“When the wife of Imran said, ‘My Lord! I have dedicated unto You what is in my womb. Accept it from me. Lo! You, only You, are the Hearer, the Knower!’ When she was delivered, she said, ‘My Lord! Behold! I am delivered of a female child!’ — and Allah knew best what she brought forth — ‘And the male is not like the female. I have named her Mary, and I seek refuge for her and her offspring in You from Satan, the Rejected’” (Quran 3:35-36).
The birth of Mary (AS) holds some valuable parenting lessons. First, it is not about the gender of your child. Your daughter can become an accomplished individual, as much as your son can, in all aspects of life. Second, if you really aspire to raise a strong daughter, you must set a clear vision even before she opens her eyes in this world. That’s what the mother of Mary (AS) did when she decided to dedicate her child to the service of Allah. In our contemporary times, how should you envision your daughter’s life? In fact, what is entailed in raising a “strong daughter”?
Beyond Curriculum: The ‘3 Cs of Education’
There is no denying the fact that the strength of your daughter lies in quality education, both religious and academic education. In addition to a quality curriculum, it is important to instill in your daughter what I like to call the “3 Cs of education”:
creativity is a mental and emotional faculty that involves the imagination, the intuition, and one’s resourcefulness and inventiveness. Being creative could be coming up with new and original ways to reach out to the needy. It could be finding unconventional ways to stick to her values regardless of any opposition or unfavorable circumstances. She might use her creativity to develop effective ways to give dawah or to find genial ways to excuse herself from a social gathering that may not be entirely appropriate for her to attend.
character is simply those qualities or traits that give your daughter her individuality. Thus, your daughter’s character includes her moral standards and values. Help her to cultivate traits such as generosity, honesty, kindness, sincerity, self-restraint, patience, fairness, tolerance, and more. Of course, the best teacher of good character traits is the example set by the parents. When they embody Islamic values, their daughter is able to see the beautiful demonstration of good character in daily life and she is apt to emulate her parents.
this is not only about being able to articulate ideas and thoughts effectively. Confidence is also the ability to embrace your ethics, morals, values, and beliefs wholeheartedly. Let’s say you wish to see your daughter wearing hijab and carrying herself with modesty in this Western culture. Some parents try to force their daughter to abide by this “dress code.” What is much better is if she comes to that decision on her own initiative, making it an integral part of her persona and identity. That is confidence — knowing that you are doing the right thing and then demonstrating that conviction without any reluctance or hesitation.
Having a Proper Mind-set for Effective Parenting
There is an important mind-set that supports raising a strong daughter. Being blessed with a daughter is indeed a great privilege, but it certainly comes with a huge responsibility. The good news is that Allah has already made us capable enough to raise a really strong daughter. We can keep in mind the following considerations:
1. Being a parent, you are closer to your daughter than anyone else. She opened her eyes in your lap to see you smiling with tears of joy and kissing her forehead for the first time. She is literally a heartfelt part of your existence, your purpose in life, and your destiny.
2. From her sleep pattern to her like and dislikes, you know your daughter more than anyone else. The truth is that there is no single right way of parenting. It mainly depends on your child’s personality. Before you take advice and apply it in raising your daughter, take a moment to reflect on whether that is the right approach for her, individually.
3. There is no one whose sincerity is more important for your daughter than you. It is essential that all of your words and actions establish in her mind and heart complete trust and reliance on your honesty, fairness, and genuine caring for her well-being. Let her see your own dedication to purifying yourself from all ego-driven deceits and hypocrisies. Leave no room in her mind for doubt regarding your sincerity.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Parenting
Build a Good Relationship; Use Your Parental Authority Wisely
A litmus test to evaluate your relationship with your daughter is how well she can express her concerns, mistakes, fears and other feelings, both positive and negative, to you. Raising a strong daughter sometimes requires being authoritative in your parenting. But that is far different from being authoritarian which demands total obedience and control. Being an authoritative parent means that when pulling rank is necessary, it carries weight because this type of parent applies the same standards of behavior to herself or himself, never demanding from a child what they, themselves, do not practice. And at the core of parenting, whether at times of authoritativeness or times of leniency, is a palpable caring about the child, supported by the parent’s calm self-control and emotional maturity.
Part of building a good relationship with your daughter means that you let her know that you trust her because she continually earns your trust. Also, building a good relationship means that you will be there to listen to her with caring, compassion, understanding, and non-judgment. Of course, when there is a necessity to criticize or reprimand some behavior or action, the authoritative parent does it without condemnation or belittling. Raising a strong daughter requires a balance between being strict and being lenient. Her fear of you should be a fear of disappointing you, not a fear based on feeling threatened or anxious that your bigger, more powerful person and position will bring some harm to her, physically or emotionally. Building a good relationship with your daughter also means engaging in activities with her that she likes, spending quality time together that develops rapport and shared experience.
