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Forcing Children to Eat

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Question:

Assalaamu ‘alaikum

Respected ‘Ulama

I would like to enquire about the meaning of the following hadeeth with regards to forcing children to eat food that they dislike. The hadeeth is something to this effect: If Nabi (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) liked food, he ate it. If he disliked it, he left it.

I understand that the hadeeth is saying that Nabi (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) never complained about food. However, with regards to upbringing of children, sometimes children dislike food but parents force them to eat it.

I have adopted the approach that if my children dislike something, I do not force them to eat it because Nabi (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) never forced himself to eat it. However, I do not make anything special. They can make tea and toast or have a bowl of cereal. Is this approach correct or will it lead to spoiling them? Am I misunderstanding this hadeeth?

Jazakallah

Answer:

Bismihi Ta‘ala

Wa ‘alaikumus salaam wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatuh

Respected Sister in Islam

Disliking or not preferring certain foods can be due to various reasons. Apart from health reasons, it can be merely due to a person’s nature, such as not liking very sweet things or things that are sour or very spicy, etc. Such a person will find it difficult to eat something that he naturally is uncomfortable with, even if it is a delicacy.

One should not force a child to eat something that is not preferred due to his nature and temperament. However, if the “dislike” is due to it being simple food, this habit must be gradually changed. Children should be accustomed to eating simple food as well. Nabi (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) ate the simplest of meals with relish. Therefore, one should ascertain the situation and act accordingly.

Answered by:

Uswatul Muslimah Panel of ‘Ulama