It is the right of every child to be disciplined by wise and reasonable parents. A parent uses control and discipline to guide the child. Human beings by nature, tend to lean towards evil. Allah says in the Holy Qur’an:
Surely the soul is wont to command (towards) evil except, such as my Lord has mercy on. (12:53)
Without discipline human beings are prone to wrongdoing,. A child is especially vulnerable to such tendencies for he lacks the wisdom and maturity of an adult. It is easier and more pleasant to follow the dictates of the soul. To follow what is right, morally and logically, requires a firm will. This does not come automatically to a child, but can be developed through discipline.
Discipline and control in Islam is not equal to dictatorship. Good parents take into consideration the age and understanding of the child, his circumstances, and other relative factors. Rules are then made accordingly. Sometimes the child’s wishes are considered and a compromise is made. There is certain flexibility rather than rigid adherence to the rules. However there is no doubt that Islam expects parents to remain in control, to make sure the children follow certain etiquette in behavior rather than a chaotic do-as-you-please attitude.
Advantages of Discipline
Safety from physical and moral danger
A child with no discipline will be free to do whatever he wishes. At a young age this may often result in physical harm. As he grows, a lax attitude towards his behavior and associations may result in moral dangers. Discipline and control helps ensure the child does not stray into unwanted and unseemly territory.
Avoids wrong influences
A child is often naive, and believes what others tell him, especially his peers. A child without control may have the wrong friends, get involved in the wrong activities, and generally begin to have very different morals and values from the parents.
A chance to be successful
The child who is disciplined has a much better chance of succeeding than the child who is not. He can achieve better at school, be more mature and intelligent, and get accustomed to good habits.
Feels loved and secured
Lack of discipline at home is often interpreted as lack of attention from the parents. This could be due to lack of love or lack of time. Both of these are harmful for the child. Discipline, however hateful, is a sign of concern and love from the parents. It brings with it a security and sense of belonging.
What to control?
Many parents agree that control is necessary, but are not sure of exactly what should be controlled. How much of a child’s life should the parents control? The following are some important aspects of a child’s life that should be regulated by parents.
As a child grows, he often requests to go out with friends. A parent should be in full control as to where the child is going, with whom, and for how long. Allowing the child to go whenever and wherever he pleases is sure to invite trouble.
The influence of friends is greatly emphasized in Islam. The Holy Prophet (s) says: The conduct of everyone will be according to the beliefs and principles of his friend. Good friends can make a great difference to the molding of character. Thus a parent has to be vigilant of the child’s friends. Always being in the company of one who has loose morals, or a dirty tongue, or other such vices, will rub off on the child. Discourage very close connections such as frequent telephone calls, sleeping over at each other’s homes etc. Moderation in all fields is necessary for progress. It is necessary for a child to have friends but it is also necessary that the parents know whom the child befriends.
The tongue is reported to be the source of great good and great evil. Imam Muhammad al-Baqir says: Indeed this tongue is the key to all good and all evil, so it befits a believer to guard his tongue the way he would guard his gold and silver. Parents should control the type of language a child uses. Dirty and swear words should be completely forbidden. Some children pick up various odd ways of speaking from school. These words may not necessarily be filthy, but are indicators of an attitude that must be avoided. Examples, are “who cares?” “get a life” “buzz off” etc. Such expressions vary from place to place, but in general are prominent in today’s younger generations. Parents must teach their children to avoid such expressions for they go against the dignity and character of a good Muslim.
No child can be forced to follow a tight schedule set by parents. This is unrealistic. On the other hand, however, it is irresponsible to allow children do whatever they wish with their time. It is necessary to control the amount of time spent on leisure activities. They cannot be allowed to play and watch television as much as they desire. Children must be encouraged to do some useful things with their time. Examples could be taking up a good hobby, learning computer programs, accessing beneficial web-sites etc. It is up to each parent to decide what is most suitable for his children.
Although every parent knows he has to instill good manners into his children, many children still get away with unacceptable forms of behavior. Rudeness, asking for things from others, shouting at elders, disrespect in the mosque or at people’s homes etc. are all examples of behavior that should not be tolerated. When such behavior is seen even after warnings are given, the child must be punished appropriately. It should be made clear to the child that there are some limits that he cannot cross without facing the consequences. Discipline in this way helps the child control himself.
1. May Allah have mercy on the one who helps his child towards righteousness by being good to him, appealing to him, teaching him knowledge, and training him.
Imam Ali (a)
2. Luqman the Wise told his son;
My son, if you learn good etiquette when you are young, you will benefit from it when you are older. Whoever values good etiquette will give importance to it. And whoever gives it importance will take the trouble to learn it. And whoever takes the trouble to learn it will struggle in its search. And whoever struggles in its search will achieve it, and benefit from it.
My son! Get accustomed to carry out your own duties and works. And be patient over the difficulties you encounter from others. If you wish to acquire honor in the world, cut off your hopes from what lies with others. Surely the Prophets and the Righteous reached their status by cutting off their hopes.