Three Things To Learn About Child Development From Islam
From before the time of Moses when the people of Egypt did not believe in the truth until they witnessed Moses' staff turn into a serpent until this very day, we humans have always demanded proof.
Unfortunately, many of us tend to put the words of Allah and his Messenger on probation until it is proven by science, at which point we change into our religious jerseys and say, "See? Islam already had that one figured out."
Through my Speech Path and child learning experience and research I found myself in the same dilemma. There are so many lessons that Islam teaches us about the nature of children yet it took me two years of graduate studies and 6+ clinical settings to appreciate the beautiful correlations between Islam and mainstream research on child development.
To save others the trouble and so that they may share my fascination, I present:
Three Things to Learn From Islam About Child Develpment
1. Babies start learning from the womb.
Mothers in the western world are always encouraged to read to their babies in utero. That is because babies can hear whatever is going on outside of their mother's belly. If you've watched Episode 3 of "For the Love of Learning" on my IGTV channel, I discussed how the baby begins to acquire language in utero and is able to tell the differences between all the sounds of language. What the western world doesn't know is that Islam had already that one figured out (had to say it).
It is highly recommended that a mother not only read Quran regularly during pregnancy (and after) but also be extra weary of her actions. There is a well known anecdote of a Muslim mother and father that were devastated when their child stole. They couldn't understand why their child committed such a sin as they had never done so and had always raised him in a halal environment. The story goes that the mother realized when she was pregnant she saw a pomegranate on a tree that belonged to someone else. She was craving the fruit so much she poked it with a needle just to sip some of the juice without the permission of the owner. It was this action that had resulted in the child stealing later on in life. And there you have it. Schooled by Islamic teachings.
2. Children Learn From Our Actions
If learning can occur while the baby is still a fetus, we can only imagine how critical it is after birth. According to an Islamic saying:
"The child and his heart are like a land with no seeds or plants. Whatever seed one casts therein, it will take root."
Islam has always stressed how much a child learns from what they see, specifically from our actions. In modern day tongue, "children are like sponges." They absorb everything.
The notable psychologist and mastermind behind the Social Learning Theory, Albert Bandura proved this very concept through his study of observational learning in his Bobo Doll Experiment. He verified what had always been known to Islam, that children learn behaviors through what they observe. In the instance of his experiment, children who had observed an adult being aggressive towards the Bobo doll showed more aggression as compared to the children that did not. The behavior that was observed was planted and resulted in the aggression taking root.
3. Children Are Primarily Explorers The First Seven Years
This one is still a work in progress in this day in age. According to Islamic tradition, the child during the first seven years of life is still learning about his world and is not as receptive to direct instruction. Children at this age are recommended to be taught through indirect teachings without commands or psychological pressure.
Unfortunately, the side of the world I live in still has a lot work to do in this area. Here, in the United States, formal schooling begins a very young age and takes the direct cookie cutter approach to teaching. Children before the age of seven are pressured to perform to the standards set by the state and complete "work" outside of the already excessive 8 hours of the school day. (Talk about psychological pressure.)
At the same time, international approaches to schooling, such as Montessori and Waldorf that have made it to North America embrace the ideals that Islam has hinted at. Waldorf schools recognize the seven year periods in a child's life and have structured their teaching methods around it, while in Montessori schools, children are encouraged to explore and make choices and are taught by modeling and doing rather than direct instruction. (Proud Montessori Mama!)
Final proof that Islam is always right: Finland. A child in Finland begins school at the age of 7.
Yes, exactly 7 years. What's more, despite this delay, students in Finnish schools perform significantly better in math and reading than those of the US. Clearly, we're doing something wrong.
Being mindful of all of these concepts and more that have been laid out for us by Islam before science's contributions, have a tremendous effect on a child's development in their early life as well as in their later adult life.