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How Can I Teach Prayer to My Toddler ?

Questioner

Anonymous

Reply Date

Aug 15, 2019

Question

Salam Aleikom. I am worried how I will teach my daughter to start praying. She is still just 1.5 years old. Mashallah, when she sees us making wudu, she brings the praying mat and my hijab and goes into sajda. I think she has started to understand what’s going on. Do you have any advice how to teach children to start prating?

Counselor

Answer


How Can I Teach Prayer to My Toddler ? - About Islam

In this counseling answer:

To responding the questioner who asks how to let her kid start taking part in the prayer, the counselor advises her to learn the prayer through example and interactivity; as lectures don’t cut it! the learning process has to be interactive.


Wa ‘alaikum Salaam,

This is the easiest and hardest question I have ever had. Your daughter is already praying; you work is done! But, obviously, only Allah knows how things will go in the future, as she grows up, so I will tell you what I know about how to teach prayer according to our Prophet (and my knowledge is limited so please ask the scholars on this website this question too!), what I know about the psychology of prayer, and the dynamics of education.

*I will start with education. The word education comes from the root Latin word educare, which means to draw out. Now, most people don’t know this. They think education means to put in. But, if you think about it, it does not. For us to learn anything, it has to make sense to us, i.e., resonate with something inside us that makes sense.

How Can I Teach Prayer to My Toddler ? - About Islam

Even something like math – which definitely the learning of new information, i.e., it is not something you can intuit with your “ruh”, i.e., it does not prick your soul when it is wrong – that too we cannot learn unless it makes sense to us. So, this means that you have to work with the person who you are teaching according to their process.

Also, just explaining the reasons for things is not. It is the beginning, but until you find out what your child’s worldview or experience of that particular “reason” is, you are not speaking to their reality. You need to address them in their way of seeing things, their experiences, and their way of learning. Some people learn from reading, some from talking, some from touching, some in isolation, some in interaction….etc. Education is, at its best, interactive, so that it responds to the questions of the learner.


Check out this counseling video


Lectures don’t cut it! I have known people who are hafiz of Quran who are not religious. The learning process has to be interactive. It is arrogant to think that we know and can teach anybody anything. The only way a person learns anything for themselves is through it becoming relevant to their needs, and to find out what those needs are, you have to have a discussion with them and then try to help them find their own answer to their own process of growth.

A good example of how this works is learning to drive. We cannot learn to drive from reading a driver’s manual. We have to get behind the wheel of a car, with someone who knows how to drive beside us, and then, slowly – patiently – learn from doing ourselves, with their help at first, and then, later, on our own!

*Psychologically, a relationship with Allah involves, minimally, 3 things:

1) Love for Allah, which gives birth in us to our desire to please Him

2) Fear of Allah (of His Displeasure and Punishment (in this life and the Next))

3) Belief in the Mercy of Allah (this gives us access to a “discussion” with Allah, the mechanism for which is prayer and du’a, i.e., thiker of Allah is the word used in the Quran and there is no greater good than thiker of Allah – belief in the mercy of Allah is also the remedy for something in psychology called toxic guilt– toxic guilt can kill you both spiritually and physically.

We have to have a balance between love and fear of Allah and the road to that is our belief in the mercy of Allah – that he forgives so we can get up from our weaknesses and mistakes and sins and brush the dirt off and renew our good relationship with Allah. Even the Prophets, on the day of judgment, are going to fear Allah due to their shortcomings. So, that means we are supposed to feel our mistakes keenly. But, because Allah’s first name, after “The One God”  is “Ar-Rahman” and “Ar-Raheem” – that is our salvation!

*Hadith: the Prophet (saws) said to tell them to pray at age 7, and by age 10, if they do not pray, spank them. Now, those instructions do not exist in a vacuum of Islamic teaching. In other words, as in your daughter’s experience, the child should be surrounded by Muslims practicing Islam so that it becomes their “worldview”. That way, prayer is not foreign to them when they have to start praying.

Also, the above-mentioned psychological ideas (and may more) should be a big part of the discussion about prayer. So many Muslims have a dogmatic attitude towards Islam, which is counterproductive. In other words, they are about rules, out of fear of Allah, without balancing that with the Love and Forgiveness of Allah. That is one of the biggest problems I see with Muslims. The Prophet (saws) was not that way; he was extremely forgiving and gentle and not shaming of people!

I hope this helps and may Allah Make it easy for you and every increase the worship of Allah of your darling daughter!

***

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.

 




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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