“And establish prayer and pay zakah, and bow with those who bow” (Holy Quran, 2:43).
We all know that Salah is the second pillar of Islam, but often it’s a struggle for parents to raise children who pray regularly. Here are 9 tips to help your children to establish salah.
1. Lead by example.
“Believers, why do you say what you do not do? It is most offensive in the sight of Allah that you say what you do not do!” (61:2-3)
When your children see you praying salah regularly, they will understand salah’s importance. How can you teach your children to pray regularly if you are not modeling this practice?
2. Teach your children why we pray.
Children are curious, thinking creatures. Explain to them the reasons and wisdom behind salah, such as:
a. It’s a way to show thankfulness to Allah for everything He gave us
b. It’s a way to be obedient to Allah’s commands
c. It helps us to remember that this life is temporary and our priority is to succeed in in the next life.
3. Encourage them to pray with you, especially at age 7 (even if they don’t know yet how to pray), and repeatedly remind them that they need to pray 5 times daily when they turn 10.
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “Instruct your children to pray when they are seven years old, and (lightly) smack them if they do not do it when they are ten, and separate them in their beds.” (Saheeh Abu Dawood and Ahmad)
This hadith teaches us to introduce prayer to children early, so that by age 10 they will start to pray regularly. It’s important to repeatedly remind children that they are expected to pray 5 times a day at the age of 10. By alerting them to this expectation, they will be mentally ready to start praying when they turn 10.
In regards to “smacking” children, this cannot be painful to the child. Light smacking should only be used if it will benefit the child. It cannot be on the face or hard enough to leave a mark (https://islamqa.info/en/answers/127233/how-to-smack-children-to-make-them-pray).
4. Teach your children how to pray by having them practice in front of you.
Gradually teach your children how to pray by letting them pray in front of you. Keep it basic and simple in the beginning. Of course this includes teaching them how to make wudu.
5. Praise, Encourage, and Speak Kindly
You want to create positive feelings regarding salah. Whenever children pray, praise them with a simple “Good job!” and a hug. Show them that you are proud of them for obeying Allah. Speak to your children with mercy and gentleness. Don’t make them feel like they are forced to pray. Help them to want to pray from their hearts.
The Prophet (pbuh) said, “Anyone who does not show mercy to our young ones and respect to our old ones is not one of us.” (Sahih Tirmidthi)
Speak to your children in a calm, respectful and caring way. Politeness is a basic value of Islam.
The Prophet (pbuh) said, “The little matters of courtesy that look easy to you and which you take lightly will be very important on the Day of Judgment.” (Sahih Tirmidhi)
“The Prophet did not swear at anyone, nor was he rude, nor did he curse anyone.” (Sahih Bukhari)
6. Make it Easy
Find that balance between firmness and gentleness. Sometimes children may not want to pray right away. Sometimes they want to pray alone. Sometimes you can be lenient with them, and sometimes you need to be firm. Gently remind them that praying with others brings more rewards.
Also, don’t make prayer too difficult by requiring children to pray sunnah prayers. People learn gradually so remember to make it easy at first.
The Prophet (pbuh) said, ““Facilitate things for people (concerning religious matters), and do not make it hard for them, and give them good tidings and do not make them runaway (from Islam).” (Sahih Bukhari)
7. Allow your children to lead prayers sometimes.
Children love to be leaders and to feel important. There are different scholarly opinions about children leading prayers, so if you are not comfortable with this idea, you can let your children think they are leading the prayer, but still perform your prayer as you would individually.
8. Make Dua for your children to be good Muslims.
Praying for your children “is one of the greatest means of guiding one’s children, although many people neglect it” (https://islamqa.info/en/answers/152628/dealing-with-children-who-are-heedless-about-prayer).
9. Understand your children’s unique personalities.
Every child is different and unique. It’s important to tailor your teaching techniques to their unique personalities. Some children need more flexibility and patience, while others are easier to teach. Remember that Allah will reward you for your patience with your children, and insha’Allah they will be a source of great reward for you in the next world.