Seven Strategies to Train Kids this Ramadan
The many aspects of Ramadan, fasting, prayers, moral values, charity, Qur'an,
family, `Eid, provide a valuable opportunity to train kids. Whether they are
your own kids or kids you teach, education or training isn't an automatic or
easy process. Children don't bring empty minds and fill them with what we say.
Training requires effort, energy, and a few techniques to take off.
Here are some training tips and techniques to transform your children's minds
and memories this Ramadan.
Let them get their Hands Dirty
''The great aim of education is not knowledge, but action.'' Herbert Spencer
Children learn by ''doing.'' On average, students retain 75% of a lesson when
they learn through hands-on activities compared to 5% through a lecture or 10%
through reading (Brunmer, Jerome).
If, for example, you want to teach your kids the concept of zakah, get them to
help you calculate your zakah, decide where to send the money, and mail the
envelopes. Action and implementation can occur while children learn, not
The Prophet (prayers and peace of Allah be upon him) used to bring his
grandchildren Hassan and Hussein to the mosque as toddlers before they knew
how to pray.
A concept becomes real and important to children when they experience it
rather than simply read about it. They'll remember how to do it years later
when you may catch them telling their friends ''I've been calculating zakah
since I was a kid!''
Involve their Emotions
When children get emotionally involved in an activity, they rarely want to
leave it. Video games and TV shows target children's emotions. As parents and
educators, we can use the same technique for training.
Stories, songs, skits, crafts, and games grab children's emotions. Once a
child is interested and excited, they're more likely to stay attentive till
the end and get the message you want to give. Just as we remember events in
our lives that were emotionally significant, children remember concepts
learned through activities that were ''fun,'' ''funny,'' ''exciting,'' or
Don't be afraid to stir some fun into your training—you don't have to lose any
content. Write a song about `Eid, create a Hadith treasure box, organize a
Ramadan trivia night, or read a story about Ramadan in Medina. If the kids
enjoy it, they'll come back for more!
Reveal the Purpose
We often hear students complain, ''why do we have to do this?'' or ''this math
exercise is pointless.'' Unfortunately, we often hear responses like ''because
I'm telling you to,'' or ''because you have to,'' or worse, ''you'll get a new
CD player if you finish the book.''
Like us, if children don't see the purpose or importance of an action, they
won't have the motivation to complete it. To avoid getting similar comments
from your kids about prayer or fasting, make sure they understand the purpose.
Before you begin any lesson, whether it's a story about the companions of the
Prophet (prayers and peace of Allah be upon him) or an `Eid craft, explain
exactly why you are doing the activity and what benefits the children will
gain from it.
Remind your children that they are doing acts of worship to please Allah, not
you. Explain why we need to please Allah and how every action, including
washing dishes or math homework, will help us achieve that goal. If children
are praying only to please you, when you leave, their motivation and prayers
If children are motivated to fast Ramadan or complete the Qur'an for a
material incentive (like a CD player), they may never develop a love of Allah
or an intrinsic desire to perform the action. They may, instead, learn to
value material rewards and when the rewards disappear, the actions may
disappear with them.
Help your children understand that for Muslims, rewards don't necessarily
always come in this life. They may have to wait for the bigger and better
rewards of the hereafter.
Highlight the Big Ideas
''Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in
school.'' Albert Einstein
Ask yourself how many equations or formulas you remember from your Grade 12
math textbook. It may be five, two, or none. Let's be honest - most of us
retained very little of the details we learned.
Children will not retain all the fiqh rulings of zakah, wudu', or Salah, and
they won't need to! Make sure the little that they retain is exactly what you
want them to remember. Focus on the big ideas, such as the awareness that
Allah is watching us, that we get our rulings from the Qur'an and the Sunnah,
that Prayer is a means of self-purification, etc. Repeat these ideas every day
in different ways. While your children instill these principles in their
minds, show them how to learn the rest on their own when they need it.
Help your kids learn ''how to learn.'' Teach them where to find the fiqh
information they need or how to research a topic and who to ask for
information. They will be better prepared if they master the basics and know
how to get the specifics. Memorizing every ruling will be a waste of their
time and yours.
Let them Lead!
Children often take responsibilities more seriously than adults. The Prophet
(prayers and peace of Allah be upon him) appointed Usamah ibn Zaid who was a
young boy at the time, as commander of the Muslim army although many older and
more experienced companions were present. The Prophet (prayers and peace of
Allah be upon him) trusted Usamah's capability for the position.
Give children leadership over important tasks and step out of the picture.
Assign one child to wake up all his siblings for suhur. Let someone else be in
charge of updating the iftar time every evening. Allow the children to plan,
budget, and buy `Eid gifts for all the relatives. Let them choose which task
they want to be in charge of.
Allow children to make mistakes and realize on their own what they should have
done. Experience often trains better than instruction. Once a child goes out
into the cold without a jacket, he'll remember, before you can remind him, to
put on his jacket next time.
Train kids to be responsible for their own learning. If a child asks, ''Does
brushing teeth break my fast?'' a simple ''yes'' or ''no'' may give them the
answer, but it won't provide any long-term training. Ask them instead, ''Where
can you look to find that answer? Let's do some research.''
Begin the month of Ramadan by asking your children to do a research project on
what breaks the fast and what does not. If they find the information
themselves, they are likely to remember it and know exactly where to get it
again next year.
''The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and
change.'' Carl Rogers
''Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.'' W. B.
Kids catch on to your enthusiasm. Show some excitement and passion about the
topic you're teaching. Show your kids that you can't wait for Ramadan to
begin. Be cheerful at Prayer times. Decorate the house in anticipation of `Eid.
The Prophet (prayers and peace of Allah be upon him) taught by example. His
character and actions motivated people to love and emulate him. Be the example
you want your kids to be. Make a genuine effort to love the activities you
want your kids to love.
Combine Love with Learning
The Prophet (prayers and peace of Allah be upon him) would greet children
warmly by hugging them, kissing them and picking them up.
Abu Huraira reported that al-Aqra' b. Habis saw the Prophet (prayers and peace
of Allah be upon him) kissing Hasan. He said ''I have ten children, but I have
never kissed any one of them,'' whereupon Allah's Messenger (prayers and peace
of Allah be upon him) said: He who does not show mercy (towards his children),
no mercy would be shown to him. [Reported by Al-Bukhari]
«قبل رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم الحسن بن علي وعنده الأقرع بن حابس التميمي
جالسا، فقال الأقرع: إن لي عشرة من الولد ما قبلت منهم أحدا، فنظر إليه رسول الله
صلى الله عليه وسلم ثم قال: من لا يرحم لا يرحم» رواه البخاري
Show children that you love them, regardless of how they perform. Allow each
child to progress at their own pace. Saying, ''look at your cousin Aminah!
She's already finished the 15th Juz,'' will only lower your child's
self-esteem and discourage what she's already accomplishing.
Excessive competition and comparison can often result in helplessness and lack
of motivation for children who learn in different ways or at a slower pace.
Allow children to judge their own progress and compare themselves to their
former level rather than that of others.
Make this Ramadan the beginning of a memorable and long-lasting training
experience for you and your children!