The Woman's Role in Child Education
By Mohammad Al Dweesh
Reprinted from Islamicedu.com
Table of Contents:
The Important Role of Mothers in Child
1. The Family Influence in Education.
2. The Child is Influenced by His Mother's Condition at Pregnancy.
3. A Mother's Role in Early Childhood.
4. A Mother's Role with Her Daughters.
5. A Mother Knows the Private Details in the Life of her Children.
Education Suggestions for Mothers:
1. Feeling the Importance of Education.
2. Having Discipline in the House.
3. Acquiring Additional Experience in Educatiion.
4. Catering for the Child's Needs.
5. Stressing the Harmony between Husband and Wife.
6. Dealing with the Mistakes of Children.
7. Suggested Methods of Behaviour Cultivation or Correction.
Praise be to Allah: we praise Him, seek His help, ask for
His forgiveness, and repent to Him. We seek His protection from
our own evil and wrongdoing. A person who is well-guided by Allah
cannot be misled by anyone, and whoever Allah leaves in error
cannot be guided by anyone. I testify that there is no deity
but Allah, alone, with no partner, and I testify that Muhammad
is His worshipper and messenger.
This is not the time or place for a discussion of the importance
of education and the role it plays in building and safeguarding
societies. Everybody, regardless of his school of thought and
educational philosophy, knows that education is a necessary and
urgent requirement. All societies stress education, pay special
attention to it, and make studies in it. If one looks at the
shelves of libraries and bookstores, he finds more Western books
on education than books published in Muslim societies, which
shows that education is a concern and requisite for all, regardless
of their educational approaches and priorities.
The Important Role of Mothers in Child Education
A mother has a significant, basic role in education. This
is evident in the following points:
1- The Family Influence in Education
The family is the first tier in the process of social upbringing.
It is the family that instills in the child the standards by
which he judges everything that he later receives from all social
institutions. When he goes to school, his attitude towards his
teacher is formed on the basis of the education he has received
at home. His selection of friends at school is also based on
the way he was raised by his family. He evaluates everything
he hears and sees and every situation he finds himself in or
he witnesses through what his family has instilled in him. That
is the role of the family in education, a very important and
2- The Child Is Influenced by His Mother's Condition at
The mother dominates a stage of the child's life all by herself,
with nobody else sharing her role, and this stage, the pregnancy,
has an influence on education which some people might not be
aware of. An embryo in its mother's womb is influenced by several
One of these things is nourishment. The type of food an embryo
receives from its mother affects it in various ways. It is also
influenced by any illness or indisposition of the mother during
pregnancy. If a mother takes drugs while she is pregnant, the
embryo is affected, and if the mother is an addict, he might
become an addict later in his life. The same thing is true of
smoking, and this is why in Western societies, a smoking woman
is advised to quit or cut down on smoking during pregnancy, to
spare the embryo the effect of nicotine. Other things that have
an effect on the embryo are medications, which is the reason
why a doctor asks a woman whether she is pregnant or not when
he wants to prescribe a medicine for her.
Another influence, which the two parents may not realize,
is the emotional condition of the mother. A baby might scream
a lot in early childhood, or he might easily get scared, and
in both cases, this may be due to the impact of his mother's
emotional condition during pregnancy. When the mother gets too
emotional, the hormones which she produces and which the child
receives are affected. If such an emotional state goes on for
a long time, the effect extends to the embryo's psychological,
emotional, and physical constitution. That is why a husband should
do his best to make the atmosphere favorable at home, and a mother
should do her best to avoid anything that would excite her.
The attitude of the mother towards her pregnancy and her embryo
is another important factor. When she is happy and cheerful at
being pregnant, her mood will certainly have an effect on the
embryo, the same way as when she is unhappy about her pregnancy.
This is why Allah, the Most Glorious and Sublime, directs people
to correct their attitudes towards male and female children.
To Allah belongs the dominion of
the heavens and the earth. He creates what He wills (and plans).
He bestows (children) male or female according to His Will (and
Plan); Or He bestows both males and females, and He leaves barren
whom He will: for He is full of Knowledge and Power.
(Surah 42: 49-50).
He, the Most Glorious and Sublime, has His Will and His Judgment,
and what He chooses has always a justification and a rationale.
