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Children and Respect for the Law

People in a civilised society cannot live without law. Where the law of the jungle prevails, that is not a civilised society. To run the administration of a society very well defined laws are absolutely essential. These laws are for upholding order and providing protection to the aggrieved and dispensing punishment to the guilty. For the comfort and safety of the populace, laws are absolutely necessary. In the countries where there is good understanding between the people and the lawmakers, the laws are made for the benefit of the people and they therefore respect the laws. There can be general well being if the people in a country are law abiding.

In countries where the lawmakers work with ulterior selfish motives, and while framing the statute they don’t have the welfare of the people in mind, the people stop honouring the law and there can be unrest in such societies. Unfortunately, earlier our country faced a similar situation ( Here the author means Iran of the Shah’s period ). Most of the laws were neither Islamic nor good for the people.

The laws were formulated keeping in mind the ruling clique and the wishes of the Imperialists and their stooges. No attention was given to the plight of the worker, the toiler and the deprived populace. The lawmakers tried to hoodwink the people with oppressive and repressive laws to subjugate the masses. But since the people of Iran felt that those un-Islamic statutes were against their interests, they had no respect for them. However there were some laws in that statute that were good for the people. But since the legal system was anti-people in totality, they rejected the complete system.

Respect for legitimate and people-friendly laws is essential and the parents have to explain about them to the children. When a child finds the parents crossing the road from the zebra crossing only, he feels that he must do likewise. He gets into the habit of following this rule of safety and may never transgress it.

The parents must tell the children that the cars and other fast moving vehicles have the right of way on the roads and the pedestrians can only use the zebra crossings when they require to cross to the other side of the road. Pedestrians trespassing on the roads commit an offence and also are exposed to the risk of accidents. When the child understands the advantage of abiding by the law, he becomes a good citizen.

Ali, The Commander of the Faithful, says:

“Habits are second nature !" (Gharar al hukm, p. 26)


It is always the wish of the parents that their children are well behaved. Good and polite children are a source of pride for every parent. The well behaved children politely greet the person they visit, shake hands with him, enquire about his health, converse softly, limit the conversation to what is asked of them and say proper adieus when departing from the hosts place. Such children give due respect to the elders, when elders arrive they politely stand up, show deference to the scholars, religious figures and generally respect pious and good persons.

In a gathering they remain cool and collected, don’t talk loudly, thank the person who gives them something, don’t interrupt others, particularly the elders during conversations. They say Bismillah ( In the name of Allah the Beneficent the Merciful), the Islamic Grace, before starting to eat, they take small morsels of food, don’t eat excessively, don’t throw food on the table or the floor and follow all the required table manners.

They take care of their dresses that they don’t get stained and try to remain clean and tidy. They will be considerate to the others and never hurt others feelings. They walk with a decent gait and give the impression of being obedient and decent children. They don’t ridicule others with practical jokes and when someone speaks to them, they listen with rapt attention.

It is not only the parents who like polite children, but they are popular with all who happen to interact with them. Impertinent and impolite children are abhorred by all.

The Commander of the Faithful, Ali, says:

“Respectability is the zenith of humanity." (Gharar al hukm, p. 34)

“Respect ( politeness ) in a man is like pretty raiment." (Gharar al hukm, p. 21)

“Good behaviour ( politeness ) is required by people more than silver or gold." (Gharar al hukm, p. 242)

“There is no better embellishment than politeness in a man." (Gharar al hukm, p. 830)

“The best inheritance a father can give to his son is to train him to be of polite." (Gharar al hukm, p. 293)

“An impolite person will have more failings" (Gharar al hukm, p. 634)

Imam Jafer al Sadiq says:

“Allow your child to play till the seven years of age, then teach him good manners and politeness." (Bihar al-anwar, v104, p. 95)

The Holy Prophet of Islam said:

"The child has three rights over its parents: 1. They select a good name for him/her.2. Make him/her respectful ( polite).3. Arrange a good spouse for him/her (Wasail al-shiah, v 15, p. 123)

The fondest hope of every parent will be that their children grow into polite and respectable persons. But this hope cannot be fulfillled without sincere and continued efforts. It will not be possible to infuse this trait in the children with sermonising. The best route to this end is setting ideal example before the children by the parents with their exemplary behaviour in their daily lives.

Ali has said:

“Best behaviour is that which you yourself start to practice." (Gharar al hukm, p. 191)

“Start instruction with oneself and then teach others. First make your character perfect and then sermon and advise others." (Nahj ul balagha, v3, p. 166 )

Children are natural mimics. The capability to copy is very strong in their nature. The children imitate the ways of their parents and others around them. He will talk like them and he would try to walk like them. Instruction, off course, is a very important aspect of training, but it is not as strong as the capacity to mimic and learn, particularly in the early stages of childhood. The parents, who are particular that their children should be polite and well behaved, must take special care to see that they are training them by personal examples. If the parents are polite to one another, naturally the children will follow suit.

The parents who themselves are devoid of politeness and good manners, should not expect good manners from their children. They might lecture the children hundreds of times on the norms of good behaviour and politeness, but the children would be behaving under the experience of the attitude of the parents and others in the household. If the parents are impolite and abusive to each other, they will be setting a negative example to their growing children.

Children from such homes will be as bad mannered as the parents or, perhaps, more so. Any attempt at correcting them will fall on deaf ears. They will naturally think that the parents are asking them to do what they themselves don’t practice.

Example is always better than precept. But it is not right to think that lecturing will be totally ineffective. Good parents, who also set good example for their children, can always talk to them about the norms of good conduct and they will definitely accept their advice. This advice too has to be given with politeness.

There are parents who express their anger rather harshly when they notice the children doing something wrong. Sometimes they might say, "You naughty fellowWhy didn’t you wish the visitor? Why didn’t you say ‘Bi’ to him? Are you dumb?Stupid and manner less child, why did you spread your legs impolitely in front of elderly visitors? Why were you noisy while visiting our friend’s homeYou beastWhy do you impolitely interrupt the conversation!”

These ignorant parents think that they are correcting their children with such talk. They don't know that good manners are not taught with bad manners. If the child is guilty of any indiscretion, he must be politely cautioned. There should not be others present at such sessions that should be conducted in a cool and friendly manner.

The Prophet of Islam used to greet the children and say, “I greet the children so that greeting becomes their habit."

Adapted from the book: "Principles of Upbringing Children" by: "Sheikh Ibrahim Amini"

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