It has been estimated that working fathers spend about 3 minutes a day with their children. Fathers who abandon their families, fathers who rarely see their children because of divorce, and fathers who are busy and have little or nothing to do with the raising of their children are common within our community.
Dad gets up early, takes the long drive to work, gets off late, takes the long drive home, and gets home very tired. He just wants to have supper, relax a little, and go to bed so that he can repeat the same routine the next day. Every now and then, he tells himself that he will spend more time with his children tomorrow.
We assume that Muslims are not like that. How much time do you spend with your children in the day? Not just in the same house, but together.
“Cats in the Cradle”, by Harry Chapin tells the sad story of a boy who always tries to spend time with his father, but always finds him too busy. When the boy grows up and the father gets older, the father always wants to spend time with his son, but his son always has other things to do. This is a reminder of our predicament.
Quality time spent between a father and his children is essential for both the parent and the child. Children need to know that their father loves and cares for them, and the father needs to be careful that he does not lose his relationship with his children through neglect.
Tips to Improve Father-Child Relationship
There are several ways a father can spend quality time with his children and develop a relationship with them. Even if he is extremely busy, it is possible to free up enough time to do some of these things.
- Show your children in simple ways that you love them.
Some fathers try to appeal to their children by showering them with gifts rather than spending quality time bonding. This may cause more harm than good. The simple example of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is much better. When his daughter Fatima (May Allah be pleased with her) would come to him, the Prophet (SAW) used to stand up, kiss her, take her hand, and give her his seat. Later in life, this personal type of affection will be much more memorable to children than receiving a gift that anyone could have given them.
- Tell or read your children stories before bed.
There are lots of excellent Islamic stories and books available that you can use, or you can make up your own. A twist on this idea is to ask your children to make up stories to tell you.
- Teach your children to make wudu and pray with you
If at home, praying together as a family- Jamat(congregation) is better than praying alone. Children love to call the azan. Make the youngest one the salat manager at home, taking care of prayer rugs, timing, and inviting everyone to salat.
- Take your children to the masjid with you
Once your child is old enough to know how to behave in the masjid, this is an excellent way for you to build a relationship with them as both a father and a Muslim.
- Play with your children
You could play outdoor sports, complete coloring books, build toy houses from blocks, or do whatever they are interested in.
- Let your children help you with simple tasks
Allow them to help you carry in the groceries, make dinner, or mow the grass in the garden. Children often get great joy from doing things that adults consider work.
- Take the family out for a picnic
Spend time with your children playing outdoors. Your children will cherish this special time together as a family.
- Help your children with their homework
Show them that you are interested in their education and progress by asking them what they did in school and reviewing their books, projects, and assignments with them.
- Have regular meals as a family
It is important that the family get together and have meals, so they discuss relevant issues.
- Use driving time with your children
Do not just turn on the news and forget your children when they are in the car with you. Talk or joke with them or sing Islamic songs together.
- Give your small children a bath sometimes
Usually, mothers bathe children, but bath time is an excellent opportunity for fathers to be with their kids. Let them splash around and play a little more than mum does.
- Be available for your children
Let them know that you are there for anything they want to discuss. If you are not available to talk to your children, somebody else probably will be, and it may be the wrong kind of person. A good way of getting to know your children better as individuals are to take them out one at a time for eating, conversation, or some other event.
- Practice talking with your child, not at him/her
Since the father often takes the main responsibility for disciplining the children, it is quite easy for fathers to merely become order-givers rather than parents and companions of their children. Spend time listening, rather than talking. We only have one chance to be with our kids before they grow up. If we want them to love us and respect us when we are old, we must build those relationships while they are young.
Fathers usually do not have the time to devote to their children that mothers do. But if we take advantage of the time, we do spend with them we still might be able to build enduring bonds before it is too late.