Almost any Islamic parenting group you join, or Muslim parents you overhear, the conversation is about being concerned about how to raise children with a strong Muslim identity.  Don’t get me wrong, this is a valid concern.  In fact, it is one of my biggest duas to Allah(swt) to keep guiding our hearts and make us confident Muslims, so we successfully pass this life’s test.

And most of the time parents try to reach this goal through common sense practices as Muslims like teaching our kids how to pray, read the Quran, give zakat, fast, pay attention to our intention and so much more.

There are other practices, though, that are often not seen as significant in instilling Deen in our children’s hearts and minds. They’re often looked at as these “western practices” and practices that will “make our children too soft” – we forgot that the softest of characters and the most beautiful of characters in history of humanity was that of Muhammad-u-Rasul Allah(saw).

What I am talking about is emotional intelligence.  This is just one of those not-so-commonly-recognized-as-important practices in our Ummah.  It’s like we dream for our children to have the character of the Prophet(saw), but aside from telling them to treat others like they would like to be treated, we don’t know what else and how else to teach them.

It’s like telling our children how important it is to read the Quran, but we don’t teach them HOW to read it.  The intention is there but we don’t know the what and the how after our intention.

If I told you from a scientific point of view that children who learn emotional intelligence are better regulated (for example less risk behavior), can make better judgements as to which friends to choose, are more successful in their academics, are more successful in their current and future relationships, have better health, and SO MUCH MORE! Would you be convinced that insha Allah, they will also be able to work better and smarter in their spiritual life and be more successful in their akhira?

If you’re convinced, read on for some tips on how to start learning and instilling emotional intelligence in yourself and in your children:

  1. Educate yourself first on the spectrum of emotions that exist.
    This means, are you just stuck at the emotions happy, sad, and angry? Or do you know that there is a whole spectrum of feelings that you could be experiencing?  You have to know the words for the different feelings first, to then teach them to your children.

  2. Understand that feelings are a normal part of you.
    Feelings don’t just come and go without reason.  They are part of Allah’s design.  They are guides directing you, making you aware of your own self.  Just like your physical body, feelings and emotions are part of your existence.  Ignoring them will be like ignoring a wound or a headache.  Only when you see feelings as something normal and not something you want to get rid of, can you help your child become emotionally intelligent.

  3. Make talking about feelings normal in your life.
    It starts within your own family.  Get comfortable talking about how you feel and invite your child to share with you how they feel. A lot of time your child’s behavior might upset you because you don’t “get” why they act so strange and weird.  Would your child have the words to use and feel comfortable sharing with you, a simple confession about how they feel about something or someone would totally clear up the situation.

  4. Learn to recognize feelings in the moment and name them.
    You know you are learning emotional intelligence when you start to recognize your feelings WHILE you are experiencing them.  Pause and just notice and tell yourself: “Wow I’m feeling________.”  Slowly you will notice your children do the same.  I was pleasantly surprised once (while I was feeling angry) when my son said: “I hit him because I felt embarrassed!”.   I thought to myself: “Wooooowwwww, this is working, subhan Allah!!!”

  5. Know that feelings are not forever.
    One of the reasons we want to quickly get rid of unpleasant feelings is that subconsciously we think we are going to be stuck with that feeling forever.  Talk to yourself and to your children regularly about the fact that that feelings come and go.  They are like the waves of the ocean.  When you internalize this, it’ll become easier to behave with more grace in the moment.

These are simple things that with consistency and will you can easily learn insha Allah and in turn teach your kids.  Simple steps with enormous power behind them!

And I am so hopeful for where our Ummah is headed to, alhamdullilAllah! I’m noticing a slight change these days in how Muslim parents deal with their child’s behavior.  It used to be more of: “Why are you always so grumpy?” It’s now more like: “What’s going on? You seem upset about something.”  It used to be more: “Uukkhhh she is so clingy all the time, drives me crazy!” And it’s now more like this: “There is something going on.  She just doesn’t want to let go of me when we are out of the house.”

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