Good Role Models

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Good Role Models

In the stillness of night, young Anas left his bed sneaking to his father's bed and wanting to embrace him and sleep with him, but he was astonished not to find his father in bed. Anas checked the rooms of the house looking for his father, and in the furthest room, he caught the deeply sad voice of his father which made the son unconsciously approach the room. The father was standing in prayer. The son's eyes remained pinned on this unforgettable scene – two lines of tears flowed from the father's eyes who resumed his recitation and weeping. The father did not feel his son's coming or his returning to bed. A meaning that could not be erased was carved in the heart of the son who found the sweetness of worship – the worship of performing voluntary prayers at night that he continued to perform throughout his lifetime.
What if Anas listened to a lecture given every day by his father on the virtue of performing voluntary prayers at night without seeing the father carry it out? Would it be effective in inculcating this act of worship in the son strongly and firmly like this scene did?
Dear people who are responsible for bringing up children!
Imitation is one of the main characteristics of childhood because the child acquires many attitudes, values and principles by imitating others. We do not exaggerate when we say that the child is like a sponge that absorbs everything around him and interacts with the people around him by emulating their behavior and movements. During childhood, the child mainly imitates his parents, siblings, teachers and the people around him in general. The girl copies her mother, and the son copies his father – they emulate their way of talking, walking, behavior and dealing with others. In a word, they emulate everything they see. He implements every new idea the child hears or watches. The stronger the child's relationships with people, particularly those whom he loves, the more ideas he imitates. The child's ability to emulate and imitate, beside his level of intelligence and memory, constitute a major factor in his acquisition of habits. Thus, more intelligent children in terms of responsiveness to learning and understanding generally acquire both good and bad habits faster.
A psychological need for the child:
Every child, in order to grow and learn, needs a role model that he finds in his parents or in one of them. In general, children have a psychological need to imitate and copy the characters of their loved ones. Moreover, imitation and emulation provide the child with a positive feeling about his personality because he has a strong tendency to imitate older people. This makes the child feel like an adult. Knowing that the child programs 70% of his behavior and tendencies by the time he reaches the age of seven, it shows us the extent to which he acquires the behavior of his environment and receives from habits from people who are in touch with him. Children deem their parents' sayings and deeds as always right, and thus, imitate them and follow their footsteps and qualities. The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, affirmed this fact in the Hadeeth of Al-Fitrah (innate disposition), which reads: "Every baby is born with a sound innate inclination to the truth; it is his parents who make him a Jew, Christian or Magian." [Al-Bukhaari and Muslim] This fact was clearly seen in the early childhood of some Companions who emulated the example of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, in his personality and imitated his behavior and worship because he just did it. Ibn ‘Abbaas, May Allaah Be Pleased with him, said:
I stayed overnight in the house of my aunt Maymoonah, and late at night the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, got up and performed ablution from a hanging water skin, a light (perfect) ablution and stood up for the prayer. I, too, performed a similar ablution, then I went and stood on his left. He drew me to his right and performed prayers as much as Allaah Willed. [Al-Bukhaari and Muslim]

An ounce of good deeds is worth a pound of words
The role model is always centered on the actions and behavior of the parents, and children continuously observe their fathers and mothers in a state of happiness and anger, when they dispute, and how they deal with people. Then, children imitate their parents' reactions to all of that. Dear brother, who assumes the role of upbringing, you are the most important role model, and your behavior is what the child imitates the most. In other words, the parents' behavior represents the practical aspect that the child automatically imitates. Therefore, the child, no matter how great his responsiveness to goodness is or how sound and pure his Fitrah is, does not respond to the principles of goodness unless he sees his educator at the top of morals and apex of virtues. It is useless that parents give their children dozens of instructions, advice and orders every day about what is appropriate and what is inappropriate unless their own behavior continuously translates these instructions.
Hence, a Taabi‘i took pity on some young children whose father was not performing prayer perfectly because they would inevitably grow up knowing only this type of prayer which is devoid of Khushoo‘ and imitate their father in performing it. Al-Fudhayl ibn ‘Iyaadh, May Allaah Have mercy upon him, said:
When Maalik ibn Dinaar saw a man performing prayer imperfectly, he said: "How pitiful the children of this man are!" People asked him: "O Abu Yahya, the man performs his prayer imperfectly and you have pity on his children?" He replied: "This man is the leader and they learn from him."
An educator/person responsible for bringing up children should not neglect the child's observation of the former while making mistakes or behaving in an improper way, saying "he is young or does not understand". He forgets that the child's eye is like a camera which precisely records whatever he says or does moment by moment to imitate and emulate him.

How can we invest children's inclination to imitate others?
The child imitates others very often and very fast, whether the thing he is going to imitate is good or bad. As the child imitates his father when he prays, he will also imitate him when he smokes. In order to better utilize this innate characteristic of the child, we should guide him while focusing on the following aspects:
- Raising children on the fact that the first man to be followed is the Messenger of Allaah, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, who is the role model that Allaah The Almighty Named and Assigned for Muslims and Ordered us to follow in all walks of life. Allaah The Almighty Says (what means): {There has certainly been for you in the Messenger of Allaah an excellent pattern for anyone whose hope is in Allaah and the Last Day and [who] remembers Allaah often.} [Quran 33:21] A father should carry out the actions and sayings of the Sunnah to encourage his child to ask why his father does or says such-and-such. The father's reply would be because the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, used to do so, and he is our beloved role model. The child's attachment to the character of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, makes him an upright, righteous and religious man. When the child loves the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, he will love his religion and venerate his Sunnah, and thus, this imitation will serve as an impenetrable fort against negative influences and bad role models.
- Teaching them the Seerah of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, the blessed battles and the stories of great people and their striving to achieve and secure success. Sa‘d ibn Abi Waqqaas, May Allaah Be Pleased with him, said: "We used to teach our children the battles of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, as we were teaching them the Surahs of the Quran." Ismaa‘eel ibn Muhammad ibn Sa‘d ibn Abi Waqqaas said, "My father used to teach us the battles and expeditions of the Messenger of Allaah, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and say, 'These are the achievements of your forefathers, so do no forget them.’" Teaching our children this blessed Seerah is one of the best ways to shape their personalities according to the guidance of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.
- The means which help the one responsible for the upbringing process to program the imitation of his children, include providing the accessories that give them access to these role models and portray them in a more lively, attractive and appropriate manner. There is a great deal of these means available today, such as videotapes, CDs, and children's stories which are printed in eye-catching colors.
- Necessity to block the way between our children and bad role models. Parents can choose righteous friends for their children and build good relations with righteous relatives and neighbors who have children at the same age of their children, provided that they approve the good manners, sayings and actions of those relatives and neighbors. That is because the child imitates his peers who are at the same age or older. The same applies to the friends with whom the child plays because the child imitates their behavior and does not like to be lower than them. He always competes to be equal or superior to his friends.
- Finally, we should remember that the characteristic of imitation and emulation of others that Allaah The Almighty Created in the souls of children makes our responsibility greater to be a good example for our children. Once the child lacks a good role model in the person who brings him up, whether a father, a mother, an educator or a teacher, neither admonition nor punishment will be effective. Let us raise them to be guiding minarets and that people will imitate their righteousness, and they will not imitate any body except those who are righteous.

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