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The First ‘No’

06 Feb

I grew up in an environment where manners were given a big emphasis. I saw my Nani (grandmother) inculcating basic manners in children even before they could speak. The first thing that she taught any child was “Don’t look at ‘parai cheez'” (Eyes off others’ stuff). She would ask the child “parai cheez?” and teach the child to move her head in a NO. Now when I look at it deeply, it is such a valuable lesson for life. This single thing can teach you contentment, controlling your greed, controlling your ‘desires’, not being jealous of others, being thankful for what you have – big lessons learnt from the first, simple NO. It is as if she taught us to say NO to the world and its temptations as soon as we opened eyes! And why she began with food? … because IT IS the FIRST temptation for a child!
May Allah have mercy on her and grant her Jannatul Firdaus. May Allah increase her Hasanat for every word of Quran that I read, as she was the one who taught me to read Quran. May Allah give her the share from all of the good that I am able to do and increase her levels in Jannah, as promised for the dua by the children made for their parents, Ameen.

SubhanAllah, simple ways of the old times and what great benefits they had! It’s probably only now that I am analysing the ‘hidden agenda’ of that first teaching, but I did teach my kids the same things from the start. It really puts me off if a kid behaves in a greedy way towards anything (food or toys etc), because it shows that he/she has not been taught the basic manner of controlling his/her self. Or may be the mom is not making an effort to provide her children with what they like, so that they can behave in a contented way when they see something of their liking.

So, following in my grandma’s footsteps, the FIRST thing I would list in good manners (strange as it may sound) is teaching the child how to behave towards food, specially if they are at someone’s else place. Some people may think it is Riya, but it is not. Children have to be taught how to behave well in other people’s house or in other’s presence because they are affecting other people who may not be ready to tolerate rudeness, greed etc. And it is incumbent upon us as Muslims to ensure that other people are not hurt because of our behavior, both emotionally and physically. In your own family / house things may be more open and there are stronger ties due to which family members will have more tolerance for each other. They may respond more openly, while others may have to reserve their responses due to many factors. Secondly, when in a group, the children must also learn how to share with others and sacrifice for others, so they must be taught to control their desires even more when people are around. So we must teach our children not to mess up anything in people’s houses, not to be loud or rude and not to attack on food.

I know there is this ‘modern’ concept of parenting which advises you to ‘let children do’ whatever they want to and just be good role-models, but it really offends me. I think just being a role-model is not enough. You should correct the child in different ways, mostly politely yes, but strictly also at times so that they understand the importance of manners. Timely response to children’s mistakes is extremely important in correcting their behavior. I’m not saying that I expect 3-4 year-olds showing exemplary manners, it is their training period – but if a 7+ child has no idea about the basic manners then surely the mother has made a big mistake in Tarbiyah.

Things may not turn out perfect but I try to ensure that my kids:

  • Don’t speak loudly or rudely.
  • Don’t mess up with anything / dirty or break anything / leave things un-arranged etc
  • Control the amount of food they eat and HOW they eat it.
  • Don’t interrupt an elder while speaking.
  • Give preference to elder people and other kids in seating / eating etc
  • Don’t look at anyone’s things without permission.
  • Don’t wander about in anyone’s house, only go to rooms where the host takes them.
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