There are no hard and fast rules about how to bring up boys (or girls! I know most of us are winging it) but growing up with four brothers, and having three boys of my own, I feel that there are some tried and tested ideas that help build character and teach some life lessons from an early age, so that there is some hope of them taking at least some of it into adulthood. Some of the things I’ve tried and I’m still trying to implement and cement are listed below.
Caveat: these recommendations are not exhaustive and not exclusively reserved for boys. However, in today’s society, the upbringing of boys and the impact of this on their adulthood behaviours has been up for debate especially in our molly-coddled community where boys are put up on a pedestal and all their bad behaviours hushed away. The age-old phrase ‘boys will be boys’ used as an excuse for all sins. As mothers, we have a lot to discuss and we need to do a lot of soul-searching on how we intend to bring up our boys. What kind of men do we want them to be?
– From the age of four, I’ve involved all my children in cooking or baking. They do whatever they can safely. I’ve told them they will have to start cooking regularly in their teens, inshaa-Allah.
– They help with chores although my 10 year-old boy does end up with the brunt of the work. My girl (12) can get lazy and I find it easier to tell my 10 year-old to do it. I need to work on this more and be balanced and fair.
– They eat, put their plates in the sink, clean up the table/wipe/mop/hoover their mess. They do need reminding occasionally but they know this is the deal. Mummy can help and assist but primarily, they need to pick up after themselves.
– My older two both help with the younger boy and toddler baby; holding, nurturing, feeding, putting to bed and even nappies at times. Not all at once obviously but as and when needed.
– We talk about what Islam says about responsibilities and how Abbu (daddy) is responsible for providing financially. Although Ammu’s (mummy) finance is her own and she can dispose of this as she feels, there is nothing to stop her from supporting Abbu if she so feels there is a need. We are a team and we always support each other in whatever capacity. The key thing is to do things from a place of love and above all, kindness.
– We remind them all the time that violence is never allowed. As a man or woman, it is never allowed. If they witness any violence or if anyone is violent to them, they must call the police or seek help. (I should warn here that sibling bickering and controlling the violence amongst boys can be highly challenging! Their first instinct is to wrestle, sneakily pummel, a sly kick or a sly push…it is exhausting!)
– We remind them to speak softly, answer in kindness, to save negative energy and never give someone their power by getting too angry. Beware that there will be a lot of repeating as the boys grow older, hormonal etc.
– When anger overtakes them, they need to find their safe place and calm down before rejoining. Read ‘I seek refuge in Allah’ and do wudhu or prayer if possible. I find that mostly, giving them space then to process their emotional stress is the best strategy at that time. Let them have their time-out and don’t take their attitude or need for space personally. They do not have the same emotional maturity as you so don’t expect a child to think and feel like an adult. Let them learn how to react from you.
– Cleanliness is part of imaan. How to be clean, smell clean, look clean! I find myself constantly sniffing around them like a hound dog! My children believe I have a super sense of smell and think I’m weird for smelling their hair. If I get a whiff of sweat or damp, they are going in the shower!
– Practice prayers. Remind and continusouly discuss how prayers and connecting to Allah will safeguard them always. If something good happens, do two rakah shukr nafl, and thank their Lord. And if something bad happens or they need help, they should do two rakah nafl and thank their Lord, and then ask of Him.
– Teach them from a young age how to manage a financial spreadsheet and the value of managing money, finding out about how bills work etc. My older son loves this and I have seen how he has become very financially aware.
– To learn to save money for charity and understand that this will increase barakah. Every jumuah my son attends, he gives money to charity. Every Eid, he gives most of his Eidi money to charity. This comes from his understanding what charity is and what charity actually means beyond the act of giving. May Allah always protect him, and increase his health and wealth, ameen.
– My husband also includes my eldest son in his fundraising activities for Islamic projects to give him an awareness that our role doesn’t end with work and family life. We have a wider role to play in society to establish community, spread the deen and worship Allah the best way we can through community work. My son thoroughly enjoys this and even partakes in some of the meetings!
