Parenting, Psychology and Islam: Notes from Haleh Banani’s Seminar

Note: This post is based on an Islamic seminar; however, for any non-Muslim readers, please don’t turn away! There is no parenting advice here that wouldn’t be applicable to any (or even no) faith. In fact even if you disagree with anything, I’d love engage in dialogue with you in the comments below, so please do go ahead and read on 🙂

Last year I tuned into a seminar online about “The Greatest MOMS of All Time.” I was in my last trimester of pregnancy at the time, and was so moved by the accounts of women that had raised men who went on to do great things for Islam in the early years. What I wasn’t expecting, however, was a portion dedicated to understanding and improving parenting skills from a psychological perspective too, so that was a real bonus for me!

I had never heard of Haleh Banani before, who delivered this segment, but since then I’ve replayed her part of the seminar twice! Haleh is a clinical psychologist who combines the principles of psychology and Islam to offer guidance on different types of relationships.

I wanted to make a note of the main points she discussed on parenting and thought what better place to do that than on my blog, so that anyone else that may be interested can benefit from it as well. So, here are my (paraphrased) notes:

  • The first year is critical to build trust with your child; you must respond to them when they cry, when they need something, etc. After that, however, you have to teach them that they cannot cry or throw a tantrum to get things.
  • They may test the boundaries and try and manipulate you in front of people, for example by creating a scene in public and embarrassing you into listening. If this happens, try reacting as if it doesn’t phase you. It’s important not to reinforce bad behaviour.
  • When you look at some of the greatest mothers to have lived, they all have one thing in common: they have a vision for their children. They saw what their children were capable of.
  • Think of four-five characteristics that you hope for your children to have; for example, confidence, respect, patience, etc. Haleh says she wants her children to be faithful, compassionate, and to add value/to give to society.Parenting
  • This is a concept similar to that outlined by Stephen Covey in his book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families” and that is to start with the end in mind. Just like if you want to build a house, you have to have a blueprint; the same thing goes with raising children. Ask yourself, “how am I behaving to achieve that end?”
  • When you react to your children and you have that end goal in mind, then even if you steer away from that path momentarily, you can keep readjusting yourself. There are times you may overreact, be impatient, lose your temper, etc., but if you keep thinking about what it is you want your children to achieve, you will get back on track.
  • The way you behave with your children is going to create memories. These will either be warm, loving memories that will give your child confidence, or they will be memories that will haunt your child. One of the main reasons Haleh sees patients in therapy is either because of the way their parents treated them and the things they said to them, or the things they didn’t say to them.Parenting
  • Imagine that your children have an emotional bank account, and every time you listen to them, compliment them, help them, etc., you’re making a deposit.
  • See your children as a blessing and not as a burden. Looking back at the greatest mothers to have lived, note their attitudes; they saw their children as gifts and were very appreciative for them. They wanted to do the best with this “amanat” (trust) that they had. Having the right attitude in anything, be it education, business, whatever, that’s what will make you successful. And as with all of your amanats, you will have to account for how you treated them and how you made them feel. Take this responsibility very seriously.
  • The way to manage your attitude is through “self talk”; this is the internal dialogue you have with yourself. At any given time, you have 600 words per minute in your mind through this self talk. Whatever you’re saying to yourself affects the way you feel and your performance. When someone comes to see Haleh for therapy, one of the first thing she says she looks at is their self talk, because what goes on in your mind affects your behaviour.
  • Allah even encourages us to have positive thoughts by putting so much emphasis on our “niyat” (intentions). So much so that if you have positive intentions, then even if your are not able to carry them out, you’re rewarded for them.
  • Be approachable and accepting. Accept your children as they are and their abilities, looks, everything. If you’re always frowning, frustrated, losing it, and they feel like they’re walking on eggshells around you, they’re not going to be able to approach you. And if they can’t approach you, they’re going to go somewhere else. You don’t have to manipulate them or guilt-trip them into spending time with you; simply think about how you make them feel when they’re around you.Parenting
  • Make positive statements to build their self-esteem. Haleh advises of a ratio of 5:1. So for every one negative comment, give five positive comments. Building self-esteem is like constructing a building; imagine that every positive word is like a brick, and criticism is like a bulldozer.
  • For effective communication, use “I statements.” By saying something like “you never do this,” the person on the receiving end will feel attacked and becomes defensive. Rephrase and say, “I feel sad because you didn’t do xyz.” This is effective not just with children, but spouses too.
  • Similarly, speak to your children, not at them; the latter means you’re just giving them lectures/instructions, but when you talk to them you wait for a response and its an exchange. Allow them to express themselves and acknowledge their feelings.Parenting
  • All of the above needs to be done before you can work on a child’s Islamic identity. As it is of the utmost importance, sometimes parents go directly to that and only focus on that, without doing the groundwork. Once you have their trust and they feel heard, loved, appreciated and accepted, they’re going to listen and really feel like you want the best for them. That’s when you can start establishing the Islamic identity.
  • Rather than make your children fear religion, make them love it. Create a positive association with it, instead of talking about punishment and “hell.” Make them feel excited and inspired by it.

