Raising Muslim Children in America
By Adil Siddiqee
Recently, a forum on the topic of ‘Raising Muslim Children in America’was held at the South Bay Islamic Association, California. Many parents and young Muslims took part in the deliberations. The following article is based on the general consensus of the participants.
Whether we are born Muslim Americans, migrant Muslim Americans, or newly espoused converts to Islam, we should all focus on a number of qualities we wish for our children to adopt. As Muslim parents, it is our duty to ensure that our children are, above all, believers in the five Pillars of Islam (Iman, Salat, Saum, Zakat, and Hajj), so that our faith continues to preserve and enlighten future generations.
Additionally, we should expect our children to show respect to their parents, participate in house chores, work hard in school and try their best to get good grades and academic degrees. They should be encouraged to pursue a good profession, one that can provide them with sustainability throughout their lives, as well as eventually be able to support their parents as they grow older. In the case of marriage, they should be encouraged to seek a Muslim spouse, so that the ties of faith and kinship will enforce a healthy marriage, and result in a household of common values.
Alongside the above-noted primary qualities of raising Muslim children, there are a handful of qualities that can be considered desirable expectations from these children – encouraging them to be proud of their Muslim identity is an important facet of a strong and confident Muslim individual. Parents should additionally motivate their children to be involved in mainstream American culture while maintaining their Muslim identity, in order to further cement their willpower and pride for their Muslim identity, at the same time involve themselves in social and cultural events in a way that makes the Muslim community an admired one.
While parents should expect and encourage these things from their children, there are many aspects they should consider and follow in order to make the upbringing of their children a successful and conflict-free endeavor. Above all, while promoting the above qualities, the household these children grow up in should have a loving and caring environment for them to flourish in. While teaching the child various Islamic values and lessons, parents should keep in mind to practice what they preach, and to listen and respect what their children have to say to them. It is of high importance that your children trust you and are not afraid to discuss anything with you, as this ensures good communication and a level of connection that confirms a strong relationship. If you and your spouse run into conflict with each other, resolve your differences in private so that your children are not influenced by your behavior in a high-tension situation.
When it comes to discipline, it doesn’t help to remark ‘I told you so’ to your children, as you should instead assure them that your love for them is unconditional and any mistakes can be remedied and discussed to make certain they do not happen again. It should be expected that children make mistakes - showing your spite does nothing to help them grow and learn to change their behavior. Instead, allow them to make decisions, do not be needlessly strict to them, and show them kindness and educate them on proper decisions and actions. Additionally, needlessly sheltering them in their youth will prevent them from adjusting to the American social climate, and can negatively impact their maturity or interaction with their peers. When it comes to the siblings, do not compare them to each other, and especially not to other children – your children are unique individuals with their own qualities. Moreover, do not treat your male and female children differently, and do not attempt to enforce typical gender roles for the sake of tradition: allow them to grow in their own individual way.
To the Muslim youth of today – with rare exceptions, your parents are the two people who love you the most. You should treat them with love and respect, and if they sometime seem unreasonable, politely show them your perspective. In regard to your upbringing in America, you should feel blessed to be born into one of the most desirable countries to reside in the world, with good schools, teachers, opportunities to pursue your interest and clean environments. It is much, much more than your parents or grandparents had.