Home Quranet Chapter 11 Is it better for a child to refrain from forbidden behavior out of fear or out of love for his parents and God?
Is it better for a child to refrain from forbidden behavior out of fear or out of love for his parents and God?
Chapter 11

وَاكْتُبْ لَنَا فِي هَـذِهِ الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةً وَفِي الآخِرَةِ إِنَّا هُدْنَـا إِلَيْكَ قَالَ عَذَابِي أُصِيبُ بِهِ مَنْ أَشَاء وَرَحْمَتِي وَسِعَتْ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ فَسَأَكْتُبُهَا لِلَّذِينَ يَتَّقُونَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَـاةَ وَالَّذِينَ هُم بِآيَاتِنَا يُؤْمِنُونَ (سورة الاعراف, آية 156)

And ordain for us that which is good, in this life and in the Hereafter: for we have turned unto Thee." He said: "With My punishment I visit whom I will; but My mercy extendeth to all things. That (mercy) I shall ordain for those who do right, and practise regular charity, and those who believe in Our signs. (Surah 7, Verse 156)

Rami, a fifth-grader, asked his father for money to buy a toy racing car. His father explained that he had no money at the time and the toy was not a necessity. Rami did not accept this answer. That night he sneaked into his parents' bedroom, opened a drawer and stole two hundred shekel from his father's wallet. A few days later, his mother saw him playing with a new toy car. She asked him where he had got it and he did not reply. Rami's brother told her that Rami had stolen the money from his father. She was furious and when her husband returned from work, she told him about the theft. His parents reprimanded him and told him stories about the punishments God inflicts on thieves. Rami began to cry. He hid in a closet and his conduct changed completely. He began to obey every request of his parents out of fear and anxiety. His parents now regretted having told him frightening stories but did not know how to undo the damage. They appealed to the school counselor.

The counselor tried to dispel Rami's fears of retribution. She told him that his conduct was unacceptable to God, and Rami instantly burst into tears and said: "God will be angry with me just like my mother said". The counselor explained that God can punish but He can also forgive and added that she wanted to read him an important verse: "He said: "With My punishment I visit whom I will; but My mercy extendeth to all things. That (mercy) I shall ordain for those who do right, and practise regular charity, and those who believe in Our signs". "Do you understand how forgiving God is?" she asked him. Rami became calmer. He returned home in a better mood and realized that stealing was wrong. He also understood that one may make a mistake and be forgiven by God.

Explanation: many children are afraid of God. Every child, at some time, has committed a forbidden act, in thought if not in deed, and if not in thought then in dreams. In short, many children believe that God is watching them and sees and knows all and are terrified of punishment. It is desirable for authority figures (parents, teachers etc) to explain the true image of God the Merciful and Compassionate and not merely an angry and punitive figure. Fear, particularly if it is exaggerated, is ineffective. We do not want to raise children who are afraid of God; we want them to love God. And we want our children to love us and not fear us. It is important for parents to remember this rule. To frighten a child, as Rami's parents did at first, does not produce the desired results. Forgiveness, on the other hand, enables the child to identify with the soft and accepting aspect of his parents and he will accept their prohibitions with love. Rami will no longer steal, not because he fears God and his parents, but because of love for them and a desire to emulate his parents.