Whenever I sit amongst mothers, the question most often asked, is how can I get my child to make salah, where they develop a love for it and not find it such a chore? I do not think there is any easy fix for this, I believe that it is a process that needs to be handled with kid-gloves and it takes time. The parent has to be loving, patient, and make it a memorable time for their child. Here are some of the steps I recommend, to teach your child salah with love, and to make it stick, inshAllah.
1. Be An Example in Salah
Yes! Your children must see how important you regard salah, that you do it all the time, and that it is part of your life. That is their first introduction to salah and paves the way for their learning to see it as something normal. Your example makes them envision it, when they witness you perform salah regularly, and this will be saved in their memory banks always.
2. Teach them About Allah
Our children must be versed in aqeedah, and they need to learn about their Creator (swt) and His magnificence. They need to feel in awe of His Power and Might, and feel a sense of vulnerability in their being, and the humility of being a servant of Allah. This will teach them their place in this world, which is to worship and obey Him.
3. Teach Them Seerah
Teaching our children Seerah will develop a love for the Prophet (saw) and a desire to emulate the greatest man who ever lived. They must look towards him (saw), as the superhero that they want to follow, and then learn about his sunnah, so they can learn to pray out of love.
4. Make Salah An Anticipation
When it is time for your child to start to pray, make it a big deal. Start months in advance, and say things like, “Oh inshAllah you are going to be a big girl/boy soon, you get to make salah with the grown-ups and the big kids soon.” Salah must have an anticipation and an excitement attached, so your children look forward to it when the time arrives for them to pray.
5. Explain Why We Make Salah
Children love to know the ‘whys’ of everything, and it will be no different for salah. Sit one day and relate to them the story of prayer from the Isra wal Mi’raj, of how Allah commanded us to pray 50 times a day, but the Prophet (saw) asked Allah to lesson it, till salah was eventually reduced to only 5 times a day. Explain to them that prayer safeguards us, and is our coat of armor against shaytaan.
6. Teach Them Salah From Young
It is unfair to expect our children to pray all five salah from the age of puberty without any prior training. This is an unrealistic view and will only lead to battles between parent and child. That is why we are told to start them praying from the age of 7, it is a process that needs to be instilled in a child from young. However some of us didn’t know better and our kids are already older. In this case, we do the best we can and work extra hard to make it a habit for them, but still with kid-gloves and an understanding that they missed out on many years of training. This is when dua will help too, as Allah can make anything possible.
7. Start Salah With Small Steps
Start teaching your children each salah gradually and not all at once, sometimes we tend to be too ambitious and then end up failing miserably when our ideals collapse. Start your child off with one prayer a day, until they become regular, add a second prayer, a third and so on, until you eventually have them consistent on all five salah. Even if it takes a while, it is better to take small steps and succeed long-term, than large steps and succeed short-term.
8. Make Salah Into a Habit
Habits stick with us! No matter how busy we are, we find time for the habits that we do every single day. We brush our teeth in the morning as a habit, and can’t imagine missing that for even one day. That is how we must make salah for our children, it must become a habit that becomes part of their life, that they cannot imagine their day being complete without performing it.
9. Be Consistent in Salah
The key to formulating a habit is to be consistent. If you want your children to formulate salah into a habit, then you must make them perform it consistently each and every day, and preferably at a similar time if possible (obviously this fluctuates with the season). For example, if you are teaching your child to pray maghrib salah at first, pray maghrib with them either before or after dinner, so that dinner time reminds them of making maghrib, which lessens the chance of forgetting. Consistency is the only way to form a habit that sticks, and gain success in salah.
10. Personalize Salah
I asked my elder daughter what would make her excited to make salah, and she said if she were given her own prayer items. What a great idea, I thought! To make salah even more special, you can give your child a ‘gift of salah’ on the eve of their 7th birthday (I prefer to follow their lunar birth year), or any eve that you want them to start to pray. It could include a prayer rug, prayer beads, abaya, thobe, headscarf, kufi etc. in their favorite color, wrapped-up or put in a gift bag. You can even include a special card, saying ‘Congratulations’ you are a big girl/boy and have the honor of performing salah’, or something similar.
11. Make Salah Special
Choose salah times to have special occasions. I’ve heard some parents suggest giving a child some candy when they complete a prayer, others have said, use a prayer chart to motivate. These can be good ideas, but if you find that hard to keep-up with, or you don’t like the idea of giving too much candy, then choose special salah times. You can choose a special time for example, Friday after Asr salah, and perform salatu-Nabi with a tray of hot chocolate in winter, or a tray of cool lemonade for summer, waiting for everyone when they are done! Add some dates to the gathering and share a story afterwards to make it special. You can do this once a week or twice, if its not possible to make one daily salah special.