So a wife and her husband should always feel satisfied with what
Allah gives them and should know that it is for their own good.
They should be content whether a boy or a girl is born to them.
If a woman loses this feeling of satisfaction, as when medical
examination shows the sex of the embryo in her womb and it turns
out to be the opposite of what she wises for, her attitude and
feeling will certainly affect the embryo. This is of course not
a medical clinic and I am not giving medical advice to a pregnant
mother and telling her about consequences of her attitude. What
I aim at is to make the point that the role of a woman starts
during pregnancy, and that at that stage, she is the only influence
on the child.
3- A Mother's Role in Early Childhood
Early childhood is a very important stage in the raising of
a child, and the role of the mother at that stage is greater
than that of anybody else. While the baby is still nursing, she
has the greatest contact with it. For a great purpose that Allah
has willed, the only nourishment of the baby at this stage is
by nursing from its mother. This does not only have a medical
effect on the health of the child, but also has psychological
effects, the most important of which is making the baby enjoy
the tenderness and closeness that it needs. Doctors always advise
mothers to nurse their babies themselves, and if for one reason
or another a mother does not, she is advised to take care of
it and keep it close to her all the time.
One can therefore realize how serious a mistake a mother makes
when she leaves her baby at this stage to a governess or a maid
who takes complete charge of it: cleaning it, taking care of
its clothes, preparing its food, and when the baby takes artificial
milk, preparing the bottles for it. In such a situation, a baby
misses a lot of the psychological care it needs.
If a mother has the misfortune of having a maid - and it is
always better to do without them - she, i.e. the mother, should
take care of the baby herself in the early stages of its life.
She can leave matters of cooking, house cleaning, and similar
chores to the maid, because a baby will not receive as much tenderness
and care from a maid as from its own mother. What the baby is
exposed to at this stage has a great future psychological effect
and influences the attitude of the baby in the future towards
various things. This is particularly important, because many
governesses and maids in the Islamic world are non-Muslim, and
even Muslim ones are often non-religious. The effect of such
a situation is not hard to guess and it would take long to discuss
this subject in detail, so I will limit myself to this passing
The point is that a mother deals with her baby in early childhood
more than the father does. The baby acquires many habits and
standards at this age and also learns some modes of behavior
which will be hard to change in the future. This is what makes
the mother's role so important; it is the gate of this precarious
stage in the child's life. There are some people, for example,
who are devout and upright, but because they have not been raised
in their childhood to strict moral and behavioral standards,
they are characterized with some roughness in manners and lack
4- A Mother's Role with Her Daughters
If a mother is the closest person to children in general in
their early childhoods, this closeness is greater and continues
longer in the case of daughters. Probably some of the problems
we have today with girls are due to the diminished educational
role of mothers. A girl goes through adolescence, is exposed
to temptations, and has to cope with her desires. The society
she lives in encourages immorality, and the girl has an emotional
vacuum, and might only find satisfaction and gratification in
unholy environments. The mother meanwhile is too busy with her
own affairs, or with her neighbors and friends. The girl lives
in one world, her mother in another.
It is very necessary for the mother to live with her daughters
and be close to them. A girl is more likely to be open with her
mother than with her father. It is necessary for the mother to
fill the emotional void her daughters suffer from.
The emotional void a girl feels is usually greater in a house
with a maid. The maid takes care of the household chores, and
the family decides that their daughter should apply herself to
her studies, which take a lot of her time. But when school duties
are over, the girl is left with a lot of leisure time. How does
she spend it? Reading? We do not usually cultivate in our children
the habit of reading.
As already mentioned, there is a great gap between mothers
and daughters. A girl feels that her interests, her inclinations,
and her way of thinking are not acceptable to her mother. She
feels a cultural gap between her and her mother, and finds her
satisfaction perhaps in a magazine that covers fashion and home-decoration,
discusses love and emotions, and tells a woman how to win the
admiration of others. Such topics arouse certain desires in the
girl. Or perhaps she gets interested in video films, or in telephone
conversations with young men. Even if none of these things are
available to her, she may learn things from her mates at school.
5- A Mother Knows the Private Details in the Lives of Her
A mother takes care of the clothes of her children and the
furniture of the house, as well as intimate details that concern
her children. Thus she is more likely to discover problems that
her children suffer from than their father, particularly in these
days, in which a father is usually too busy for his children.
