Back-to-school means more than just new school supplies and more challenging homework for kids: it also indicates a slip back into the routine of getting up early to catch the bus, and if possible, some breakfast before rushing out.
It’s hard enough getting the kids out of bed to get to school on time. But do you ever wonder how some parents get their kids to pray Fajr during school days and get to school on time?
Well, it’s not so impossible for some parents. Just ask Jamilah Kolocotronis, the mother of six boys ages 4 to 17, all of whom pray Fajr prayer.
“Four [of them] are over the age of ten so they have to make Salat,” she explains matter-of-factly. Kolocotronis is also a Social Studies teacher at the Islamic School of Kansas City in Missouri.
Another parent whose kids regularly pray Fajr is Abdalla Idris Ali. He is currently a member of the Islamic Society of North America’s (ISNA) Majlis Shura, which debates Islamic issues and establishes policy for the organization.
They have suggested eight ways parents can help their kids wake up for Fajr this school year (and beyond!).
Tip #1: Get them to go to bed early
Never underestimate the power of a good night’s rest. This is crucial in ensuring Jehan or Amin are not just attentive in class, but that they remain healthy as well.
Parents can do more in this area than just setting a specific bedtime and enforcing it. They must set the example by also going to bed early and not wasting time on late night television or just lounging around. This way, the whole family is in synch and has a regular schedule.
“We have to help our kids set up their schedules,” notes Kolocotronis.
Tip #2: Avoid too much junk food
What are childhood and adolescence without chips, candy bars and soft drinks?
These types of food are high in sugar and tend to make people hyper and lazy, kids included.
Reducing junk food intake, or limiting it to weekends, as well as increasing kids’ consumption of fruits and vegetables will ensure a healthier diet, and less sluggishness.
Even the time kids consume junk foods should be limited to between Zuhr and Maghrib, as opposed to early in the morning or late at night, before bed, Kolocotronis suggests.
Tip #3: Get them all alarm clocks
In most cases getting to bed on time and reducing junk food intake should be enough to ensure your kids wake up for Fajr. But there are always those of us, and this goes for kids as well, who need a virtual explosion outside our bedroom windows to wake us up (this writer included).
In this case, the alarm clock becomes your ally.
If you’re stumped for Eid gift ideas for your kids, buy them a nice alarm clock with a beautiful Adhan. Not only will this be an attractive item to decorate their shelf or desk table with, but they will also wake up hearing the call to prayer.
Most of these types of clocks are available in North America at Muslim stores. If there is no such store or you can’t find it in your community, order it, or bring it back as a gift for Aminah or Saeed when you go for Hajj, Umra, or to a Muslim country where these clocks are sold.
If this is also not possible, get any alarm clock. The louder the better.
And don’t just think you have to use only one alarm clock. If waking up is a very severe hardship in your household, buy and set a series of alarm clocks at various places in the home.
Idris Ali describes how one Muslim brother who has a very hard time waking up has established a system using two alarm clocks. One is set in the hallway, away from his bedroom, and a second one in the bathroom.
That way, even if he shuts off the alarm in the hallway and goes back to bed, he will have to get up for the one in the bathroom. At that point, there really is no point in turning back.
Tip #4: Assign one of the kids the responsibility for waking everyone up
This should instill enough responsibility in any person’s heart to force them to wake up for Fajr. It reminds them that if they oversleep and miss Fajr, mom, dad, and all brothers and/or sisters will be missing it too, all because of him or her.
“They take it as a responsibility and a challenge,” explains Idris Ali of the wisdom of this method to get kids to wake up for Fajr.
Using this method also stresses the importance of Fajr prayer, and creates a sense of dutifulness and responsibility. The kids should take turns doing this, but the older ones should be made responsible for getting the younger ones up.
Assigning a responsibility can also be extended to calling the Adhan in the house. This means if you give Ameer or Hassan the responsibility for calling the Adhan on different days, they will also be forced to get up, while their older brother Mahmud may be responsible for waking everyone up.
Tip #5: Attach getting up for Fajr with a certain privilege
That means, for instance, that if Jameel misses Fajr on Thursday morning, he will not be allowed to go over to his friend’s place later that evening.
Doing this emphasizes that praying Fajr is not just something that is “good to do”. It is something all Muslims have to do upon reaching a certain age, and there are consequences for not doing so.
Tip #6: Avoid rewarding them for praying Fajr
Idris Ali does not recommend rewarding kids for getting up and praying Fajr, because it is possible they will stop doing so once the reward is given.
“We want to move from expecting only a reward to loving Allah,” he notes.
Emphasizing the need to be grateful to Allah for all of things He has blessed us with should also stress the importance of prayer, especially Fajr, which is often hard to get up for.
Tip #7: For teenagers: make sure they have friends who pray Fajr
While it is usually easier to encourage young kids to pray Fajr (which may explain the wisdom of the Hadith at the beginning of this article), it’s harder to get teenagers not used to praying to do so.
In this case, it’s important that they develop friendships with other practicing Muslims their age. This will have a positive effect on them, and they are more likely to listen to their peers and follow their example at this age, than their parents.
You can start doing this by widening your circle of family friends to include practicing Muslim families who have (also practicing) kids your son or daughter’s age.
As well, invest in sending your kids to Muslim youth camps regularly, where the habit of praying Fajr is practiced. A one-week camp may be better in this regard, since it gives more time to develop the habit of praying in general, as opposed to a two or three-day camp.
Tip #8: Establish a Fajr wake up calling system
This can work for adults too, but especially teenagers. Get your kids to call up their friends to wake them up for Fajr and vice-versa. This will serve as positive peer pressure, and will feel less like mom or dad are nagging them to get up.
They can also drive to the local Masjid if they have their driver’s license, with their friends, making this a way to pray and meet friends, and in turn increase brotherhood.
Girls can also call each other to wake up for Fajr. They can do Jamaah prayer at home with the women of the household if they are not able to go to the Masjid.
Praying Fajr is difficult for many Muslims, of all ages. But as Idris Ali notes, a person who can wake up and pray Fajr can perform the other prayers easily. Let’s encourage this habit in our kids this school year.