It is 5:40am and I hear a beeping, down the hallway ……My 7 year old son has set an alarm. Thinking it was a mistake; I get out of bed and open the door to turn it off when he catches me, like a red handed burglar. He sat up, wide eyed and bushy tailed and exclaimed. “Yes! It woke me up!!.” Before I can say anything, he springs out of bed and races to the bathroom to brush his teeth and make wudu/ablution; the means of cleansing ourselves prior to prayer. The alarm we have set in our own room goes off by now and my husband is awake. After he is done preparing himself for prayer, he begins spreading the mats as we ready ourselves to begin when our son exclaims, “We’re not late, we have time. Let’s go to the mosque to pray.” My husband answered him,” it’s really early son. I usually go but it’s too early for you so we’ll pray home today” His face drops and sadness erupts as he pleaded to go, my husband agrees and from that day on it became a beautiful habit. And in those early morning moments, I feel like the prayers I prayed for him has come to fruition. And that was the first day that my child, on his own accord decided he was going to wake up and go with his dad to pray the early morning prayer(Fajr). He told me today how much fun he has, they get donuts and bagels and other breakfast treats together and he pays attention to the small reminders given by the Imam (leader) after the prayer. This has also led to his younger siblings praying and them having personal competitions between themselves to see who has remembered to pray more consistently throughout the day. Although 5:40 am is very early; it is never too early to positively reinforce the first thing that was made obligatory to us and the first thing we will be questioned for before God.
Parents have asked me how we got to this point? I will attempt to list some of the things we incorporated into our lives that have led us here.
1) Pray for your children, it is amazing what prayer can accomplish
2) Positively reinforce the benefits of good actions
3) Positively reinforce the importance of prayer
4) Pray with them, even at home- yes, children can be distracting and we’re often tempted to find a quiet place to pray alone but there is nothing better than exemplifying the things we wish to teach them.
5) Take them to pray with you at the mosque. We were initially met with a lot of snarky looks and rude words but it doesn’t distract us from taking them.
6) Buy their personal prayer mat and make a big deal out of them using it.
7) Reward them for any good action related to prayer.
8) Be loving and kind and encourage it. I know some people “wait” until they have better “sense” and by then they are met with rebellion as it was not a habit that was formed.
9) Teach them from an early age how to perform wudu and how to keep themselves clean.
10) Our religion is deemed a way of life for a reason, make it that way for yourself and God willing, your children will emulate your actions.
May God protect and preserve all of our children and make them from among the righteous.