1- Teach the Child to Think

The sports teacher is asking the boy if he would like to join the school sports. The boy curves his lips into an uncertain shy smile as he turns to his father who promptly obliges with a reply: "yes; certainly yes". The teacher is now asking the boy direct- ly what sports he is fancying and the boy again turns to his father with the repetition of that clumsy smile on his face. The father replies:

"Cricket. Yes, he should like it". The teacher is asking the boy: "Which team"? And the father replies: "The Green". The teacher now turns to the father and inquires if cricket is the boy's own choice because it requires a good deal of learning and practicing and that meant also thinking………by him!

As the couple were leaving the sports ground, the father wished there was someone to assure him that the teacher was not rude to him, and that someone could only be the boy who had heard the teacher's last remark in the conversation, but then he sighed - if only the boy was thinking the same thing! No, the boy was not because he was not let to do thinking. He was affectionately being protected from making wrong decisions by not letting him make any decisions.

Teach the child the practice of thinking. Once the practice is mastered, he will then do more than thinking. He will learn and want to reflect and ponder "naturally" which is not always normal with all adults! No wonder, Islam wants the believers to exercise the independence of mind in order to cultivate conviction about Truth (Haq).

The Qur'an compares those who do not think as worse than the vilest of animals. "Surely, the vilest of animals in Allah's sight, are the deaf, the dumb who do not think". (8:22). With the practice of thinking rooted, the mind will be prone to critical scrutiny:

and independent judgment. Such mind will not easily be susceptible to the out- side or alien influence especially in the present age of electronic media which is employed to control the mind of the viewers and manipulate "public opinion" to suit the establishments with vested interests. With mind shielded, values remain intact and decisions pop up prompt and sound.

In Two Hands.

With the rein of mind tight in one's own two hands, the child when adult, will not waver or be fickle in making important decisions judiciously. He will not borrow for himself decisions from others who can never put themselves squarely in his place; will never take refuge in the false safety of a status quo and leave matters unresolved simply because to him, to take the initiative of making decision is to gamble.

The passage of this life is punctuated with problems. When a problem is born approach it to dictate your terms before it grows big enough to approach you and dictate its terms while looking down on you with your back to the wall. But that calls for an immediate and bold decision-making capacity. Good many people lack it because they as children were not allowed to build it up. They were not taught to think.

So engage the child in the exercise of decision-making on matters that concern him, though he should fully know that the final decision is the parents'. Would he prefer a school bus with a larger seating capacity or smaller and why? A lunch box to the school or money for purchase from the school canteen and why? Should he choose a desk right in front tomorrow when he. with other students, moves to a promoted class? Would he want his bed placed this way or that? These are only examples and there arise a number of occasions for such decision-making.

Result Is Stupendous.

The result is stupendous in terms of fast thinking and self-confidence. The parents will often find the child coming up with certain requests in which there are options and he had already considered all of them and preferred one with ready reasons, even if the reasons are weak or bad. This is true as the child grows up.

A child so trained, when faced with a proposal from his teenage friends for a leisure programme out, which does not seem quite alright, will say: "No" on his own authority instead of the meek: "No, my parents will not approve of it".

The exercise will naturally include the situations where the child will consider also the economic options with a view to saving money. This is because in the course of the engagement in the exercise of reasoning and decision-making the issue of money will be surfacing and he will have learnt in some degrees the discipline in money management.

A child who has not been raised to think and therefore, to do reasoning invites emotions to help and fill the gap. As adult, he is likely to make worse decisions for himself more through emotions than reasoning. The road to hell in this life is paved with emotional decisions!

A child on his first day in the school leaves his desk, walks to his class teacher and whispers to her something which she fails to understand until later. The child was using that funny word which was coined for him by the parents for "toilet" since he was a toddler.

Perhaps the child even at the schooling age was still being soothed to sleep with the lullaby songs! He was not let to grow up mentally also. It is a real problem facing the child if he is the only child in the family.

