by Fudia Muhammad
During his 1991 lecture titled, Who is God, The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan said, “Today, they start your little children in school at six; but if you train them right from the cradle, at six they will know exactly what they are born to do. You train your children all wrong, feeding them lies instead of truth. Feeding them foolish fairytales; making them think bunnies talk, that rats and pigs and wolves talk. You are killing your babies’ minds with fairytales. Feed your baby on truth and one day your baby will become a master of truth.”
We know that every mother needs a break every now and then. We also know that while older children and teenagers bring their own plethora of worries, drama, stress and trials to their parents – there is no denying that the most physically taxing period of childrearing is when children are in their sensorimotor and preoperational stages of development (birth through age 7). However, this is precisely the time when parents must be the most careful about what is used to “babysit” our children when we need a break.
According to Jean Piaget, who is best known for his work in the field of psychology, specifically the cognitive development and early education of children – during the sensorimotor stage of development (birth to age 2), children are “discovering the relationships between their bodies and the environment.” And during the preoperational stage (ages 2 to 7) children are beginning to “engage in symbolic play and learning to manipulate symbols.” This is a crucial span for progressive brain development.
It is almost impossible to keep our children away from toys, television, books and other images or programming that is not based in fantasy, fairytales and impossibilities for the entire span of their childhood. However, it is possible to accomplish the above said during those critical developmental years. The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad said that the enemy has our brains a little rusty, but the brain has no limit of power. We are taught that the brain of man is infinite; therefore, we have to do our due diligence to keep falsehood and foolishness from our children particularly before they reach that critical cognitive milestone that enables them the ability to differentiate between reality and fantasy. According to what we are taught, falsehood causes a spiritual and chemical imbalance in our brains. Therefore, a three-year-old will believe that “bunnies talk; that rats and pigs and wolves talk,” if that is what they are regularly fed through their toys, television or books.
Playing and learning are not mutually exclusive. Learning should be fun. And playtime is an opportunity to learn. As the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan stated, we want our children to become masters of truth; so, mothers in particular must resist taking the path of least resistance. It is very easy to sit our children in front of a television screen to watch unrealistic cartoons or other foolish entertainment programs. It is also easy to give them a silly toy, so they will not bother us when we are busy or just want a break. The problem is that toys and television (or electronic devices), just like that pacifier, can be habit-forming for parents and children if we are not careful. We have to be mindful and not allow these objects and devices to rear our children.
Children need toys; but we should be careful of the types of toys we choose for our children and how often they play with them. Toys that stimulate learning by challenging the thought and creative processes should be the vast majority of our children’s toys. Infants and toddlers also benefit from toys that allow them to develop dexterity and their fine motor skills. We should seek out toys or games that offer these dynamics.
Toys based on specific television or movie characters are intentionally targeted to toddlers and very young children, but this is the exact group that should not have them. These toys should be minimal or absent from our homes until our children are old enough not to associate the toy with having the same ‘magical’ abilities as the fictional character. Often, these fictional characters are animals or inanimate objects that have been personified; making our small children believe they are real. After all, they see it on screen walking, talking and accomplishing supernatural feats.
The same discipline must be practiced when it comes to our children and television, especially when very young. SpongeBob SquarePants and other foolishness keep our children in a constant fairytale mindset, not to mention the suggestive subliminal messages. In the age of the internet, there is really no excuse for settling for poor programming. There are wonderful child-friendly and age-appropriate shows and movies with great lessons and relatable characters that we can offer our children. We just have to do a little research and be willing to make the small financial investment that may be required to have access.
Now, what should our children be reading? First, don’t skip over spiritual reading from the Bible and Holy Qur’an because we think our children will not understand. We should not hesitate to read to our children from these great books until they can read for themselves. For the registered members of the Nation of Islam, we should also read English Lesson No. C1, found in the Supreme Wisdom Lessons, to our children as a bedtime story. Infants and toddlers are easy to please. We could read a chemistry book to them and they will not care because they just love to watch and listen to mommy’s voice as she reads. But we should try to find children’s books that are considered realistic fiction.
Make reading a staple in the home. We will discover as our children get older that we have instilled within them a profound enjoyment for reading and learning. Take full advantage of this gift by giving them stimulating materials to read. Silly fairytales and fantasies go against the grain of the brain which was created to think right. Anything that goes against the grain of the brain damages the power of it. Books that make children believe that bears, birds, and rabbits can talk; or that carpets can fly, and wishes come true by simply snapping our fingers, alters a young child’s developing brain – it’s mental confusion. Our children are either subconsciously believing this is reality or reconfiguring their natural reasoning processes to figure out how in the world an elephant can fly by flapping his ears – after all, seeing is believing.
Yes, when our children get a little older, they will still be able to distinguish reality from fantasy; but look at how much time and mental energy may have been wasted, never to return. This time could have been used feeding on truth and laying a foundation to master truth and universal laws that govern the forces within our sphere. God is man and man is god. The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad said, “we just cannot make Him other than man, lest we make Him an inferior one; for man’s intelligence has no equal in other than man. His wisdom is infinite; capable of accomplishing anything that his brain can conceive.”
(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.)