The mother, therefore, is more aware of the affairs of her children
than her husband.
All the above factors emphasize the role a mother has in education.
A mother represents one half of the household, and a father can
by no means meet the full responsibility of raising his children.
Nor can the school alone have the full responsibility. The combined
efforts of all concerned parties should work in harmony towards
the same end.
In reality, however, the values upheld at school are sometimes
undermined at home, and the values a child learns at home are
contradicted by what he comes across in the street. The child
has then to cope with contradicting standards. Our point, however,
is that the household itself should work in harmony and as one,
But I cannot this evening fully cover, in the limited time
I have, what role a mother is supposed to play in education.
I can only offer a number of notes.
Educational Suggestions for Mothers
Whatever I say, I cannot in only one hour speak in any detail
of a mother's role in education. Nor can I in one hour prepare
a mother to be a good educator. Therefore, I think that the best
I can do in relation to the second subject, preparing a mother
for her educational role, is to offer some suggestions that I
have outlined, in the hope of improving the role played by mothers.
They include the following.
1- Feeling the Importance of Education
The starting point is for the mother to feel how serious and
important education is, and how important the role she plays
is. She should feel that the future of her sons and daughters
is in large part her responsibility. But let me point out that
when I speak about education I mean it in a very broad sense,
rather than in the limited sense of orders, warnings, and punishment,
which is how some people think of education.
Education is much more extensive in meaning. It means the
upbringing of a child and the development of all aspects of his
or her character: the devotional, physical, psychological, and
mental. It is important for the child to have an integrated personality,
and both parents should feel that they have an important role
in achieving this.
When it comes to devotional education, again many people think
of it as no more than a set of injunctions, prohibitions, and
penalties. It is much more than that. There is a whole lot of
difference between a parent who punishes his child for not praying
and a parent who teaches his child to love to pray. There is
a similar difference between a parent who punishes his child
for using a vulgar or obscene word, and a parent who teaches
his child to abhor such a language and to be refined in his speech.
That is what I mean when I speak of proper education, and everybody,
mothers in particular, should understand education in this broad
2- Having Discipline in the House
An important aspect of education, which is a joint responsibility
of both parents (although I want to stress the mother's role),
is to make sure that there is discipline in the household, for
that is one of way of making children accustomed to the desired
kind of behavior.
We are disorganized people. We do not have much discipline
in our appointments, life at home, and dealing with others. This
kind of behavior has affected the way we think, so now we are
even disorganized in our thinking.
We need to teach our children to be organized with their belongings
and in their rooms, to have regular meal hours, to be disciplined
when there are guests in the house. They should know who may
sit with the guests and who may not, and how guests are to be
received and greeted.
3- Acquiring Additional Experience in Education
When a mother is aware of the importance of education, one
of the things she can do is to try to improve her educational
experience. There are several ways of doing this, such as the
- Reading - It is very helpful for the mother to read
books on education. Part of her time should be devoted to acquiring
and reading such books. It does not make much sense for a mother
to be more concerned with cook books than education books.
Let us be frank and ask ourselves how much reading in education
we actually do, and how much the proportion of that type of reading
is when compared to our general reading. When we answer these
questions truthfully, we can realize how important education
is to us and to what extent we are educated in the field of education.
- Taking Advantage of Family Gatherings - We do that
when we discuss educational matters at such gatherings. A mother
benefits from the views and experience of other mothers. The
type of talk we usually have, when everybody complains about
how naughty and troublesome children are, is idle and has no
benefit. It is a kind of self-deception by which we try to convince
ourselves that the problem lies with our children and not with
We should be frank with ourselves and admit our own mistakes.
If our children do have problems, this is due to the way we raise
them. They are raised by us and not by somebody else. The failure
in their discipline is our failure, not theirs.
- Learning from Experience - The thing that enhances
educational experience best is learning from the situations one
goes through and from one's mistakes. If a mother makes some
mistakes with her first child, she should learn to avoid them
with he second. If she makes new mistakes with the second, she
avoids them with the third. Thus she feels that the more she
deals with children, the more experienced and refined she gets.
4- Catering to the Child's Needs
A child has many needs, some of which can be mentioned here.
