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Last Updated: 2011/12/21
Summary of question
How can we strengthen the inclination towards worship in our children?
My son is very lazy when it comes to worship, especially prayer. Sometimes he prays in the presence of his father, but when he isn't around, and in front of me, he sometimes might not and I am worried for his future. He is 23 years old and has just gotten engaged, what can I do for him as his mother? If his father finds out that he deliberately doesn’t pray, he will become very angry and have him kicked out of the house. He already is beginning to dislike him and I am worried. Please give me advice.
Concise answer

When it comes to encouraging worship and the performance of religious obligations, it is the foundations of one’s thought that need to be analyzed and fixed first. His view of God, the world, man, resurrection, etc., all play a direct and pivotal role in his devotion to performing worship and obligations and his behavior. Drawing the individual’s (in this case, your son’s) trust and benefit of the doubt in order to positively influence him calls for efforts made in training and strengthening his cornerstones of thought; if we can't have a close relationship with our children, it will make our plans for their training unproductive.

By employing the correct methods for training our children, we can build a close relationship with them. Some of these methods are:

1- Honoring our children: The prophet has said: “Respect your children and raise them well.”

2- Understanding the demands of childhood and youth (e.g., independence, emotions, etc.) in general and being familiar with the character and mentality of each of our children in particular. We must also work to fulfill their needs and appropriate expectations.

3- Changing the home environment into one of love, calmness, safety and peace of mind.

4- Appreciating and acknowledging their accomplishments through befitting rewards.

5- Showing our discontent when they do something wrong (even if it is through having a sour look).

6- Making our demands through suggestion, consultation and the mediation of those who have more influence on them, such as their fiancés (in your case).

7- Refraining from repeatedly and excessively ordering them around.

Detailed Answer

Raising a child is one of the greatest responsibilities that lies on the shoulders of parents. It has many precise methods and points that must be observed. In order to achieve better and quicker results in raising children, it seems imperative that you refer to a reliable consultation center (like the consultation center of the Islamic Seminary, Qum) and get advice from the religious councilors who are familiar with psychological and training matters.

But before everything else, we must remember that one’s foundations of thought and their view of God, the world, man, resurrection, etc., all have a direct effect on his faith and devotion to performing religious obligations and worship.[1]

Here, we will suggest some of the correct methods in raising and training our children. Each individual has his own personal traits in every stage of his life; if we are to interact with our children and have the effect we desire, we will have to always keep these characteristics in mind and address them. It is very likely that the same methods used for the stage of childhood will be ineffective during adolescence and may even backfire.

Some of the features of the stage of youth and adolescence are as follows:[2]

a) In this stage, role models coming from within the family lose their significance and it is friends and peers who have an influence on the youth’s clothing, appearance, hairstyle, etc. They even sometimes have an influence on his religious tendencies, and the youth will choose something in this regard that his friends think is good.[3]

Bonding and socially connecting with friends outside the home and having sports, political, cultural and religious activities and consequently, not having enough time to spend with the family all happen in this stage. Sometimes parents feel as if their children have become strangers to them.[4]

c) The tendency to be independent in character and free of the restrictions of childhood and to join the group of the elders, something that if they don’t succeed in doing, they will show their discontent and objection to through defiance and testiness and doing unusual things. They become bad-tempered and crabby to tell their parents to respect them and acknowledge their independence.[5]

d) Disrespect, bad behavior, scolding and repeated reprimanding drives them to ugly behavior, retaliation, and sometimes even crime.[6] Imam Ali (as) says: “Excessive scolding and reprimanding ignites the fire of animosity and obstinacy (of the one reprimanded).”[7] On another occasion, his eminence says: “Refrain from repeated scolding, for repeatedly scolding the sinner will make him bold and determined in his wrongdoing and will (also, make the scolding) lose all value and credibility.”[8]

e) Advising one’s son or daughter, especially when they are youth, in front of others is to them. Imam Ali (as) has said: “Advising another in public tramples and crushes his personality.”[9]

For proper interaction with our children, it is good to:

1- Pay special attention to the hadiths of our imams when it comes to raising our children. This means that we have to learn what they have said and what their approach is in this regard.

Regarding the period of youth, Imam Ali (as) says: “The youth’s ignorance is excused because of his lack of knowledge.”[10]

Paying attention to this and other points by the imams will bring us patience and raise our tolerance in the face of our youths’ mistakes and lapses.