Talk to the child -almost - as you would to an adult. Do not under-estimate his grasping power. Even if. his grasping level "seems" low, this approach will trigger it up. It will develop at a greater pace.

When the child inquires. as he would often do as any inquisitive child, about the natural phenomena or historical events or a simmering political issue or a debate raging among adults on a social or communal issue or any aspect of Islam, do not ignore him believing that they are beyond his grasp; nor provide a cursory or simplistic explanation to reveal that you find him not worthy for a full and sincere answer.

By doing so, you will be impressing upon him quite disastrously that he is mentally too far behind for this "information" or that the subjects inquired are the exclusive purview of the adults and that he should not be trespassing such mental domains of "others". When the child catches up as an adult, he will be having too many other new and intimate things to inquire and know about and. perhaps not any more those that he had asked about and was spurned. Is it wonder therefore, that we have among us adults who have shallow or no knowledge about the causes of the natural phenomena!

like earthquake, volcano, eclipse, lunar vis a vis solar calendars or the two world wars or slavery or the origin of his sect, etc. An inquisitive mind of a child is also retentive. It is a different mind when he is later in a primary school.

Never ask the child to leave the adults' company in the lounge and go to his room when visitors have arrived on a courtesy call or a social visit. On the contrary, grab the opportunity by asking him to leave the recluse of his room and join the group. The purpose is manifold and the results diverse. Develops Personality.

Let the child witness and learn what the adults talk about and how they talk or argue. He will find that they do not interject, they do not all talk at the same time. they do not raise their voice, they do not swear. In fact the child may find that the behaviour of the visitor or visitors is refined and polished as compared to that of his parents! Do not fail to introduce him to the visitors if they are meeting him for the first time.

This gives him a self-confidence and with it, develops his personality. His presence in the adult group will create in him an appetite for adult-subjects. In the course of talk, create a suitable opportunity of raising a subject of the child's interest, like his studies, school, madrassa, sports and ask him for a latest information in order to join him in the talk of the group and break the ice.

Or ask him for information which will be of interest to the visitors and which you know he has. like: "what do we have for our guests -hot or cold"? or "I forgot, who preached last Thursday"? or "What was the subject of the preaching"? In fact there can be a number of likely current and pertinent information that the child can be asked. The psychological effect is startling. He will perceive himself a knowledgeable part of the, adult group. But at the same time do not detain him longer if the visitors are boring f or the anchor types!

The typical child's shyness will evaporate paving way for the in-flow of self,-confidence. The child on approaching the youth age is most likely to engage in matured conversation on his own right with the adults who are a generation or two ahead. He will have broaden his horizon and enhanced his vision of what the world is all about and tailor his social inter-action accordingly ahead of his age.

How disturbing instead to find some parents still using that funny word coined for "wash-room" for the child when he was a toddler! The child is not allowed to grow mentally.

Live on Wits. The whole purpose is to prepare the child mentally for the responsibilities of the earthly life and spiritual obligations much earlier while others of his age are behind and in the hard way of self-preparation -so that he fares better. Remember, this is a cold cruel world after all. Those who live on the wits of certainties and self-confidence survive better than those on the vicissitudes of chances.

In about the year 1954 a public meeting was convened for the purpose of forming a Tenants Association and seeking legislation to protect the interest of the tenants.

When a reporter asked why a young boy of about 22 was elected to the responsible I post of the Secretary, the Chairman of about 60 replied that the boy too came for- ward and spoke his mind seeing himself equal to those elderly who spoke their mind; and that they all being equal, the big difference in his age was the plus point for his unopposed election!

According to the holy Qur'an, one earns according to what one struggles for. "And that man shall have nothing but what he strives for"(53:39). Age is not a barrier. Parents should steer and set the child onto the fields of struggle. Taqwa is a crucial one among such fields: "And whoever desires the hereafter and strives for it as he ought to strive and he is a believer; (as for) these, their striving shall surely be accepted. " (17: 19).

It is reported that in a community of boat people somewhere in a Far East jungle, children are let into the water and learn to float, like adults, even before they can walk!