Q: How do you see the purpose of human life, and what do you see as parents’ role in enabling their children to fulfill the purpose of their lives in this context?
A: I think life ‘s intention is to worship, and to know God. I try to be a role model for my children of a person who seeks pleasure from God. Priority for a parents should be bringing up children who try the joy of God.
Q: Did you try to explain to your kids what you think the meaning of human life is? How important do you think it is for parents to address this matter directly with their children?
A: Yes I’ve been debating this topic. I just sit down with the kids and have a talk. I tell them this life is a test and our graduation day is Judgment Day. This life is like one day, and the next is everlasting. Discussing the purpose of life is the most significant job for a parents. True success is having the approval of Heaven. But I don’t think that many parents speak to their kids about this topic because they’re just focused on this planet.
Q: No parent is perfect but how do you identify a parent that is fairly successful?
A: A successful parent provides the physical, spiritual and emotional support he / she needs for their child. If my child feels loved and protected, and if he / she wishes to please God, then I will succeed. My 12-year-old son regularly praying, makes me feel like a successful parent.
Q: May you cite any important parenting-related spiritual teachings?
A: Direct your kids into loving Him. Teaching your children to serve God shows them the purpose they have in life.
Take the parenting job seriously. This helps the parents to reflect on themselves and improve parenting.
Show Your Children love and mercy. It increases their self-confidence and emotional growth as well as strengthens family love.
Be compassionate with your kids. It helps them learn from their mistakes without having to feel shamed or disrespected.
Just treat your kids fairly.
Be honest with your children. Being honest with your children teaches them to be honest themselves.
Play in with your kids. It creates homegrown joy and strengthens family relationships.
Q: Many (maybe most) people become parents for their new role, without proper prior training. To take up any job—even a so-called unqualified one—people undergo some sort of training, but it’s shocking how most people don’t get any training for one of the most delicate jobs: being a vehicle for bringing a child into this world and taking care of it for several years. What do you think of it?
A: I don’t agree. The fact that parenting is rarely taught in schools is shocking. Bad parenting can have a detrimental impact on the entire life of a child.
Q: Because most prospective parents do not receive any formal training for their new role as parents, their parenting style may simply be doing what they think is right or convenient for them, or doing what others are doing. Or, they can do just as their parents did when they were kids, reproducing bad practices of parenting down generations. In both of these situations, the way they parent will not inherently be what’s best for the kids.
Having said that, do you think that would-be parents should get some kind of preparation for their new responsibilities? If so, what kind of preparation do you think it would be and how should it be structured?
A: I believe that there should be parental instruction for would-be parents. Maybe hospitals, or even high schools and colleges can provide that training. Religious leaders / organisations will give priority to preparation for parents.
Parents should at least be educating themselves about the proper parenting. A plethora of online resources are available for this. I searched Google for “free parenting training” and “free parenting classes online” and was pleasantly surprised by the amount of free resources!
Q: There are several types of needs for human beings: physical (including food, clothing, shelter), mental / intellectual (education, etc), emotional , and spiritual. Could you focus on how, and in a positive way, parents should try to fulfill their children’s all these needs? Could you also reflect on the tendency for parents in many families to focus especially on the first two types of needs and to neglect the latter two?
A: All those requirements are important. Not being able to meet the mental, emotional , and spiritual needs of a child without physical needs. Mental or intellectual needs, such as formal education, are important but it has been found that emotional intelligence is more important in life.
Meeting the emotional needs of a child, such as love, belonging and self-confidence, helps a child manage the challenges of life. Spiritual needs are important because they give children a life purpose which motivates them to live a good life from the inside.
True success is earning the pleasure of God, and the spiritual needs should therefore be a priority for parents. Meeting the spiritual needs of children is as simple as talking about God to them, and involving them in activities like prayer.
Many parents can concentrate more than their spiritual on their children’s physical and mental needs, because they only think of this world. They want their kids to be comfortable financially and physically, but they don’t realize that true happiness comes from having a positive relationship with God.
Q: In most traditional cultures, as homemakers, mothers played a major role in their children’s spiritual and emotional development. But now many mothers are employed outside the home—often because of what is considered an economic necessity, but often also because some women don’t want to be ‘poor housewives.’ What impact do you feel this has on their children’s emotional and spiritual health? How do you think mothers who want a life outside the home will reconcile this with giving their children proper attention?