- The Need for Direct Attention
A child needs to be the focus of the attention of those around
him, particularly his parents. This is a need that the child
has from infancy. He smiles and laughs, for example, just to
draw attention, and he expects some feedback.
One form of direct attention is taking care of the child's food
and drink needs. When the child wakes his mother up to give him
something to eat or to drink, she should refrain from showing
displeasure or being in a bad mood, not to mention rebuking the
child and telling him he is misbehaving. What can help the mother
is to get her child used to a particular schedule and to prepare
food for him, breakfast in particular, before she sleeps.
One of the worst forms of neglecting the food and drink needs
of children is what some women do when they fast; they close
the doors of their rooms, sleep most of the day, and scold their
children when they ask for something to eat or to drink.
Another form of good attention is to listen well to the child.
He may want to tell a story or to ask questions, and he expects
his parents to listen to him. The parents can give him some feedback
by asking questions that show their interest in what he is saying.
One useful approach is for the mother to rephrase what the child
is trying to say when his language skills do not allow him to
express himself very well.
- The Need for Confidence
A child needs to feel self-confidence and also to feel that others
trust him. This is clear in statements that a child makes, asserting
that he is bigger or stronger than so and so.
We have to make the child feel confident of himself and of his
ability to achieve many things. This can be done by asking the
child to undertake certain simple chores that are within his
ability. The child should get used to do such a sort of thing.
A child needs more to feel that he is trusted. One way to achieve
this is to avoid mocking him and severely criticizing him when
he makes a mistake. Another helpful thing is to know how to deal
with situation in which the child fails to do what he is supposed
to. Such situations should be exploited to reinforce the child's
confidence that he can succeed, rather than used to discourage
him and shatter his confidence.
- Being Curious
A child is curious by nature and loves to investigate things.
He may break a toy to find out what it has inside. He may ask
many questions about the situations he goes through, sometimes
to an extent that gets on the parents' nerves.
It is important for the mother to understand the basis of such
types of behavior, so that she may not scold the child or even
It is also important to understand the child's need to develop
his mental abilities. If a child asks why a car has license plates,
for example, his father, instead of giving him a straight answer,
can ask him in return, "If a driver hits a person with his
car and runs away, how can the police identify the car?"
If the child says, "By the car's number," the father
can point out that this makes it necessary for each car to have
a number of its own, different from the numbers of all other
cars. He might then ask the child to tray and find two cars with
the same number. The child, after studying the license numbers
of several cars, will realize that what his father has told him
- The Need to Play
The need to play is one of the important needs of children, and
they cannot do without it. In fact, when a child does not play
much, that might mean that he has a problem or that he suffers
maladjustment. In dealing with this particular need a mother
should observe the following:
a) giving the child sufficient time to play without expressing
intolerance or vexation;
b) investing this need to play to teach the child discipline
and good manners, the way to deal with the toys and instruments
of other children, the importance of avoiding any disturbance
to people and guests in particular, and the fact that there are
places in which he cannot play, such as masjids (mosques) and
c) teaching the child while he is playing, by getting him educational
toys that develop his mental skills and teach him new things;
d) making an effort to avoid things in which the child has no
active role or that limit his physical movements, such as watching
video films or playing computer games, since the child needs
to move, and part of his time should be filled with games that
require physical motion, such as ball games, bicycle riding,
running, and so on.
- The Need for Justice
Justice is something that all people need, but in the case of
children, this need is felt more pressingly. That is why the
Prophet, peace be upon him, ordered parents to be fair with their
children, stressing the point. Husain Ibn 'Amer is quoted as
I heard Al-Nu'man Ibn Basheer, may Allah bless
both him and his father with his favor, say from the pulpit:
"My father gave me a gift, and 'Amra
Bint Rawahah said, 'I will not accept this unless you get Allah's
Messenger, peace be upon him, to be a witness thereof.'
"My father went to Allah's Messenger
and said, 'I gave a son of mine and of 'Amra Bint Rawahah's a
gift, but she asked me to get you, Allah's Messenger, to witness
"The Prophet asked, 'Did you give all your children similar gifts?'
"My father said he did not.
"The Prophet said, 'Fear Allah and be fair with your children.'
