Estimated reading time: 13 minute(s)
by Fudia Muhammad
There was a brief, yet exceptional article published in The Final Call newspaper several years ago, featured in Brother Abdul Allah Muhammad’s column, Eleven Fifty-Five; the article was titled, I Believe the Children Are Our Future. In this article, Brother Abdul Allah wrote about a time when he asked the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad to teach him how to be a leader and produce good followers for him. The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad said, “Be what you want them to be.” As the article continued, Brother Abdul Allah quoted a passage from a book titled, All the Children of the Bible, by Herbert Lockyer, which read: “An old saying has it, ‘Be what you would make others.’ It is in the daily life of the parents that the children gain their most indelible impressions.”
One way to measure the quality of our parenting is to continually take a critical and thorough self-assessment. We cannot separate how we parent from who we are. Self-examination, self-analysis,and self-correction should be ongoing processes. Parenting is improved only by continuing to improve ourselves. Our children are watching us more than they are listening to us. Therefore, our example is more effective than our expectations. What do our children see? Does what they see line-up with what we preach? Could we be asking our children to do what we are not willing to do ourselves?
The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad said,“Be what you want them to be.” This principle can be applied to any person who serves in a position of authority. Parents must be examples for their children. We must practice and exemplify the discipline we desire for our children to exhibit. How can we expect our children to pray when they never see us praying? How can we expect children to study when they never see their parents studying to increase their level of knowledge and understanding? How can we expect children not to use profanity and to respect others when they witness their parents tear into each other on a regular basis? How can we expect our girls to dress modestly when mommy leaves nothing to the imagination? And how can we expect our children to pursue their purpose in life when we won’t go after ours? In other words, we can’t be hypocrites! We should be able to tell our children to do as we say AND as we do.
I am reminded of one of my favorite poems, which I first came across during my freshman year in college. I loved it so much, that I had it framed and put it up in my room. Though I never made the connection at the time, it applies perfectly to the parent-child relationship. Written by Edgar A. Guest,the poem is titled, “I’d Rather See a Sermon Than Hear One Any Day.”The first two stanzas read:
I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day;
I’d rather one should walk with me than merely tell the way.
The eye is a better pupil, more willing than the ear;
Fine counsel is confusing, but example is always clear,
And the best of all the preachers are the men who live their creeds,
For to see a good put in action is what everybody needs.
I can soon learn how to do it if you will let me see it done;
I can watch your hand in action, but your tongue too fast may run.
And the lectures you deliver may be very wise and true,
But I’d rather get my lesson by observing what you do.
For I may misunderstand you and the high advice you give,
But there is no misunderstanding how you act and how you live.
Self-imposed discipline is not easy, but it is a requirement for every parent. Our duty to ourselves is second only to our duty to Allah (God). The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan said, “You have a duty and an obligation to God. He’s number one. You have a duty and an obligation to yourself…And if you will not be dutiful to yourself, then there is nobody that you will be dutiful towards.” The health and vitality of the parent is critical to sustaining the life of the child. This is why in cases of an emergency, the flight attendant always instructs parents to first put their oxygen mask on before placing a mask on their child.
If we do not challenge ourselves to be closer reflections of God; then not only will we not benefit, but we deny our spouse,our children, our community and our Nation the advantages that come with being who Allah (God) created us to be.
(Sister Fudia Muhammad is a member of Muhammad Mosque No. 64 in Austin, Texas. She is married to Student Minister Robert L. Muhammad and they have been blessed with four children. Sister Fudia holds a Master’s degree in Education – she is a writer, an educator and an advocate for God-centered child-rearing.)