A: Specific circumstances. When I was a child my parents divorced and my mother worked full time. But I had been living with my grandparents, and that made a big difference. My grandmother was sort of like the mother in my family.
My mom is a true believer in God who has made sure that we have earned religious education. She took us on a lot of enjoyable holidays, and made the most of her time with us. With the grace of God, I had a great childhood with a mom working outside the home. I think it does help a lot to have relatives around.
Now I chose to stay home with my kids. I felt that by staying at home, I would do a better job as a parent and, praise be to God, I don’t have to work for a living. What matters most is whether children receive adequate emotional support and guidance.
Some mothers will not want to devote their entire lives to raising children. They may need some sort of outlet. Listening to your heart and intuition is important. It is more important to be a happy mother than to be a stay at home mother.
Q: How do you think parents can enable their children to grow in faith in God and pass on their children’s spiritual / religious values and teachings without indoctrinating them?
A: We should encourage our children to ask questions about God and faith, and share their thoughts and feelings. We should realize that belief in God belongs to their very nature. I love to tell morally lessoned religious stories to my children. We should be speaking to the hearts of children.
Children need to have good manners. When we treat children with love and reverence, they are more open to getting closer to God. We should teach children in their love of God to be sincere, and teach them what sincerity is.
We should be teaching children about God ‘s beautiful aspects, such as His mercy, love, forgiveness and justice. We should be focusing on faith priorities and not pressuring children with too many rules. Before everything else, we should inspire God’s love.
Q: Some parents attempt to force their children to religion, using fearful images of God. Children thus grow up thinking of God as a cruel dictator. They may appear ‘religious’ outwardly, but this religiosity can only be out of fear of ‘God’s wrath’ and not out of love for God. They are becoming fearful people in that way. How do you get to see this? How do you think parents can nourish the religious / spiritual life of their children based on an awareness of a loving God and also allow them to become caring , compassionate people in this process?
A: I agree entirely that parents should first teach their children about the love, mercy, compassion and forgiveness of God. Children would also want to have a relationship with Jesus. God is Most Merciful and Most Compassionate. More than a mother loves her child, God loves us.
In order to build his / her faith in God, we must focus on the heart of a child. No child will love the God of fear. Parents have to teach that authentic religious rules are out of the love and mercy of God towards us. They must explain the importance of these teachings, and how they help us. I often ask my kids what they thank God for. That reminds them of the generosity and love that God has for us.
Q: How do you think parents will help their children cultivate empathy for fellow creatures? Based on your own example, please ponder this.
A: First, I’ve taught my kids that God wants us to support others. Often when we see a poor person outside, my children hand out a small donation to that person. I always tell my children stories about the poor, to open their minds. Working together as a family as a volunteer is an excellent way to develop concern for others.
Q: Parents often compare their babies, labeling them as smart, labeling them as dull, etc. Even when the children are growing up, the parents think the child who is
Is the “successful” person earning more money while the one earning less is the failure. What are you looking at?
A: Children can feel very hurtful about this. Every person is a creation of God which is unique. Real success doesn’t consist of getting a lot of money. Success in the next world is attaining the approval of God.
Q: Could you please share some positive aspects of how you were parented by your parents when you were a child you may particularly appreciate and be grateful for?
A: I grew up with my mum and I love so many things about her. My mother had talked with us about God and the Quran. I remember sitting with her, speaking of the wisdom of various verses in the Quran. She made sure we went over the weekend to a religious school. She has paid tutors for teaching us how to read the Quran in Arabic. She was happy to answer my questions. I remember asking her why we couldn’t have boyfriends in Islam and she calmly replied that if babies were born with unmarried parents it wouldn’t be fair to them. She taught us the wisdom of our faith, and not simply to follow the rules blindly. She loved us sincerely, and took us on holidays and fun outings. She wasn’t overly strict. She was quite courteous, generous and honest.
Q: What do you think parents can do to help their children learn to get along well with people from other religious , racial and class backgrounds in our today’s closely interconnected society, where people of different religions and political backgrounds participate in close interaction?
A: It is important to teach children that being different is okay. The truth of life is divergences. The key is respectful treatment of all. God also intended to have different religions in there. So, in this there is wisdom. My children have friends who come from various religions. I teach them different religions and we’re talking about why we want to be Muslims.
