time being patient when things get tough. For children, it is a monumental task!Patience is a virtue best taught from childhood because it is not a trait that can be acquired overnight. Being patient is an attitude, and a way of life; it is highly recommended by our deen (religion). Allah loves as-Sabiroon, the patient, and there is nothing more a parent could want for their children than for them to be Allah’s beloved.
The word ‘patience’ is a very abstract term. Asking your child to ‘be patient’ does not offer any practical steps, nor does it help in developing this trait. It is akin to asking a fish to climb a tree. Patience needs to be explained and taught to children in ways that they understand, and before they encounter a frustrating situation.
According to Islamic scholars, Sabr or patience is needed in three situations:
1. Sabr in difficulty: For a child this could mean being patient in situations where they do not get what they want or have to wait before they can get what they want.
2. Sabr in obedience: There may be times when the child has to listen to a parent
3. Sabr in sin: When a child wants to listen to music, or wants to lie or backbite but has to exercise self-control.
Here are some ideas on how to foster patience in children so that they are equipped to deal with such circumstances:
For a preschooler, patience is mainly learning to wait for something they want right ‘now’. For a young child, understanding the concept of time is difficult, and since waiting is all about time, the following activities can help a child understand this concept more easily:
1. Creating timelines: Make calendars or timelines depicting the child’s day. Use pictures to show their daily routine and events, and paste them on a wall or chart in chronological order. Whenever the child wants to not have lunch, and jump straight to playtime, you can show the timeline, and point out the things that need to be done between now as compared to what they want to do. Explain that they need to ‘wait’ and do sabr.
2. Baking: Another way to reinforce the concept of waiting for the right time is to bake your child’s favourite cookies with him/her. Have your child help you gather the ingredients. Discuss how the ingredients would taste before they are made into cookies. Taste a few ingredients to illustrate the point that some things are worth waiting for such as waiting for tasteless ingredients to mix into delicious cookies. Now mix the cookie dough and bake the cookies. Wait and watch the cookies bake. Reward the child’s patience with freshly-baked cookies. Think of other projects such as these where there is delayed gratification.
3. Teaching Duas: Teach the little ones various duas or supplications which need to be recited before different activities. Whenever the child reaches for their snack, ask them to wait and say ‘Bismillah (In the name of Allah)’ and then eat the snack. When a child insists on going out to play now, ask them to recite the dua before stepping out of the house with you before taking them. This is a great way to add a purposeful delay to what the child wants immediately, and also help connect to Allah.
For School Age Children
School age children encounter all three situations in which sabr is needed. The following ideas can help children learn to deal with these situations in a patient and calm manner:
1. Projects that require patience: Do projects together that require patience such as growing a plant. Plant some fast-growing seeds such as radishes in a small pot, caring for it very day. Talk to the child about how the plant will grow in its own time, and how we can’t speed up the process by throwing a tantrum or sulking. Point out that similarly, we have to wait in situations where things are not in our control.
2. Story of Yunus (as): Relate the story of Yunus (as) to children, and ask if throwing a tantrum could have helped him escape out of the whale? Explain how we have to wait, and Allah always rewards those who are patient. Next time the child is getting impatient, remind him of Yunus (as).
3. Read one chapter a day: Read a book with your child every day, but stop after one chapter, however interesting the story is. Tell the child that he/she will have to wait for the next chapter till the next day.
4. Games: Playing board games with children teaches them important life skills. It teaches them (1) to wait for their turns, (2) to be patient when they lose, and (3) how to exercise restraint and patience when they win by not gloating and being thankful to Allah. Model both these behaviours yourself as you win and lose with them. Remember the hadith: “How wonderful is the affair of the believer, for his affairs are all good, and this applies to no one but the believer. If something good happens to him, he is thankful for it and that is good for him. If something bad happens to him, he bears it with patience and that is good for him.” (Muslim)
Some other games that can be played with children are: “Duck, Duck, Goose”, “Red Light, Green Light”, “Follow the Leader”, “Hot Potato” and “Simon Says”. These can help them to learn how to follow directions and develop self-control.
5. Show what time looks like: Rather than asking a child to ‘wait’, break out a sand timer occasionally. If the child is taking turns on the computer with a sibling, it’ll give them a visual of how time is passing.
6. Help them ‘wait’: Help your child by offering distractions or tools if you feel that a particular situation is too difficult for them. Distractions are sometimes needed, and can serve as a tool to teach patience, especially if used correctly. Al Rubayyi’ bint Mu’awwadh (may Allah be pleased with her) said about fasting ‘Ashoora’ at the time when it was mandatory to fast it and not voluntary: “We used to make our young boys fast, and we would make them a toy out of wool. If one of the boys cried [wanting] food, we would give him [the toy to distract him] until it was time to break the fast.” (Bukhari)
7. Using rewards as a means not the end: Instantly rewarding children for being patient, especially with toys and gifts, may not be a good idea as it sows the seeds for instant gratification. This leads children to becoming impatient when they are not rewarded immediately in other situations with other people. A better idea would be to place a marble or coin in a jar every time the child exercises self-control. When the jar fills up, the child is given a pre-decided reward. Alternatively, get an empty fish tank and reward the child with a fish whenever self-restraint is practiced. As the fish tank fills up, it will be a visual reminder of the child’s patience, thus motivating him/her to keep trying. The child will also learn patience in taking care of pets, which is an added bonus.
Most importantly, do not forget to praise your children for their efforts. A little praise can go a long way!
Ruhaifa Adil is a mother of four, a practising Muslimah, an avid reader, and a passionate writer. She works primarily as a trainer for mothers and teachers, advocating a multi sensorial, learner-centered approach, which she has learnt through her work as a remedial specialist for children with dyslexia. She is also an author of English textbooks, based on the teachings of the Qur’an (currently under editing), and creative director of a Tafseer app for kids (soon to be launched Insha’Allah).
© IIPH 2014
Image courtesy https://www.flickr.com/photos/linnoinen/7243783902/in/photostream