This morning at Fajr time, my eldest was super tired. His sleep schedule had been off all weekend so he really wanted to stay in and sleep.
I held him tightly, warmed him up as best as I could, and then told him the prayer would be out by then and now that he was up, he should pray. But that he could go back to bed and catch up on his sleep when he was finished. He agreed, reluctantly, of course.
It was still dark so I walked him to the bathroom. For his comfort, I didn’t turn the bright bathroom light on but used the flashlight on my phone instead. I had just made wudu a few minutes earlier so I knew the warm water would come quickly and reassured him about that. He made wudu, and when he came out I had my big fluffy robe ready for him. He wrapped it tightly around himself. I grabbed a hat from the closet that my mother-in-law knitted for me and put it on his head. He was all cozy and warm, and suddenly very giggly; he hadn’t seen himself, but the thought of how he looked made him laugh. He said he was my twin and then decided he was going to go wake up his dad for prayer…as me! He changed his voice to sound like mine and woke him up. ?
When I told him to come and pray his sunnah alongside me, he said with a big smile on his face, “Mommy, I’m totally awake now and want to stay up!” ?
We prayed our sunnahs and then I led him in prayer. I read two surahs, Al-Ma’un and An-Naas, and when we finished the prayer I went over the meanings of both.
In the first surah I explained how Allah (swt) warns those who are heedless with their prayer, and in the second surah I explained how shaitan whispers in our hearts and how we have to seek refuge from his whisperings.
I then explained the concept of jihad an nafs and told him that his nafs was struggling when he asked about doing his prayer late, even though he was awake, and that shaitan is the one who likely put that thought in his mind. I also told him that I could have easily let my own heart as a mother get in the way and tell him he could go back to sleep, but that would have been irresponsible of me. It was my job to help him strengthen his nafs and help him when shaitan is trying to attack him, not give in and let him lose out and create bad habits where every time he gets those thoughts, his nafs and shaitan win.
Finally, I told him that alhamdulillah, even though he was at first reluctant to do it, he was able to push past his nafs and did it, and he should be proud of himself for that. And alhamdulillah, he ended up having a fun time, which was not planned at all, but a blessing from Allah nonetheless. ?
Parents, in the formative years of establishing good prayer habits, we have to be firm but also compassionate. We have to try to make the process easy for our children and be there with them during the difficult times, not just give them the command and expect them to fall in line.
If we’re able to turn around every negative association with prayer, every inconvenience, every moment of fatigue and difficulty, into a positive one, we will help them immensely in the long run.
So, if your children complain about ANY part of the prayer being too difficult, too uncomfortable, etc., don’t get mad at them and tell them to suck it up and be tough. Realize what is happening–they are under spiritual attack! Push back against shaitan, NOT them!
DESTROY shaitan’s every mode of attack! Be there for your children if you have to, pick them up, let them feel your presence, hear your reassurance, AND hear you champion them along with loving and kind words.
Make prayer a JOINT effort, pray with them and make it a beautiful and loving event they WANT to do, not just a “chore” they HAVE to do. And please, when they are between 7 and 10 and establishing their prayer, PLEASE don’t just leave them to fend for themselves.
Be there with them. In time they will become completely independent of you and you won’t need to handhold them, but until then, do it and enjoy it. Their love for you will increase, and more importantly, they will associate those beautiful feelings with prayer and with their Lord, God-willing.
May Allah ﷻ guide us and guide our children and protect us all from anything that comes between us and prayer. Amin.