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How to Motivate My Children to Fast?

Questioner

Anonymous

Reply Date

May 14, 2018

Question

Salam Aleikom. I am a convert Muslim. I have two children, one is 6, another one is 8. The eldest one fasted a day last Ramadan but now says he does not want to fast at all as it is too hard for him. He does not want to fast even until Asr. And if he won’t try fasting then I will not be able to convince my little one either to try the fast at least until duhr or asr someday. I am a bit confused as to how to train my children for fasting. Or shall I leave them until they grow up and are obliged to fast the entire Ramadan completely? Please advise!

Counselor

Answer


How to Motivate My Children to Fast?

In this counseling answer:

“Your child is young. Teach him about the wisdom of Allah (swt) and show him it. Allah (swt) lets us eat before sunrise and after sunset for our health. Get him to get personally motivated to fast by showing him the good reasons for it.”


As-Salaamu ‘Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh,

I do not recommend pressuring him with force. I suggest trying to convince him with reasoning about his religion. Show him the Hadiths about the rewards for fasting. There are many proofs in the health sciences that fasting is very beneficial to our health—and that is one of the reasons Allah (swt) prescribes it. Of course, the spiritual reasons of learning self-control are the major reason for it, as far as I know.

Your child is young. Teach him about the wisdom of Allah (swt) and show him it. Allah (swt) lets us eat before sunrise and after sunset for our health. Get him to get personally motivated to fast by showing him the good reasons for it.

I respect him for knowing his own body. He is only eight years old and he is strong enough to stand up to you and tell you what he needs. Respect that. Build on that. Mothering is not only telling our children what to do but launching them into adulthood by helping them learn how to make their own decisions. When they are little, it is existentially imperative that we tell them what to do—to save their lives so they don’t walk out in front of a car or fall of a cliff.

But, as they grow up, it is existentially imperative that we “launch” them into adulthood, which means: get them to think for themselves so that, when they reach puberty and on into adulthood, they can make their own decisions without our help. Help them get ready to go out into the world on their own with the ability to make their own decisions, in Sha’ Allah.

From age 7 to age 14 is this “transitional” time. It is the period when they are being trained to think for themselves. Part of that process is feeding them information. They need that to help them. In addition to information, they also need to learn how to process information. They need to learn patience to get the information needed and how to balance it.

Making a decision is rarely easy. They are a balancing act between one set of values and another. For example, when a sister has to decide whether to fast or not in Ramadan when she is pregnant, she has to weigh the value of her fast against the value of her health and that of her unborn baby. Because everyone’s body is different, there is not “pat” answer. Some women cannot fast, others can.

Decisions are “adult things”. Your little boy is just entering the world of learning decision-making so that he can enter the world of adulthood. Help him with it. You can’t order him in that process- that is an oxymoron. Adulthood means the ability to make your own decisions. Celebrate that process with him. Congratulate him on that process.

The part of the process of decision making that is mentioned in one hadith I know of is learning selflessness. In psychology as well as in Islam, the period from age 0 to 7 is our “primal narcissistic” period which means we, the parents, need to serve the needs of our offspring.

They need to be selfish, so to speak, in order for us to keep them alive. But from 7 to 14, we need to teach them how to be selfless. We need to teach them how to serve others so they can one day be a good parent to another helpless, dependent child who needs them to serve their needs. So, fasting helps us learn deprivation and selflessness.

There are many lessons in fasting. Focus on bringing those to your child’s mind, not just “do what you are told”.

 May Allah (swt) make it easy for you!

***

Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

Read more:

How Do I Get My Children Involved in Ramadan?

I Need Tips for Preparing My Kids for Ramadan




About Nasira S. Abdul-Aleem

Nasira S. Abdul-Aleem, an American, has a BA in English from UC Berkeley and is about to receive an MS degree in counseling psychology (Marriage and Family Therapy - MFT) from the Western Institute for Social Research. For over ten years, Nasira worked as a psychotherapist with the general public and in addiction recovery. For the last few years, she has been a life coach specializing in interpersonal relations. Nasira also consults with her many family members who studied Islam overseas and returned to America to be Imams and teachers of Islam. Muslims often ask Nasira what psychology has to do with Islam. To this, she replies that Islam is the manifestation of a correct understanding of our psychology. Therapists and life coaches help clients figure out how to traverse the path of life as a Believer, i.e., "from darkness into light", based on Islam and given that that path is an obstacle course, according to Allah.

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