"So my father came back and took back
Whatever reasons a mother has to prefer one of her children over
another, that is not going to convince the other child. It is,
therefore, very important for parents to check their special
feelings towards one of their children and not allow these feelings
to influence their relations with their other children.
One of the cases that call for attention is that of a new-born
child, which becomes a problem for many mothers. Due to the importance
of this problem, I hope I will be able to address it separately
in the future.
Although a child has many needs, I will not go further in listing
them. Parents have two obligations in regards to these needs.
First, they should make an effort to satisfy them. Second, they
should take advantage of them to teach the child the manners
he needs and the behavior he should follow.
5- Stressing the Harmony between Husband and Wife:
It is hard for one person alone to undertake the upbringing
and education of a child, and the roles of the father and mother
complement each other. Things that should be observed in this
regard are the following.
a) The relationship between the two parents should be a good
one, because, as already mentioned, psychological stability is
important for the children. A wife who is not fond of her husband
should not allow that feeling to influence the care and attention
she gives to her children.
b) The two parents should agree, as much as possible, on the
educational methods they follow with their children.
c) Each of the two parents should nurture the children's trust
of the other parent. The father should, for example, avoid criticizing
or blaming his wife, not to mention mocking or rebuking her,
in front of their children. Even if there are disagreements between
her and her husband, the mother, likewise, should make the children
trust their father and feel that he has their best interests
in mind, and that even if he is very busy, he is engaged in important
matters that are of interest to all Muslims or that serve the
interests of his children.
One thing that should be carefully observed is that any differences
in the attitudes and viewpoints of the parents should not affect
the children, who must not feel that there are such differences.
Our children are the most precious things we have and we should
keep our discussions and differences away from them.
6- Dealing with the Mistakes of Children
Many of our educational mistakes are in the way we deal with
the mistakes of our children. Points that should be observed
in this regard include the following:
a) Do Not Be Too Idealistic
Often we are too idealistic with our children and expect from
them what is beyond them, and then we blame them for what we
regard as mistakes, although they are not really so. In early
childhood, for example, a child does not have certain motor skills.
If he carries a cup or a glass, it might fall from his hands
and break. Instead of chiding and blaming him, a mother can say
something like: "I am glad you have not hurt yourself. I
know you did not mean the cup to fall down. It is wrong when
one does something like this on purpose. Now, let us try to remove
the broken glass so no one will get hurt." Such an approach
defines clearly to him what is wrong and what is right, makes
him accustomed to be responsible for what he does, and gives
him the feeling that he is the focus of attention and that he
is appreciated. It is really odd that we are ready to break the
hearts of our children when they break a pot that might not be
worth more than two riyals. Are children less valuable than pots?
b) Apply Proportionate Punishment
A mother might find it necessary to punish her child, and
a punishment, when applied where it is needed, is an educational
tool. Some mothers, however, apply punishment when they are in
a state of great anger, which turns the punishment into an act
of revenge. In fact, in many cases, this is how children feel
when their parents spank them.
The hard feelings that the child will have when he receives
such punishment will reflect on his relations with other people;
the effect of that punishment will continue even till he is an
old man. It is very hard to eradicate such feelings as result
from disproportionate punishment.
c) Avoid Obscenities
When some parents get mad at their children and want to reprimand
them, the parents use vulgar, or even obscene, language, or they
employ rude expressions in criticizing the children. Such a behavior
on the part of parents gets the children used to improper language.
A rational person does not get so angry as to forget his manners
in dealing with people, and particularly in dealing with his
c) Avoid Insults
It is very important in dealing with the mistakes of children
to avoid insulting them, hurting their feelings, or telling them
that they have failed, or that they are childish, disorganized,
stupid, or something else of this sort. Insults contribute a
lot to the loss of self-confidence and cultivate in the child
bad manners and teach him bad language.
d) Avoid Embarrassing the Child
The same as we hate to be criticized openly, our children
also hate to be criticized in front of other people. When a child
makes a mistake in the presence of guests, it is wrong for her
mother or father to reprimand and embarrass her in front of them
or in front of other children.
7- Suggested Methods of Behavior Cultivation or Correction
Many parents believe that right behavior is cultivated through
orders and warnings and through punishment and discipline. These
represent only a small fraction of the collective methods of
teaching children how to behave. In the short time that I have,
I will mention some of the methods that can be useful to a mother
in cultivating good behavior and correcting the bad behavior
of her children. The following are not an exclusive list.
