You should know that the child is a trust upon his parents, his heart like an innocent gem that is open to any inscription upon it. So, if the child is accustomed to righteousness then he will develop and grow in it, and his parents and guardians will share with him the reward of living a pious and righteous life. Similarly, if the child is accustomed to evil then he will grow up in this – and so the sin will be upon the guardians. Therefore, the guardian of any child should safeguard, discipline and cultivate him; teaching him noble manners and protecting him from evil company.
The guardian of the child should not accustom him to luxury and he should make sure that the child does not become attached to the ways and means of beautification and affluence – otherwise the child will grow up wasting his life trying to seek this.
Rather, it is befitting that the guardian supervises the child from a young age – so the woman who breastfeeds and looks after the child (the mother or otherwise) should be a righteous and pious women who only eats from that which is Halaal – for indeed the milk that the woman produces after eating Haraam has no barakah (blessing ) in it.
Thereafter, the child will begin to think and distinguish, and the first sign of this is a sense of shyness. This shyness is an excellent indicator that the child’s mind and intellect are beginning to develop, and he is approaching the age of puberty. So the child is to be helped, disciplined and taught correct manners – through this shyness of his.
Then, when the first signs of him appetizing for food become prevalent, he should be taught the manners of eating, and sometimes he is to be only given bread to eat so he does not become attached to that which is eaten with it (the dish or condiment), considering it to be a necessity. Over-eating should also be made undesirable to him, and he is to be taught that over-eating resembles the eating of animals.
The child is be made to prefer clean, white clothes as opposed to dirty or silk clothing – whist also being taught that silk clothing is not worn except by women and effeminate men. The chid should also be prevented from mixing with other children who have become accustomed to luxury.
Thereafter, the child is occupied with school. He learns the Qur’aan, ahadeeth and is taught examples of righteous people, so that the love of the righteous becomes engrained in his heart. Furthermore, he should be made to avoid the listening and memorising of poetry containing mention of love and romance.
Whenever the child shows a beautiful characteristic, or a good action, then he should be appreciated and rewarded with something that he likes and is to be praised in the presence of other people.
However, if he opposes this (by doing a bad action), it can at times be overlooked and not exposed. If he then persists upon this action, he is to be warned in secret and is made to be afraid that other people may find out. However, the child should be not be disciplined and warned too often, as this type of treatment will make him accustomed to being censured and rebuked – rather the guardian should restrain himself from using threatening speech with the child.
It is also befitting that the mother disciplines the child using the father (i.e. by using the natural standing, authority and fear of the father.)
The child should be prevented from sleeping during the day as it results in laziness and he should not be prevented from sleeping during the night. He should not be given a soft mattress – being prevented from it so that his bones and skeleton become strong. It is befitting that he becomes accustomed to coarseness in his food, clothing and sleep. He should also be made accustomed to walking, activity and exercise so he is not overcome with laziness.