Alter Your Priorities for a Bigger Gain
This one is related to the quality of time you give your daughter. It is understandable that you have your career goals, social life outside the home, and the desire of enjoying solitude after a super-hectic week. However, this must not lead to you compromising on the attention due to your daughter. Raising a strong child demands a lot of patience and sacrifice, but that is indeed worth it.
Just think for a moment — if you are really making amazing progress in your career to provide a secure future for your daughter, what if this over-committed schedule leads to her feeling neglected by you, without a strong parental figure involved in her growth and development? It is very easy for children these days to get involved with the wrong friends or to engage in un-Islamic behaviors unless both parents are very much involved in their lives, available to guide and supervise on a daily basis. This does not mean that you cannot pursue your life goals after becoming a parent; it just means that your life goals must now be more focused on raising children who will be part of a strong and virtuous next generation of Muslims.
Be an Inspiration, Someone She Wants to Emulate
Being a parent is not like being a consultant who gives wise advice on the best way to live life and then expects your daughter to follow it blindly. The truth is that you cannot instill in her good qualities and excellent morals unless you demonstrate them yourself. Let’s take the example of taqwa, fear of God. It is easy to give repeated reminders to be steadfast in prayers and be conscious of the angels writing down every single deed to be presented for final accountability in the hereafter. How often, though, have you genuinely displayed your love and fear of God? How much do you show your own dedication to living a life that abides by Islamic teachings? How consistent are you in your words and actions in observing the morals and values that the Quran and sunnah teach us? How often does your daughter see you making dua to Allah SWT for guidance and forgiveness? She will understand what you try to teach her about Islam if all of your daily interactions, with every family member, adhere to the highest calibre of example.
Take Care of Her Physical Health
While ensuring that all her intellectual, emotional, and spiritual needs are met, do not overlook the physical needs. In this digital age, it is more important than ever to encourage your daughter to go outdoors and spend at least one hour daily in the fresh air, engaging in some physical activity. What if you are not blessed with a safe neighborhood? No problem. You can accompany her on morning walks or help her organize some girlfriends for an evening of sports that you can coach and/or supervise. Another essential aspect of physical health is a balanced diet. As a rule of thumb, avoid processed foods and make sure your household has many fruits and vegetables and other healthy snacks. Organic food is best if the household budget allows. Remember that the healthier your daughter is, the easier it will be for her to excel in her academics, extracurriculars, and other daily tasks. A common mistake many parents make is that they surrender to the unhealthy food choices of their children. If you are persistent in keeping only healthy food in the house, she will eventually develop a taste for healthy, unprocessed food.
Teach Your Daughter to Love Allah
It is a harsh reality, but we simply cannot escape it — you will not always be there to help your daughter walk through the highs and lows of life. Even if you are there, it may not be possible for you to help her make the best decision. After all, the generation gap is real. However, something that will never let her fall is her connection with the Lord of the worlds. Being a parent, it is your responsibility to not only take care of her intellectual, physical, and emotional needs, but also ensure that she gets a clear understanding and conviction in her faith. Unfortunately, the challenges of our times have made it more difficult than ever to counter the materialistic, immodest, and egocentric influences that surround us. But with patience and persistence, it is possible. From an early age, introduce her to the seerah – the biography of the life and times of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Let her find the utmost inspiration and love for the most admirable human being ever; and help her to cultivate and appreciate a sense of belonging to Islam. Eventually, she will develop the desire to learn more about the early prophets, about Prophet Muhammad and his companions, and the many important figures in Islamic history. As she grows up, discuss with her the incidents that highlight some issues specific to women such as slander against the mother of believers, Ayesha (RA), and the many strong and accomplished Muslim women in the unfolding narrative of Islam. Teach her the guidelines of modesty as covered in Surah Noor and other parts of Quran. When she is old enough, you can teach her the way of making istikhara, the prayer for seeking Allah’s guidance in difficult decisions. Most importantly, let her know the importance of prayer and seeking Allah’s help in matters big and small. As you witness her growth and development, you will see her building a connection with Allah SWT and the guidance and wisdom of His word. This is what will act as the light of guidance, helping her navigate through life in the best possible manner.
Some Final Words
As we conclude, perhaps the most crucial message to internalize is that as parents, you must have a clear vision of who you want your daughter to become as she grows up. That does not mean deciding for her what to study at college or what career, if any, she may choose. It means envisioning the kind of character she will have. Will she be strong in her decision-making? Will she know the difference between right and wrong? Will she be a compassionate person? Will she be able and willing to compromise when it is appropriate in her human interactions but stand firm when truth and its values are at stake? Will she continue to grow in self-awareness, take full accountability for her own words and behaviors, control her impulses and make choices that take into consideration the consequences of her actions? It is easy to get intimidated with all the “expert advice” out there. Just know, however, that as far as you are sincere in your intentions, making continuous efforts, and relying on Allah with sincerity and trust in His guidance, then you have done all you can do. If He has blessed you with the amazing gift of parenting a daughter, He will undoubtedly make you capable of taking good care of her. Enjoy the utmost grace of this experience as you and your strong daughter pray, learn, play, eat, and grow together. What can be more beautiful?