Q: The Internet and ‘social media’ are now popular and have a huge effect on the ways of thinking of people. It does have a very negative effect on children in many situations. What advice are you giving to parents on this?
A: It is critical that you pay attention to the actions of your children. Talking about social media with kids is crucial, and how it often gives a false view of reality. Discussions about the differences between the values of social media and the values of true faith are necessary. We have to foster critical thinking in our children. We should make the teachings of religion clear and simple too. We have to be parents who feel comfortable talking to our children. We need to spend more time with our children so they don’t have to turn to social media for support.
Q: One of the parents’ primary duties is—or should be—to nurture their children in such a way that they grow up that they can function well as mature adults in the world. That includes enabling them to meet real-world challenges and also to relate to other people in a healthy way.
Today, educational institutions focus mainly on their students’ theoretical training—their learning different academic subjects (and even here, the emphasis is on cramming up mountains of knowledge to regurgitate during exams rather than knowing a particular subject). Within these schools very little attention is given to developing the child’s character, including helping the child learn how to manage real-world problems and relate well to others. (These institutions, in reality, instill fierce individualism and rivalry on the latter). Children may learn such things as calculus and the name of some remote country’s capital, but they are not taught simple first aid or how to be charitable to the poor.
Because of this kind of ‘education,’ children who are forced to study in these schools may receive little feedback on building character or relate harmoniously to others — two essential things for a well-functioning mature adult.
Can you reflect on that please? What ideas, based on your own experience, would you have for parents in this regard?
A: I agree with you completely. Much of what those schools are teaching is useless to life. The priorities are to teach character and spirituality / religion. Even though I attended the sort schools as you mentioned as a child, I went to the weekend at an Islamic school. I am grateful at the moment to be able to teach my children about human relationships and faith at home. My children are actually taking religious lessons in Skype. If your children are attending what are commonly called traditional schools, it ‘s important to complement their education with meaningful religious and social experiences.
Q: ‘Stays together in a family that prays together’: Do you agree? Do you as a family pray together? If so, how important is it for you and why do you do so? How do you think this will help hold the family together, creating love and harmony? Conversely, how do you think that not praying together might lead to family conflicts?
A: I completely agree: praying together is a meaningful way of uniting God-based families. Yeah, we pray as a family together and it’s our greatest joy. It helps us take a break from worldly life and remember what’s most important. Remembering God together makes us handle each other with God-consciousness and grace. If we did not pray together, there would be less of God in our hearts.
Q: Could you reflect on certain aspects of parenting that you feel were particularly valuable in traditional societies and that are rapidly disappearing today?
A: In traditional parenting the discipline was more important than it is today. Today many parents try too hard to please their kids. That creates a harmful view in children that they are all about life. Traditional societies taught kids to earn things before they took them in. Children today obtain stuff without knowing its meaning. Today there seems to be less time spent in the family due to the pressures of modern life. Also, the notion of the father as the leader of the family is disappearing, particularly in western societies today. However the fact is that to work effectively every company requires a leader and the family is no different.
Q: Most parents today place responsibility for the growth of their children on others, in particular on the school. They believe that the majority, if not all, would be given by the school for the children to learn (and then, after school hours, by tutors or ‘experts’ in various extracurricular activities). And so, they spare little time for and with their children, passing on to schools and other service providers whom they pay what is their responsibility. Yet such service providers, of course, can not offer the emotional nourishment that parents can provide to children.
Can you reflect on that please? How did you manage that issue?
A: Yes, I wholeheartedly agree. I’m schooling my kids at home. I know kids better than anyone else. Never can a teacher or service provider provide the same emotional nourishment as the parents do. Service providers try to fulfill a job ‘s requirements but the priority of a parent is his / her child. Service providers are unable to attend individually. It is not fair to expect parents to take the role of the service providers in raising children.
Q: Some parents think that they own their kids, that their kids are their house, because their kids have come out of them and are providing for them. And so, they know they can do it as they want. How do you see that concept of ‘ownership’ from the spiritual point of view?
A: It is God who is the true Owner of all things. In Islamic tradition, which talks of the 99 names of God, one of God’s names is Al-Maalik, meaning “the Lord.” God is the Creator of everything.
That means the parents don’t own their kids. Children are a God-given gift and trust. We’ll be held accountable for how we treat them.
You can contact Sheima Salam Sumer via Howtobeahappymuslim@outlook.com