Often a child, to get his wishes met, resorts to undesirable
modes of behavior like crying, screaming, embarrassing his mother
in front of her guests, and so on. The best way to deal with
this behavior is not severe punishment or anger, but rather ignoring
the mode of behavior and declining to meet the wish of the child.
The child should get accustomed to use proper and quiet ways
to express his wishes. This method of ignoring the child eliminates
many harmful habits he may get used to, or at least softens these
b) Setting an Example
I do not believe I need to go through the importance and effect
of setting an example in education; everybody knows these things.
When a child is asked to tidy his room by a parent whose own
room is untidy, or when he is forbidden to use obscene language
and he hears such a language used by an angry parent, or when
a mother forbids lying and then asks the child to tell a lie
to his father;- in all these cases the deeds of the parents belie
A reward is effective in reinforcing satisfactory behavior.
It does not have to be a material reward; it can take the form
of praise, encouragement, and expression of satisfaction. One
way of rewarding a child by his mother is to promise to ask his
father to take the child for a ride or do something else that
the child enjoys. Rewards, however, should be used moderately
so that they do not turn into a price paid to the child in return
for his good behavior.
d) Dialogue and Persuasion
An important factor in building up the personality of a child
is to get him used to dialogue and persuasion. The parents should
listen to what the child has to say, and in turn tell him their
point of view and their desires in a justified and convincing
manner. It is easier for the child to accept things when they
are presented in such a manner, and this method helps to develop
his personality and skills. This, however, requires moderation,
for a child needs to learn to obey and to know that even if he
is not convinced, he should listen to what his parents tell him
e) Clear Rules
It is necessary for the mother to establish for her children
rules that they understand and can observe, like getting them
used to clean their rooms when they wake up, to refrain from
annoying other people, and so on. In order for this approach
to work, it has to be compatible with the children's age, and
the rules have to be clear to them and easy to understand and
f) Resolving Disputes in a Friendly Manner
Quarrels and disputes between siblings are sometimes very
annoying to their parents. Things may get worse when the parents
interfere. A mother should know that that is something which
she cannot completely eliminate, but she can reduce the problem
to a certain extent.
One way of doing that is to get the children used to resolve
their differences amiably and designing for them some rules and
incentives that encourage and help them to do so. The mother
should stay out of minor disputes, for her interference cultivates
in her children a weak personality and a habit of complaining
and seeking the help of others.
g) Changing the Environment
This can be done in several ways, such as:
Enriching the Environment by providing an alternative
for the child when he does something undesirable. So instead
of letting him scribble on books, he can have a pad or a notebook
to write on it whatever he wants. Instead of playing with pots
and utensils, he can be given toy pots and toy utensils to play
Restricting the Environment by letting the child have
his own things, like his own cup, his own room, or a particular
place that nobody else can use or get into. Such things make
him feel no need to tamper with what belongs to others.
It is wrong to count on locking certain places, such as the
formal dining room or the home office, or else the child would
be encouraged to play there whenever he has the chance, for what
is forbidden has a special temptation. Sometimes a mother locks
a room, which keeps the child out, but once he has the chance
to get in, he will play with everything.
Preparing the Child When a Change Is to Be Made. A
child may get exposed to certain changes in his life, and he
should be prepared. For example, after sleeping in the same room
with his parents, he may be moved to a room of his own or to
one he shares with older siblings. It is hard for the child when
such a change comes as a surprise. The mother may say something
like, "You are old enough now to sleep in your own room
(or with your older brothers)." The same thing is true when
a mother wants her daughter to start helping with the housework.
h) Building Habits
Behavior and moral standards are acquired by getting the child
used to them and developing them as habits, rather than by orders
and warnings. To get the child used to them needs patience, and
it has to be done gradually.
These are some brief ideas and suggestions aimed at improving
the role a mother plays. She should not neglect to supplicate
to ALlah and ask Him to make her children grow to be righteous
men and women. Allah describes upright people as saying, "Allah give us in our spouses and offspring
our heart's satisfaction, and make us examples for the pious."
(Surah Al Furqan 25:74).
Allah has better knowledge. God's peace and blessings be on
our Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alaihi wa sallam and all his
kin and Companions.