Spending productive time with our children is essential to raising them up properly. It is related that the Prophet said:
“All of you are shepherds, and each one is responsible for his flock. A leader is a shepherd and he is responsible for those in his care. A man is a shepherd over his family, and he is responsible for his flock. A woman is like a shepherd over her husband’s house and children, and she is responsible for them. And a slave is a guardian of his master’s property and is responsible for it. So all of you are guardians and are responsible for your charges” [Sunan Abi Dawud].
We don’t often experience the sight of shepherds guiding their sheep across a meadow to graze. But anyone who has seen the image of a young man with staff in hand and a flock of sheep trailing behind can attest to the fact that the proper maintenance of one’s flock necessitates the spending of time.
Here are five tips on how mothers can be more productive when spending time with their kids:
1. Talk to your child.
Mothers have a myriad of responsibilities to perform throughout the day. We prepare meals, wash and fold laundry, clean the house, transport to and from school — the list goes on and on. During some of these activities, however, we have the opportunity to do a bit of multi-tasking and connect with our kids.
The next time you pick up your daughter from school and commute back home, ask her about how her day went in school, who her friends are, or who her favorite teacher is. Back at home while folding the clothes or putting the dishes away, discuss with your young one what you accomplished during the day and what still remains to be done.
Make it a point to be accessible to your child when she approaches you with a concern that she has. Of course, during your daily routine of chores and errands, you won’t always be able or willing to provide your child with attentive conversation. Do the best you can. And do make a conscious effort to meet your child eye-to-eye to show your interest.
When your child approaches you during the day to tell you about something important that’s on her mind, use that as an opportunity to carry the conversation further and instill some of your values, or to simply lend an affectionate ear.
2. Listen to your child.
Take the time to sincerely listen to your child express her complaints, concerns, and happy moments. This helps build a needed bond between you and your young one. Children need to feel they have a significant individual who is concerned about their needs, wants, and problems. Showing concern for your child’s emotional state helps her develop healthy social skills for interacting with others around her.
3. Take your child on outings.
Spending time with your child away from home does not require much planning, time, or money. The places to take your child are endless:
- Take her on a short excursion with you to the mailbox at the street corner to deliver a letter. This will help her develop a greater understanding of the postal process—but more importantly, it will show that you enjoy her company.
- Let her join you on your trip to the gas station to pump gas in the car.
- Take her along with you to go shopping for groceries.
- Discover new things at the museum.
- Enjoy a walk to the park or playtime at the playground.
- Take a stroll through the mall.
You are your child’s center of attention; let your little one know you desire to be around her as well.
4. Discipline respectfully and kindly.
When you correct your child for misbehavior, be gentle in doing so. It is reported that the Prophet said,
“O Ayesha! There is nothing that has gentleness in it except that it beautifies it, and it is not taken away from anything except that it defiles it” [Muslim].
Often times, a gentle approach of explaining to your child her error is sufficient. Better yet, reward her for the times she behaves appropriately. When she remembers to take her bath without a reminder, let her know you are pleased by giving her a special hug or kiss. When she shares with her younger sibling, tell her Allah likes that type of behavior and let her have extra time on the computer before bedtime. Your daughter will learn that even though she isn’t perfect, she does have positive aspects about her behavior. This feeling of accomplishment will spur further appropriate conduct in the future, insha’Allah.
5. Be patient with your child.
Allah says in Quran,
“And verily, whosoever shows patience and forgives, that would truly be from the things recommended by Allah” [42:43].
Remaining patient with your child’s shortcomings is an honorable act that you should strive to make a habit of. When you refrain from saying hurtful words and avoid lashing out angrily when your child misbehaves, you present a living example for your child to model after. One of the primary ways we teach our children is through example. When they observe how we handle difficult situations, they learn how they should handle them, too.
All of these tips on how to spend productive time with your child necessitate being there for them. Quality time is important, but quantity time is as well. Being a shepherd is an enormous responsibility. Make a conscious effort to spend productive time with your child regularly. On the Day of Judgment we will be asked about how we spent our time. Spending it productively on our children is a valuable way to get blessings from Allah, insha’Allah, and a wonderful way to maintain our flock.