Haleh Banani also posts advice and tips on her Facebook page. Here are a few gems I found on there:

Ways to bring out the best in your kids:

Things NOT to do with your kids:

Appreciate their good qualities

Call them names

Give compliments

Make fun of them

Do fun activities together

Criticize their body

Give lots of hugs and kisses

Ignore them

Stop the criticism

Compare them


Belittle them

Believe in them


Build their self-confidence

Use profanity

Show interest in what they like


Forgive them when they make mistakes

Show frustration

She also highlights that parenting can bring out sides of your personality that you never knew existed. The key is to nurture the positive traits and control the negative traits. It can be a wonderful journey of self-discovery!


I hope I’m able to put into action Haleh Banani’s advice when Baby K is older! Do you have any tips to add? Please leave a comment below with your thoughts.

Further information:

Here are some links I found; some expand upon some of the principles outlined above, and others are about Islamic parenting:

  1. The Science of Self-Talk published in NPR
  2. More about I Statements from The Human Potential Center
  3. Parenting series (10 parts) by Umm Reem @ Muslim Matters
  4. Making Families Work (transcription of a lecture by Yasir Qadhi)
  5. An Islamic View of Parenting (article in the NY Times)
  6. Umm Dean: Conscientious Muslim Parent (a Canadian mama’s blog)
  7. You Only Live Twice (a British mama’s blog)
  8. Muslim Stickers (a great resource for printables)

11 thoughts on “Parenting, Psychology and Islam: Notes from Haleh Banani’s Seminar

  1. allanka81 says:

    What an inspiring blog. I am a primary school teacher and always thought I knew a lot about children but you really don’t until you have one. I am already trying out some of these techniques on my munchkin. Thank you for posting this.

    • Habiba says:

      Thanks for reading! Parenting is full of so many challenges, I think we all think we know how we’re going to do it… till we’re actually doing it!! I’m sure your teaching background gives you a great head-start though 🙂

  2. Harps says:

    I absolutely love this post! It’s so inspiring. There are so many things I’m doing “wrong”. I often feel myself becoming frustrated at Arjun when he’s eg crying for long periods. That probably upsets him even more. Like Sikhi, this post definitely reflects that Islam also offers a way of life and basic principles religion aside. I love it. Thank you for sharing! I’m going to book mark this and read it every bloomin day till it sinks in!lol xx

    • Habiba says:

      Thanks so much Harps. I really believe that when we focus on the similarities instead of differences, all religions essentially teach the same things (to be good, honest people, etc.) And I definitely get frustrated with Khadija too… at 2am especially!! lol

  3. Emaan says:

    basic things can make such a difference to a childs character….we need to keep our goal in mind to enable us to focus on our childrens upbringing for a better society…great post!

  4. Jemila says:

    This is a great advice and Bery inspiring… I will definately be using this. I totally agree… Our children are the future and the way we handle them from a small age is what will determine their future personalities and we need to be aware and mindful from the start so this is great stuff.

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