– Family meals, eating together and parents putting phones away is very important. It really impacts them. (I am going to be honest here, I’m still working on this!)
– Playing after dinner, board games or word games, just some family time helps them unwind in a healthy way. Unfortunately, this is super limited for me in term-time.
– Give regular hugs, cuddle times, compliments and ‘I love you’s’ to compensate for the negatives in life as well as to increase love in general and their emotional security. This will help them emotionally long-term.
– Let them see the love and affection between you and your spouse (if you are a single mother, then to let them see your respectful interaction with other mahram male figures you have in your life). Hug, smile, talk respectfully with each other. They learn how men and women should interact with each other if it is consisten in all their environments.
– Ensure the fathers are involved with looking after the children, taking them grocery shopping, feeding and putting them to bed etc. The boys will understand that fathers can do similar things as mothers and it becomes the norm rather than the big culture-shock ‘hai hai’ that is the war-cry from old-fashioned mothers when they see their poor son feeding their grand-baby or changing the baby’s nappy!
– When the boys cry, let them. Tell them to express themselves and give them the space to do so. Never say ‘boys don’t cry’. You want to foster a nurturing character and allow them to feel validated. As adults, we shouldn’t take crying as a personal insult. It is simply a means of expression and a method to process the children’s frustration. Of course there is a limit; if my daughter cries for ‘silly’ things over a prolonged time, after acknowledging her feelings, a few hours later, I will gently but firmly remind her that excessive crying on this occasion is not healthy, and everything in measure please. Save your precious tears for something more meaningful rather than because of something her little brother did that she can’t now remember after several hours of non-stop tears (!)
– Teach them to share by reminding them that if they give, Allah replaces them with more and better.
– Want for others what you want for yourselves. I remind them that if they share a larger piece or a better piece, then they will have even more from Allah.
– Remind them how easy it is to earn rewards by simply smiling.
– Remind them constantly, that they are answerable to Allah. Everything we do, we do for Allah’s Sake and if we make all our action’s intentions for His Sake, we can’t go wrong. There will be a reward for all such actions.
– When things don’t go our way, we still say ‘Alhamdulillah‘. Allah has saved us from something we don’t know about. This is our mantra and kids have taken this really on board. (That’s how we console ourselves when I leave the house too late and we know they are going to be late for school – “Ammu, may be we would have been in an accident so Allah saved us by making you leave later, so really we have been saved. Alhamdulillah.” (Wish I could really use this excuse when signing the late slip at school, ha!)
I really believe all these tried and tested tips should give our children, especially the little men in our lives, some tools of behaviour management as well as some grounding to always strive to be a better person, as well as play an active and positive role in life. Keep talking, be in constant dialogue and communication with them. This is key. More importantly, connecting everything to Allah and jannah(note, I didn’t say jahannam), no matter how small, really empowers them. I really pray we can bring our boys (and girls!) up in this generation as kind, helpful, supportive, empathetic, focussed and driven human-beings with a strong imaan at the core of their being. AMEEN.
May Allah always protect our children, guide them to the right path and make them the best of humans for both worlds, ameen.
What are your top tips? Would love to hear them! Share by commenting below.
By Nafisa RahimiCo-Founder of Muslim Mamas, Super Smart Learners English (a unique educational programme) and an award-winning 'Best Podcast 2020' - Not Another Mum Pod. The audio Ramadan diaries are now a Permanent Collectionof the Museum of London. Nafisa has recently been named in Techmae's ‘Woman Spotlight’.Nafisa's pods regularly make waves, frequently ranking in Apple Podcast charts worldwide (no.12 in Sweden and 13 in UK ). Nafisa faces difficult topics head-on in an attempt to grab the mic, and address Muslim-related issues with authentic Muslim voices. Nafisa lives in London with her four children and husband. She enjoys writing, eating out, travelling and hanging out with 'Friends'! Read all about it here:https://linktr.ee/Nafisa.Rahimi