12. Make Salah Pleasurable
Too often we make salah a chore for our children. We threaten and nag them and we end-up doing more harm than good, by driving them away from salah. Remind them with a smile, pray as a family and in jamaat, to show them it is a family tradition, just like having dinner together. If they drag their feet, explain to them lovingly what they will miss out on by forgetting to thank Allah for His Blessings, and remind them that salah is their coat of armor that will help them cope in the world.
13. Have a Balance in Salah
When your children have reached the age of puberty and are carrying their own sins, seeing them miss a prayer can cause you physical pain. Don’t lose your loving attitude and get all preachy, be more calm and patient and know that it’s not your responsibility to force them, whereby it makes them more stubborn and resentful. Instead your role is to remind them of salah with a balance of love and fear of punishment. Try other tactics such as putting on a heart warming lecture about salah, and also don’t be afraid to let them learn the repercussions of missing salah. You can also persuade them to pray, by saying that you wish for them to join you, and that you are well-aware of who prays and does not pray with you, and that you will take that into consideration when they want privileges from you. So be a balance of subtle reminding, but be firm too.
14. Make Salah Memorable
Making memories with our children is important, as that is what stays with them into adulthood. If you make salah a memorable time for your children, they will always associate it with their happy childhood moments, and will turn to those fond memories when they’re going through tough times, and then be reminded of salah. This will also pave the way for them to form those traditions with their own children one day inshAllah, and because you had a hand in this, you will have the reward for their salah as well!
15. Make Salah Together
I know this is ideal, but not always possible. I prefer to make my salah in the quiet of my bedroom where I can concentrate and have peace. But my husband made me aware that it is important for our children to see me perform salah as much as possible, and that seeing me in prayer will prompt them to pray more than if I told them to do it. Sometimes we forget that our kids have a conscience too, and it’s okay to guilt them into not missing their prayers, especially if they are too young to grab the essence of it.
16. Have an Allocated Area For Salah
I really think this is important, and from experience I can tell you that it really helps to allocate an area of your home when praying together. We have a room in our home that we call ‘our prayer room’, and we have bookshelves lined with our Quran, Hadith and Islamic stories so we can hang there, even after salah. Our children know that the prayer room always remains clean and free of food, shoes, toys etc. This area is a place of tranquility, and our children love to go there when they want to learn Quran, pray or have some solitude. It does not have to be a whole room, it can also be one area of a room that is free of furniture, and you can place a rug there to border it off.
17. Let Children Take Charge in Salah
Our older boys feel very honored when we ask them to lead the salah or to make the adhan and iqamah. This also helps them to get practice in making salah, and allows them to concentrate more, instead of following someone all time. Our boys will also try to compete about who knows more Quran, so that they can lead the next salah, (now that is healthy competition I’m all for!).
18. Set An Adhan Reminder For Salah
Find a nice app or set an adhan clock so that the adhan goes off five times a day in your home. It not only reminds everyone of the salah time through busy days, but it makes everyone pause and appreciate the call to prayer which leaves a wonderful feeling in your heart. It is another important tip towards instilling the habit of salah with your kids, and making it a part of their life to hear it often.
19. Make the Masjid a Second Home For Them
Especially if you have boys, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of taking them to the masjid. Let your boys attend at least one salah with daddy each day, to get used to going to the masjid. If that is not possible, make it a habit to take them on Friday for Jummah, and then you can take your girls with as well. Grab some sundaes on the way back, or come home and have some cookies and milk to make jummah special. Attending the masjid regularly, will help your children build an attachment to it, and they will feel the barakah of praying together.
20. Make Dua For Your Children
Most importantly pray for your children all the time! The dua of a parent is answered, and your duas can help turn a stubborn-lazy-to-pray-child, into a willing-love-to-pray-child, just by asking for Allah’s Help. He (swt) listens and will answer our duas. So be very specific when asking Allah what you want, and you may be more successful in getting the outcome you want, inshAllah.
Most importantly have the patience with parenting, and remember how you felt as a child when your parents asked you to do anything. Kids want the easy way all the time, but it is our job as parents to remind them of their purpose in life and to educate them in their religion, so they understand their duties. Then keep up your duas and leave the rest to Allah, because at the end of the day, only Allah gives the hidayah. May all our children be of the siratul mustaqeem, ameen.