Section 6: Feeding and Guiding Children

A Child’s Need For Love

The need to be loved is the unexceptionally strong in all human beings. From childhood to old age, humans want to be loved by those around them. Love connects people in the strongest ways. It produces care and concern, without which no one would take the responsibility of looking after others. Love makes the difficulties of life bearable, and helps ease the struggles of life. The love given to a child is more important than any other material goods the family can provide.
Life cannot just run on cold and hard rules. The warmth of love is necessary to infuse spirit and joy in life. A home without love, however orderly and organized, has not fulfilled its true purpose. A family is not just a micro-organization where the needs of members are met. This could be done by a state run facility. A family’s outstanding characteristic is that members love one another, and this emotion binds them together.
Love or lack of it has a profound effect on the lives of children. Their mental capabilities, their fluency of speech, their observations and deductions on life, are all affected by it. That is why Islam emphasizes the display of love to one’s family. The prophet (S) loved his grandsons dearly, and often showed great affection to them in public. He encouraged his companions to show affection to their children.

Effects Of Love

A child who knows he is loved has a great heed start on life:
1. He is happier and calmer. A child, who is at peace with the world, is able to bear disappointments better. Without love, a child’s world is bleak. Such a child often resorts to misbehavior to get attention.

2. He is more confident of himself. He knows that he is worthy of being loved, and that is a great boost to his self-esteem.

3. He can form better relationships with others. A loving relationship with the parent makes the child a kinder, more loving person. Lack of love hardens the heart.

4. Has a positive outlook on life. A child who is loved looks at the world with enthusiasm. He will be eager to try and experience new things. A loveless home produces a negative outlook.

5. The child would be more responsive to what the parents tell him.

Letting The Child Know He Is Loved

It goes without saying that most parents love their children dearly. It is a natural instinct placed by the Almighty into the heart of all parents. This love for children is a sign of the wisdom of Allah, for without it on parent would have borne all the pains and troubles of raising a child. However, many parents think that children know, without being told, that parents love them. They do not realize that children need to be reassured constantly.
The effects of love must be evident in the speech and behavior of the parents. Children do not have the wisdom and insight like adults to realize that even punishments and reproaches are signs of love. They often perceive the actions of the parents as a proof of the lack of love. It is thus very important to display love to the child, or at least inform him about it in subtle ways.
The display of love varies with the age and level of the child. It is most important at the very young age when children need to be very cuddled and hugged. For a baby, physical display of love is necessary for positive growth and development. All through the toddler year’s physical affection remains the most prominent way of displaying love. As the child grows, this changes to less direct ways of showing affection. The occasional physical touch is necessary. Love shows its bright face in the form of a smile, a tender tone, a patient ear, etc. A parent’s full attention tells the child he is loved enough to warrant it.

The Love of a Mother

There is no doubt that the love of a mother is a very special gift from the Almighty for a child. It differs from the love of a father, or the love of any person. The tender hand of a mother and her soothing voice has calmed many troubled children.

Mothers are thus the main instruments of transmitting love to the child. At its best, the love of a mother is completely unselfish, wanting nothing in return for the tremendous span of time and energy spent in raising the children.

Unconditional Love

Some parents only love their children if they fulfill certain expectations. Gender sometimes plays a great role. So a boy after a few daughters’ elicits create affection and attention. Some families just prefer boys, even if they have equal numbers of both. Such gender biases are greatly condemned in Islam. The Holy Prophet (S) showed great love and respect for his daughter despite the taunts of the Arabs.
Some parents only show their love for the child if he is attractive, behaves well, and generally lives up to their expectations. Such a love is conditional. All children have faults, and the parental reaction to these faults sometimes convinces a child that he is not loved at all. A child deserves the unconditional love of the parents.

Excessive Love

A potential danger for many parents is excessive love for the children. It us often difficult to control the intensity of emotion one feels for a child. Thus, a child may be showed with a lot of love, often misdirected. Everything in excess is harmful and much love is detrimental to the child.
Excessive love is when the parent pampers the child, refusing to let him face any trouble or difficulty, tending to his every need, and giving in to his desires. Its results could include:
1. The child becomes totally reliant on the parents. Even as he grows, the chances of emotional and mental maturity are slim. He has less courage and feels offended easily and becomes more like a soft egg which needs constant protection.
2. The demands of the child who is excessively loved are unending. He will constantly want more - more attention, more treats, more toys etc.
3. He may become very egoistic, and expect the same degree of attention from others in his life. The child feels that he is the center of the world for his parents, and thus all things should revolve around him.
4. When others will not give him the same attention and pampering he has known from his parents, he will be unable to bear the disappointment. Often such people lose confidence in themselves, and feel they are not worth much as they have not been granted the degree of attention they believe is their due.