2- When teaching our youth religious beliefs, we must refrain from using dispiriting language. Instead, we have to speak of Allah’s grace and mercy towards all of his servants, especially the youth. Many psychologists such as Rogers believe in the influence of emotions on behavior. Our understanding of things, comprehension and emotions are what shape our behavior. Therefore, if an instructor conveys the message of religion in a dispiriting, negative and hopeless way, the high aims of raising and training youth will not be reached.[11] Imam Sadiq (as) has said: “Liking is higher than fearing.”[12]

3- By giving special attention and rewards on different occasions, we can turn our youth’s hearts towards us more than before so that they won't go out of the home to fill in their emotional gaps with unrighteous friends. Regarding honoring our children, the prophet has said: “Respect your children and raise them decently.”[13]

4- Refrain from bad-temperedness and violence. Imam Ali (as) says in this respect: “Bad temperedness repels one’s friends and relatives and causes the stranger to be negligent and careless.”[14]

5- To ignore some of their mistakes and to act as if we aren't aware of them, because if we don’t, they might lose all shame in front of us and not abstain from what they have to in front of us. Imam Ali (as) says: “Half of the mindful person is patience and tolerance, and the other half is overlooking [other’s mistakes].”[15]

6- To refrain as much as possible from advising them directly and demanding anything from them directly. Imam Ridha (as) says: “I heard my father say that advising others is tough and hard [on them].”[16]

7- To make a resolution to spend more time next to the family (the father especially needs to keep this in mind), mostly at times of the day when the whole family is present at home; this will result in love and affection in the environment of the family.

8- Total correspondence between the parents’ and teachers’ words and their actions; those who advise others must observe their own advice to the best of their ability. Imam Sadiq (as) has said: “Call the people [to righteousness] through other than your tongues [i.e., through your actions].”[17]

9- Refraining from having a judgmental, threatening, or forceful tone. Instead, we must try to use analysis, argumentation, reasoning, and to try to explain the reasons behind Islamic rulings, etc., because not explaining Islam logically can be harmful and may lead to Muslim youths’ repulsion from religion, as was the case for Christians who weren’t satisfied with the explanations Christianity had to offer, which contributed to their conversion to Islam throughout history.[18]

10- Reasonable effort to facilitate your son’s attendance in religious gatherings (which are devoid of any superstition and illogical additives) and his acquaintance with religious individuals and figures. This will help strengthen his devotion to religious teachings. Also, if you can hold such gatherings in your home on different religious occasions‌ and give him a responsibility in them, it can be very effective.

11- “آخر الدواء الکی[19] (The final treatment is to brand).‌ If gentle methods aren't effective after a long time of using them and not getting results, the next step will be to use some force. What must be remembered is that just like with any other method, excessiveness should be refrained from here as well, because it will be counterproductive. Another point is that until we are sure that this method will work, it is not prescribed, and that is why kicking the son out of the house doesn’t seem to be the best thing to do. In any event, if the teacher, or more specifically, the parents, haven't been effective and haven't gotten the results they are looking for despite making the necessary effort, they shouldn’t scold themselves because we are all created with free will and always have a choice[20], and each and every person is responsible for his/her own actions.

[1] See: Porseman Software.

[2] For further information, you can refer to psychological books.

[3] Taqviyate Nezame Khanevade va Asib Shenasiye Aan, Imam Khomeini Institute, vol. 1, pg. 40.

[4] Taqviyate Nezame Khanevade va Asib Shenasiye Aan, Imam Khomeini Institute, vol. 1, pg. 39.

[5] Falsafi Muhammad Taqi, Goftare Falsafi, Bozorgsal va Javan az Nazare Afkar va Tamayolat, vol. 1, pg. 38.

[6] Falsafi Muhammad Taqi, Goftare Falsafi, Javan az Nazare Aql va Ehsasat, vol. 1, pg. 55.

[7] Tuhaf al-Uqul, pg. 84.

[8] Ghurar al-Hikam, pg. 278.

[9] Ibn Abi al-Hadid, Sharh Nahjul-Balaghah, vol. 2, pg. 341 “النصح فی الملاء تقریع”.

[10] Ghurar al-Hikam, pg. 76 “جهل الشباب معذور و علمه محصور”.

[11] Taqviyate Nezame Khanevade, vol. 1, pg. 266.

[12] Sheikh Kulayni, Al-Kāfī, vol., 8, pg. 128.

[13] Mustadrak al-Wasa’il, vol. 15, pg. 168 “اکرموا اولادکم و احسنوا آدابهم”.

[14] Ghurar al-Hikam, pg. 435.

[15] Muhammadi ReyShahri, Mizan al-Hikmah, hadith 14915.

[16] Kashf al-Ghummah, vol. 3, pg. 84.

[17] Muhaddith Nouri, Mustadrak al-Wasa’il, vol. 8, pg. 456.

[18] Dr. Sajedi, Din Gorizi Chera, Din Gera’i Che San?, pg. 226.

[19] Majlisi, Muhammad Baqir, Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 31, pg. 503.

[20] Insan:3 “Indeed We have guided him to the way, be he grateful or ungrateful”.

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