How often is it that we find ourselves and our children to be wanting something out of a strong impulse or an urge, rather than there actually being a need for it in our lives? This pattern of consumption applies to various situations and circumstances in the normal course of our days, such as when walking down the aisles at your grocery store, when going to the mall, navigating through online shopping websites and apps, and so on. And, it comes as no surprise to witness our children following in our lead and demanding new toys, gadgets, and other worldly possessions (backed by greed) every now and then; be it for a special occasion or as a result of peer influence.
This materialistic approach is not consistent with the basics of our Islamic teachings and values. As Allah mentions in the Quran,
“Children of Adam! Take your adornment at every time of Prayer, and eat and drink without going to excesses. For God does not like those who go to excess.”
In contrast to this, the Quran highlights and mentions the qualities of a responsible and beloved servant of Allah as follows,
“And those who, when they spend, are neither wasteful nor stingy, but choose a middle course between that.”
(Surah Al-Furqan, 25:67)
Hence, it is up to us to make the best use of the opportunities that arise and seem to fit in a variety of contexts. This way we can become more conscious of our acts and help translate this mindset to our children as well.
Nurturing a Giving Attitude
Many of us find ourselves pondering over when to start nurturing an attitude of giving in our children. The reality is that this subject area cannot be defined by age. Rather, it is a matter of making a conscious effort on our part as parents and having our children explore opportunities to help contribute towards the well-being of our family and community at large.
Here are six ways parents can help inspire generosity in our future generations.
1. Normalize the act of giving.
We tend to save up on performing certain acts (spiritual mostly) for special occasions and befitting moments (e.g., giving sadaqah or charity during the blessed month of Ramadan). It is important to understand, however, that the act of giving does not require an auspicious occasion. So, there exists a real need to normalize the practice and observe it as good habit to incorporate in our daily lives.
This can be achieved when we work together and raise awareness collectively, at a family level and from there on at a community level. The Quran mentions,
“Those who spend their wealth by night and day, privately and publicly, will receive their reward from their Lord. They have nothing to fear, nor shall they grieve.”
(Surah Al Baqarah, 2:274)
It is also important to remember here that giving does not necessarily have to be in monetary form. For our beloved Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, advised us that even a smile is the simplest form of charity.
Imagine how many opportunities that leaves us in, the normal course of a day!
2. Model kindness.
Most of us believe in going an extra mile when it comes to giving charity or donating for a noble cause. But one thing that we often tend to overlook is involving our children in the process.
When we model kindness and bring such acts to our children’s attention (for the sake of their tarbiyyah or upbringing), we naturally encourage and reinforce the positive elements connected to these actions. There are several ways that kindness can be reflected by way of modeling:
- Through our actions - the way we deal with others
- Through our speech - the way we speak and more importantly the choice of words and the tone that we use
- Through our interactions - this includes our actions as well as our body language and non-verbal cues
It is only a matter of empathising really, noticing the needs around us, and making the best use of teachable moments. The focus should be on using these opportunities to help and to please Allah. Checking up on relatives and neighbors to see if they’re doing okay, sending cooked food to someone who is sick, offering to baby-sit for a new mom, and helping the elderly with their groceries or with mowing their lawn, are just some of the many ways we can inspire our children to be empathetic.
3. Create opportunities for giving.
As mentioned earlier, giving is not something that can only be linked to financial support. By making it a regular practice in our homes, we can consciously instill these values into our future generation.
An effective way of ensuring this is to keep it in running practice on a daily, bi-weekly, weekly or monthly basis. You may seek opportunities to feed the poor, donate clothes and blankets (now that winter is here), help orphans, the sick, and others who are in need of any form of help (including family and friends under debt), etc. Even removing the trash or a harmful object such as a stone from the pathway is an act of charity.
The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
"A man's spending on his family is a deed of charity."
By introducing these ideas and opportunities to our children, parents encourage them to look out for similar opportunities for volunteering.
4. Make it a family activity.
Sit down together. Make it a fun family activity. Every member can choose to contribute however much and in whatever form or quantity they find befitting.
For young children, you can find inspiration with craft projects, such as making a charity jar or visiting an orphanage. You may also seek opportunities they can easily relate to. Another way to support the notion of empathy could be towards animals by feeding them or adopting one from the shelter.
For older children and teens, encourage them to take the lead on a volunteer drive and have their friends join in the activity, too. This will help keep them motivated.
It is important to also remember to express your feelings in front of your children when you perform charity in any form. This allows children to understand the underlying spiritual and emotional benefits and make sense of what it actually means to feel spiritually uplifted and connected to our creator.
5. Keep your intentions clear.
We must not forget that the focus must always be on the intention to do good and to seek only Allah’s pleasure through performing the act of generosity. This is a point that should be made clear to your children as well.
Participating in charitable activities just to be seen doing so offers no benefits to the believer. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said:
“A crafty one, a miser, and one who keeps reminding people of what he has given, will not enter Paradise.”
6. Be patient.
Patience and modeling on your part will go a long way toward helping your children develop a spirit of generosity and to discover that giving can be the best gift of all. It is important to remember to keep calm and not overwhelm your children in the process. The objective is to normalize the act and make it real rather than making it seem burdensome or stressful.
With youngsters, it is normal for them to be reluctant to donate their time, toys or other possessions. Remember to go slow and try to keep them involved in some way or the other.
In conclusion, it is important to remember that the goal is to make the process of giving a natural part of our children’s lives and one that they will cherish and revisit based on the memories and positive associations from their childhood. When our children are nurtured in an environment that stresses doing good, spreading kindness, and being generous, these attributes are instilled in their personalities and they are more likely to grow into kind, loving, and giving adults.
For it is a good deed that never ends.
Our beloved Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
"When a man dies, his deeds come to an end except for three things: Sadaqah Jariyah (ceaseless charity); a knowledge which is beneficial, or a virtuous descendant who prays for him (for the deceased)."
Umm Ahmed is an early childhood educator and writer who is passionate about seeking knowledge and passing it onto others. She and her husband are parents to three boys and are currently living in Abu Dhabi.