Encouraging Our Children to Speak the Truth
In an increasingly censored society, it is important to encourage and develop in our children the qualities needed to be able to stand up and speak the truth, especially when it matters. And perhaps more importantly to be prepared for the hardship this may entail.
It is natural as a parent to want to protect our children from harm and to want them to lead happy and fulfilling lives. However there will inevitably be times in your child’s life where they will need to speak the truth in terms of being honest, defending their beliefs and faith and standing up for what is right. Doing so may often involve feelings of rejection from peers, being mocked or laughed at and other challenging experiences.
However, it is often by going through, and overcoming such challenges, that Allah (swt) Tests us and helps us move towards our potential.
Allah’s (swt) prophet’s (as), including our beloved Prophet (saws) and his family (as) all faced rejection, mockery and were shunned by the people for speaking the truth and we can draw on their example as inspiration. Additionally as Muslims we know this temporal world is full of hardship and difficulty so it’s important to prepare our children for this eventuality, so that they are able to more resiliently navigate the challenges of life that they will inevitably encounter.
Speaking the truth can apply in many situations – for a child it may involve owning up to something they have done that they feel guilty about; it can involve telling another person how you genuinely feel about a situation, it may involve expressing one’s feelings in an honest way within a relationship, to issues such as speaking the truth when it comes to our beliefs and practices as Muslims.
Nurturing and embodying qualities and values such as honesty, integrity, courage, God-consciousness including a deep love of, and trust in, Allah and a solid understanding of our faith will help our children and ourselves learn to speak the truth especially when it matters.
Below are suggestions on how to begin discussing with, and developing in, your children the qualities needed to speak the truth, InShaAllah.
Make a conscious decision to talk with your children from a young age about the importance of honesty and of speaking the truth and help them think about the consequences that may occur from not speaking the truth. Stories can be an effective way to achieve this.
With younger children explain to them why it is important to tell the truth and that when we don’t, Allah Sees and Hears all, and the angels are busy recording what we are doing! Perhaps get them to draw a picture or keep their own record for a day of when they tell the truth/or a lie to help them understand this concept.
This helps the child develop an internal sense of monitoring – as if we believe we are being watched then we are far more likely to modify our behaviours! Obviously, this shouldn’t be done in a way to scare children (we can teach them about Allah’s Mercy & Forgiveness as well), but in a way that develops a sense of responsibility and accountability for one’s own actions.
With older children, have more in depth discussions. You can discuss the challenges of speaking the truth and what it means to them. Suggestions:
Also ask them about times they’ve spoken the truth in a difficult situation …. How did it feel? What were the difficulties? What helped them speak out?
What challenges have they faced when speaking out? (e.g. peer pressure)
What qualities do they think are needed in a person to be able to take a stand and speak the truth in a difficult situation?
Who do they admire who has these qualities? (Islamic personalities and/or other personalities)
Can they think of a time where they’ve lied? Discuss what challenges they faced and what prompted them to lie.
Have they ever hurt themselves or their own feelings by telling a ‘lie’ to make someone else feel better?
Is it ever better in certain situations to not speak the truth, but remain quiet? Get them to research the Islamic position on this.
Having these discussions can help your child/teen identify what qualities are needed to speak the truth as well as identify what barriers and challenges they may face. Having such discussions may alleviate any underlying stress regarding the difficulties they may be facing at speaking out e.g. peer pressure; getting into trouble; fear of rejection etc. It is then far easier to discuss what quality or skill etc is needed to be able to take a stand and speak the truth in situations where they have struggled and so on.
Encourage & Practice
As with any new skill – we need to help our children learn to develop the qualities needed to speak the truth and this requires practice, practice and more practice.
If you want your child to be honest with you, you need to encourage them, for example, if they do something ‘naughty’, first you need to encourage them to tell you the truth and to praise them for that – this should be the focus and then you can discuss whatever they did wrong but not in a punitive way. They need to feel they can talk to you without fear of punishment if they are to learn and feel confident in speaking the truth.
To encourage your child to take a stand, such as speaking the truth regarding their beliefs or faith – build on the previous step of discussing and reflecting on it with them first. Inspire courage in your child by giving them examples of courageous personalities who have taken a stand. Also remind them of the temporal nature of this life and how their intention should be to take a stand in speaking the truth for the sake of Allah (swt), who Sees all, and Who Wil never let them down or abandon them, whatever the consequences.
Use everyday experiences to build your child’s confidence in speaking the truth. It may help to get them to start off speaking the truth in situations where you are there to support them, such as in front of other family members etc. This can help them build their confidence as well as give them a sense of support which will help them when they come to speak the truth in other situations.
Just be mindful of your own emotional triggers and if you are stressed or frustrated yourself then wait until you are calmer before speaking to your child about this matter (explain them you will speak to them in a few minutes once you feel calmer – helps them learn about emotional regulation :).
Children learn from observation and are extremely quick to pick up on hypocrisy. Ensure that you demonstrate speaking the truth with your child and if you slip up as we all do, then demonstrate how you correct yourself
e.g. I know I smiled and said it was fine when that women queue barged me but actually I was pretty annoyed, probably what I should have done was politely tell her that we all have to wait in line and she needs to go to the back.
If you want you can name the emotions that came up for you e.g. anxiety at offending the woman and what you need to work on e.g. courage to speak the truth in an uncomfortable situation.
This isn’t necessarily the best example but hopefully just serves to illustrate the point. Also often it can take a lot of self-development even professional help to overcome the emotional blocks that prevent us from being honest. It’s also important to decide when and what situation warrants speaking the truth or when it is better to be patient and let things go etc.
Our faith is overflowing with examples of those who spoke the truth out of their love for Allah. Stories of Allah’s prophets, stories from the Quran, from the life of our Prophet (saws), his blessed family and pious companions, to examples throughout history even to modern times. Reading and discussing stories of speaking the truth helps a child gain a deeper insight and draw strength and know they are not alone if they face difficulties for standing firm in their beliefs etc.
All Allah’s prophets spoke the truth and faced trials and hardship as a result – what was it that made them speak out regardless? What qualities did they have? Discuss what happened to our Prophet (saws) when he first began delivering the message of Islam… How did he respond? What qualities did he have that helped him endure this? What can we learn from him and how can be become more like him?
There are also many female examples of speaking the truth amidst hardship including Asiya (as) the wife of Pharoah and Zainab (as) the Prophet Muhammad’s (saws) granddaughter who spoke the truth in front of a tyrant after her family had been slaughtered at Karbala.
Discuss if there are similar qualities need for a man and a woman to speak the truth? What are they? Are there any differences and if so what? Just get your children thinking and identifying with these best of role models so that they aspire to be like them and draw on their strength and example in times of hardship.