I am concerned that in the age of eHow, wiki, evidence-based, best practice and performance management, some readers may interpret this article as a blueprint to raise productive children. It is not. Children are dynamic and unique individuals.
As such this article is about me sharing my experience. Although I cherish my children’s academic achievements and winning international awards for various science and innovation competitions, I love them unconditionally. Needless to say, my children are not geniuses. I just wish to see them happy and healthy, embracing Islam fully. Below are just some of the steps I have taken in raising them:
1. Stop buying Garden and Home magazines
These magazines often make you feel miserable especially if you have hyperactive kids like me who turn the house into pirate ships or shops or schools. So,
Adopt the Japanese minimalistic style, easy to clean and maintain.
Learn one recipe for biscuits and cakes then diversify.
Keep clothes at a minimum level.
Rein in the household chores and involve the children.
2. Combine structured and informal learning
Introduce adequate structure in your kids’ life especially for homework and reading the Qur’an or fardhu ain. For example, after school, get them tea and then home work for 1 hour. After that they are free to cycle, to jump, to paint, to do what they want to do (of course computers must be in the family public space).
Get some other children together. If there is an open space for them, it is much better. However, if live in the areas where some bad characters may lurk, set up an informal play scheme. I used to organize a free play scheme on weekends with other mothers so that our children could play together in a safe environment, but with adequate distance from adults’ watchful eyes.
Involve children in organizing trips and outdoor activities. My children love experiencing rough sleeping.
3. Encourage entrepreneurial spirit
Give small amount of seed capital to your children. My children love making and selling things. In this way, they learnt maths, negotiation and communication skills early. They also learnt to make delightful products such as pop-up cards or special occasion cards and flowers for Eid and birthdays. But don’t go over the top, you could be taken to task for child labour.
4. Story books are their friends
Adopt story telling as a way of explaining and learning typically ‘boring’ subjects. My children hated their text books. I don’t blame them because many text books are notoriously unreadable. But they love good story books, practically devoured them. Over so many years, storytelling has been a powerful method of learning and teaching. If you tell the kids that World War 2 was started by a guy called Hitler, they would soon fall asleep. But try telling that the war was started by a mustached guy who used to be bullied or a bully at school and lived in a place where kids disappeared (for example), watch the facial transformation.
Visit libraries and book shops despite the age of digital books.
Teach them to respect books and treat them with care.
5. Give them a sense of purpose
Identify your children’s interests and nurture them.
Don’t force them to be what you want them to be. However, explain to them about options and consequences.
Don’t condemn but don’t overindulge them with praises either. When children have a clear sense of purpose, they will be motivated to work towards that goal. One of my daughters loves animals, astronomy and baking. Her ambition is to set up an animal shelter complete with a café and star gazing equipment.
6. Lead by action
Undertake small projects and get your children involved but don’t force them.
Explain to them the purpose of these projects. You can’t expect your children to be innovative if you yourself are lazy. When I started a TOTALLY FREE QURAN E-LEARNING (ehsanlearning.co.uk), it inspired my daughters to enter into an international Innovation Competition to help displaced people around the world or refugees, illustrate children’s books and develop e-learning courses for English as Additional Language children.
7. Find out your children’s learning barriers early
Find out your children’s learning styles early. How do they learn? Are they auditory, visual, kinesthetic or logical learners? In this way, you can strengthen their learning.
Don’t force your own learning style on your children.
8. Tell them there is no failure but learning
Explain to your children that the focus should be on learning with a clear purpose not failure.
Talk about options and limitations in achieving their ambitions. Be as realistic as possible but don’t thwart their ambitions.
Get involved in your children’s school. For example, if your children could not get to the school they want, (the price of property in good schools’ catchment areas is ridiculously high) it is not the end of the world. My older daughters went to a school which has a notoriously bad reputation in the country. But one of them won an international science competition while a student there. She was invited to visit the NASA Centre in the US including meeting with astronauts. The school was so supportive in getting her visa by pestering the US embassy on a daily basis. Everyone was so excited including other parents and students. The school also supported another daughter to set up a Fair Trade shop and helped another one win a project sponsored by the local authority
“Did We not expand for you, [O Muhammad], your breast? And We removed from you your burden. Which had weighed upon your back. And raised high for you your repute. For indeed, with hardship [will be] ease. Indeed, with hardship [will be] ease. So when you have finished [your duties], then stand up [for worship]. And to your Lord direct [your] longing” [Quran: Chapter 94].
Do you have any tips that you can add to this and thus help other parents to also raise happy and innovative kids?
About the Author:
Suziana Shukor is a mother of 5 girls, working as an instructional designer at an international NGO. Her previous employments include being a lecturer and a policy team manager at Northamptonshire County Council, UK. She received her LLB (Hons) from the University of East Anglia, MA in Business Law from the Leeds University and PhD in Law from the University of Kent, all in the UK. Currently she is developing and running a free Qur’an e-learning course, arguably the first of its kind in the world: ehsanlearning.co.uk. She is also a guest blogger for LINGOs (Learning for International NGOs).