Islamic Perspectives

Seven Moral Values to Teach our Children

Our children learn certain things in their classrooms. However, our responsibility to teach does not end with dropping off the child at the school gates. In the home, parents have to set a good example by their conduct and realise that children are good observers of their actions. Parents have to be keen in making sure that their children grow up with sound moral values and not influenced by negative traits picked up here and there along the way and from amongst peers.

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) is reported to have said: “Allah Ta’aala will ask every caretaker about the people under his care, and the man will be asked about the people of his household.” (Nasa’i and Abu Da’ud). Good upbringing of children in our care is a responsibility and teaching of manners is central to it.

A famous saying of Abdullah ibn al-Mubarak (may Allah be pleased with him) goes: “I spent thirty years learning manners, and I spent twenty years learning knowledge.” In no particular order of importance, below are a selected seven moral values that we can bequeath to our children, yielding returns without measure, Insha-Allah.

1.Respect: Respect for the other and for authority is an important value in society. Alongside respect, children learn other values such as self-discipline and patience. The conduct of the child is often a reflection of the nature of his upbringing. The Swahili of East Africa have a saying: “Those who are not taught [manners] by their parents, will be taught by the world.” Parents caring for the future of their children will not leave it to the ‘school of hard knocks.’

2. Humility: It may sound self-defeating to teach a child humility in an era when a child has to grow in ‘self-belief’ and ‘confidence’. However, humility is about being graceful in achievement without pride and arrogance. It is also about acknowledging that you have shortcomings for which you apologise especially when another person has been inconvenienced by your action or omission.

3. Responsibility: Even at a young age, children show interest in performing duties and chores around the home. This has to be encouraged to lay a foundation for taking up more responsibilities of their own personal hygiene, maintaining cleanliness in their own spaces, caring for their possessions and so on. This inculcates discipline and helps to develop a sense of even more responsibility as they grow.

4. Obedience: Iblis’s fall from grace was due to his arrogance and disobedience. How often do we see defiance to authority as an act of bravery? “Rules are made to be broken,” so goes the rebel’s refrain. A good parent gives latitude but knows where to draw the line. It is important to remain firm and consistent in re-enforcing obedience by using appropriate rewards and sanctions.

5. Politeness:  It is common courtesies and good manners towards others that set apart a refined character and an intolerable personality. By teaching our children how to greet, express gratitude, how to speak to adults and even to leave alone matters that do not concern them, we would have given them a key to the door of inter-personal relations. Civility costs nothing but it’s worth much. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said, It [Hell-fire] is forbidden to touch a man who is always accessible, having polite and tender nature.” (Tirmidhi). In the home situation, it should not be hard for a son who learns by hearing a father saying ‘sorry’ to a mother. The Prophet said, “... No one is humble for the sake of Allah without Allah elevating him.” [Muslim]

6. Honesty: Parents sometimes ask children in prosecutorial manner, demanding answers that put children on the defensive. It is important to encourage children to always say the truth by showing that you care and that their honesty and not ‘cover-ups’ leads to solutions that they can be at ease with. Teach children that it is truth that sets one free. The Almighty commands us: “O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or against your parents, or against your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. (Qur’an 4:135)

7. Friendliness: In an environment where we teach our children not to ‘speak to strangers’, it is difficult to strike a balance between caution against those who can take advantage of our young ones and being friendly. Regardless, where possible, our children need to be sociable. Abu Dharr (may Allah be pleased with him)  reported that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said, “Your smile to your brother is a sadaqah (charitable act) for you. (Tirmidhi) So, do not respond to your child’s smile with a hostile: “What’s funny?”