by Shahid Athar , M. D.
The purpose of this article is to evaluate the factors influencing the behavior of children and how to modify them so that they grow as model citizens practicing Islam in their community, become a source of joy and comfort to their parents, and maintain family harmony.
The behavior of growing children is influenced by many factors that include their parents and other close relatives, teachers, peers at school, community and the media. Lack of discipline and civilized behavior at school is a major problem in the U.S., the fallout of which is also seen at home! With broken families and the absence of a father at home, this becomes a major problem for single mothers raising a teenager.
Muslim children, although distinct in their value system, still are exposed to and affected by what they see and learn. In Islamic teachings, great emphasis has been placed on moral conduct and behavior.
The Quran says, “Lo, the noblest of you, in the sight of God, is (the one) best in conduct. Lo, God is knower, Aware” (49:13).
“By the soul, and the proportion and order given to it, and its enlightenment as to its wrong, and its right. Truly he succeeds that purifies it (the soul), and he fails that corrupts it” (91:7-10).
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), has said, “I have been sent to perfect your conduct” (Bukhari and Muslim). “A fathers’ teaching his child good manners is better than giving a bushel of grain (in charity)” (Bukhari).
Children are very susceptible to any and every influence. It has been said, “They are like molten cement. Anything that falls on them makes a lasting impression.” Their minds are like virgin soil, ready to accept any seed. As they grow, their organs of reception start working and accept new ideas and influences. It is up to us to screen the experiential factors that influence a child’s development so that they can learn to accept the right ideas and behaviors and reject the wrong influences.
The parents (and close relatives living with them like uncles and grandparents) have only 25% influence in a 6-16 year old child. 50% is by peers at school or in the community. 25% is from the teachers and other sources of education outside home i.e. media, mainly TV (and magazines for older youths). The influence of parents is high during early age (0-8 years, up to 80%), but as the child discovers new friends and ideas, he or she grows independent from the influence of parents.