Fostering fatherhood


I have long wanted to write about this. I must have written it at least over a dozen times when I am lying sleepless in bed, when I am putting kids to bed or when I am judging between sibling fightings and wishing for my husband to be there. This post is really close to my heart as it speaks of my own experience as a mother and the experience of countless number of mothers I speak to.

This is a message to all fathers, who want to have a long lasting and beautiful relationship with their children and age gracefully in their company. This is a message, especially from an Islamic perspective, for fathers who want to claim their share of “Sadaqa Jaariya” in raising righteous children.

It may not always be the case, but many mothers often admit one thing that frustrates them about their significant other half is they don’t give quality time to their children. It has indeed become one of the biggest challenges of this modern society we live in: Men no longer have time to parent their children (in some cases women, but that is rarely true for Muslim parents). It is a tough call the women folk have to get on with (even if they work part time or full time, the burden of childcare still falls on their shoulder).

In no way I am ignoring the fact that mother is the most influential person in any child’s life. Mothers do take the leadership when it comes to nurturing a child. It is in women’s nature to take on that role. However, parenting is a task Allah has made an obligation for men as well as women. The frustration and resentment that build up due to fathers not making time, energy or effort to spend quality time with their own children can lead to serious relationship breakdowns in marriage.

Nouman Ali Khan pointed out in one of his talks recently that Surah Yusuf highlights the love between a father and his son when Prophet Ya’qoob shows his love by being an attentive and caring listener. In Surah Al-Qasas, the mother of Prophet Musa shows her love by holding and feeding her baby. Between the two accounts, we find a complete picture of what it means to show love to children. On one hand you have got to make them so comfortable around you that they will tell you anything, even a dream. On the other hand, you have got to show them your love through physical affection by holding them and hugging them.

Dear fathers, you have to realize that the most precious gift you can give to your child is your time. So, spend quality time with them. Your presence is not making any difference if you are at home but keep browsing the net on your laptop or sorting out other paper work. Your presence is not making any difference if you take them out to play but keep staring at your phone. As Yahya Adel Ibrahim stated in one of his parenting articles “Being near your children is not good enough, you have to be with them”

Dear fathers, you have to realize that children want nothing more than your approval. So, go and initiate a conversation with them on a topic of their interest and show physical affection. Don’t wait for your children to come and hug you, rather you go up to them. You have to make the effort to show them that you care by giving your 100% attention when they are talking to you, by responding to all their questions in a respectful manner rather than dismissing them.

Dear fathers, do more connecting and less correcting with your children. Sometimes, all you have to say is “You look upset. Tell me about it” or “You are angry. Tell me what happened”. If your only line of interaction with children is around “Don’t shout at your sister”, “Don’t be rude” or “Stop whinging and crying” then you have no relationship with them. As a father, you have to acknowledge their feelings and help them regulate their emotions. Not only emotional connection benefits your children, but also it takes so much stress off mothers. And trust me, there is nothing that mothers appreciate more than fathers taking off that burden from them.

Dear fathers, you have to realize that children grow up fast and tomorrow the roles reverse. So, it will be parents who would be yearning for their child’s attention. Here goes the old saying “You reap what you sow”. So, make sure you sow plenty of love today.

Practical tips for fathers to spend time with their children.

These activities take no longer than 30 minutes a day, depending on your availability you can increase or decrease timings but aim for at least 20-30 minutes of quality time daily with your children.

  • Read Qur’an together, you can make children sit around you and listen to your recitation. Children can take turns to recite too. Turn it into a Qur’an competition and reward them with a hug and a kiss.
  • Read a story a day with a follow up discussion. You can make children sit around you and listen to the story. You can follow it up with 3-4 questions based on the story and ask children to answer your questions. Engage them in a meaningful conversation and show with facial expression how you value their opinion.
  • Put your children to bed. Really, this is the time you can most likely relate to your children as they open up and start telling you their highlights of the day
  • Play games- board games, play piggy-back or horseback, hide-and-seek or simply run and catch each other around the house.
  • Do arts+crafts. This needs some preparation so have colouring pens, pencils, paint and paint brushes, pen and paper ready and get started.
  • Teach them hadeeth a day that is most relevant to their age
  • Tell them stories of your own childhood- the events you can remember from your own childhood would capture their attention most
  • Go for a walk around the neighbourhood or pay a visit to local playground. Yes, you can do it even in winter with the right outdoor clothing
  • Take them out once a week to indoor play centre, children’s centre, theatre or museum etc.

I will just finish with this one short reminder. I hope and pray that everyone takes this message on board and start making positive changes in their parenting. May Allah rectify our affairs and help us all to fulfill each other and reach our full potential.