The issue of saying no to our kids. Have you ever heard or read about child development experts who say that we shouldn’t tell our kids “no”? Rather, we should try our best to say yes to them. Or if we should really say no, we shouldn’t. For example, instead of saying “Don’t stand up” we say, “Sit down”.
Some may class these under positive parenting. The first time I heard it was in school and I thought how much it differed from the culture that I was brought up in. Being told no is very much something that we get often as kids.
The effectiveness of not saying “no” to kids
The question now is, to what extent is this method of discipline true and effective. As for all things, we as Muslims go back to the Qur’an and sunnah in all issues, especially on how to raise our children.
Alhamdulillah, I recently heard a lecture on the Islamic perspective on whether we should never say no to our kids. Unfortunately, it is not in English but I thought that it is so beneficial that I’d like to share it with you here.
Taking the middle path
In Islam, advice comes in the form of both enjoining the good and forbidding the evil. There is no wrong in telling our children to not do something when needed. This is the way of how Allah teaches us in the Qur’an and how our Prophet (salallahu alaihi wasalam) taught his companions.
Can we say “no” to our kids?
As mentioned earlier, the answer is yes. We take the example from Luqman – a man who was given wisdom by Allah, where his story is mentioned in the Qur’an. This was his advice to his child.
And [mention, O Muhammad], when Luqman said to his son while he was instructing him, “O my son, do not associate [anything] with Allah . Indeed, association [with him] is great injustice.”
[Surah Luqman: 13]
When we look at how he advised his son, we see that he began with a clear cut prohibition. He said, “Do not associate [anything] with Allah” and did not say “Worship Allah alone.”
This indicates that it is okay, and in fact encouraged to advise our children in a form of prohibition.
When to say “no”
As exemplified in the verse above, the prohibition that he mentioned is from the most important issue i.e. about not associating partners with Allah.
However, if we look to a hadith of the prophet (salallahu alaihi wasalam), there were certain occasions where the prophet advised the children under his care in a form of enjoining the good, without saying “no” or “do not”.
Narrated `Umar bin Abi Salama:
I was a boy under the care of Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) and my hand used to go around the dish while I was eating. So Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said to me, ‘O boy! Mention the Name of Allah and eat with your right hand, and eat of the dish what is nearer to you.” Since then I have applied those instructions when eating.
From this hadith, we see that the prophet did not prohibit Umar bin Abi Salama, who was only a child then, by saying “do not”. Instead, he simply told the child the right manners of eating.
Therefore, what can be concluded here is, when it comes to the rights of Allah, we should firmly prohibit the child such as when preventing them to do shirk, or other haram things.
When it comes to matters of the worldly life such as the etiquettes of eating, as mentioned the hadith of ibn Abi Salamah, it is sufficient to approach the child in a positive manner by enjoining that which is good.
How to say “no” to our kids
With regard to the way we prohibit our child, we follow the way of Luqman as found in the same verse mentioned above.
Addressing the child
He does so by first calling his child saying “Ya bunaiyya” or “Oh my child” to ensure that he got his attention.
Addressing the issue
He then directly addresses the issue by telling the child to not associate partners with Allah.
Explaining the rationality
He then proceeds to explain the reason behind his prohibition saying that shirk is a great injustice. This is how we should be when telling our children “no” by always tying its reasoning to Allah so that they will grow up upon taqwa.
The wisdom of Islam
This is from the wisdom of Islam, where things are being put in place at the right time for the right people.
For example, when we look into another hadith with regards to the same issue (i.e. the etiquettes of eating), the prophet advised his companions differently.
Jabir b. ‘Abdullah reported Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) having said:
Do not eat with your left hand, for the Satan eats with his left hand.
This was how he would advise his companions who were adults. Very much different from how he did with a child companion, ibn Abi Salamah. This shows the wisdom of the Prophet (salallahu alaihi wasalam).
Looking at our child’s development
Another important point mentioned in the lecture is to always look at the stage that our child is at. Children are in fact children, who are always constantly eager to explore the environment around them. They will eventually do things that we dislike.
However, if it causes no harm to them or others with regards to their worldly life and hereafter, we should try our best not overreact. We should not always tell them “no” or “do not” as this may stunt their growth. Rather, we should remain calm and try our best to advise them with positive words.
So yes, this is the ideal way of parenting. However, when I was putting together this post, I realized that putting these to practice takes a lot of patience. Just like how parenting is, in general, to be honest.
Think about it, you see your kid using the marker to scribble on their body or you see them standing on the dining table, which just happened with my toddler btw. It’s a little hard to not react negatively when telling them to stop. But, if this is the best way to parent my kids, we should stop making excuses and try our best to implement what we now know insha’Allah.
Therefore, I advise myself and you who are reading this, with patience.
May Allah grant us all patience in raising our children upon taqwa.
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