“Do not lie, otherwise God will put you in hell!”
“Finish your meal or God will burn you!”
“If you do not go to the mosque with us, you’ll burn in flames!”
“If you sleep without wudu, Shaitan will whisper to your ear all night long.”
We probably heard these lots of times when we were kids and may be telling them to our kids now. Many think this is the way to put kids on the right path. If you are scared enough to not go the wrong way, you’ll have to stay on the right track. In fear. But on the right track.
And now hear this:
“Make things easy and do not make them difficult; make people calm and do not scare them.’’ (Hadith, Buhari)
It may sound more effective to use fear while teaching our kids about what is right and what is wrong, it is for their own sake anyway, they will thank us eventually. Without fear of Jahannam, no one would choose the hard way of living in a world full of good-looking harams. However, this is not the way our Prophet Muhammad used to teach his Ashab about the base of Islam. Neither does he recommend to scare people off. We should be aware of the punishment, Allah’s anger toward cruel people and we should avoid it. But Allah’s love must be stronger than his fear. Love is the core of our religion, peace is its name.
Especially for our kids’ religious education. Children have a rich imagination and a different perception than us adults. If they think that Shaitan will whisper to their ears if they sleep without wudu, they will sleep in fear, and spend the night full of nightmares. Instead, we could encourage them to take wudu before bed by focusing on water’s relaxing effect on our body and benefits of going to bed clean.
When we tell them they’ll burn in hell if they ever lie, that would only make them better liars. Maybe instead, we can remind them about Allah’s forgiveness, mercy, that lying is bad (and how it harms us) but if they regret it, Allah will forgive them. It may help them to know that there is always a chance to fix their bad deeds with the good ones.
When they feel lazy to go to mosques or religious gatherings, instead of forcing them, or scaring them with punishment, we can make these activities more appealing and fun for kids. They would go to the mosque and join the gatherings willingly and with excitement. This way, the prayers would be more effective and meaningful.
Islam is a deen of easiness, a deen of love and peace. Our Prophet was always kind to everyone, including kids. He would say nice words to people, play with kids, make people love Islam with their hearts, not follow it because they are forced to. And, He is the most truthful guide for us to follow.