It's been a busy day and Lul hurries across the family room toward the prayer area of her house to make magreb prayer before the time ends. She gives a quick check on her 8 and 10 year old as she passes. They are seated on the couch, facing the TV, unaware of her. Suddenly she realizes they are watching a show that recently started, one she checked out a few weeks ago and found very rude. Why did people feel it was funny to create a TV family that only makes nasty remarks to each other all the time? It was not the sort of thing she wanted to watch or to have her children watching.
But she still hadn't prayed. She had been at the neighbors visiting and just gotten home in time. Thinking quickly, she decided to deal with her children after prayers.
When she returned to the family room a short time later, another program was on the TV, a very reasonable one that the family often watched together. Her husband came in just then and joined the kids in front of the set. She decided to discuss the matter later.
That night, while the children were getting ready for bed, her daughter brought up the topic. "Mom, there was a new show on TV tonight that we started watching, but I made Muhammad change the channel. It was too gross! "
Her son piped in, "You fussed too much. I just wanted to see the lawnmower race. They had a picture in the TV guide of a lawnmower race. That would be cool!"
In the example, the mother, Lul, is supervising her children's TV programming. She watches shows herself to see if they are appropriate. She keeps an eye on what her children have on. She and her husband join the children in watching some shows, so they can discuss them and enjoy them together. When Lul notices her children have on an inappropriate show, she doesn't pounce on them immediately, turn off the TV, and give them a lecture. She gives herself some time to prepare, and the kids some time to act on their own. (With a worse program or younger children one should step in immediately. Think about where you would draw the line.)
Allowing her children time was a test for them. Her follow up revealed that her daughter is worthy of her trust. The child has internalized moral values for behavior and was indignant about the poor character of the program. By listening to her children, Lul learned that about her daughter. If she had been giving the children a lecture about her own evaluation of the program, she would not have learned that. Her son is more drawn to other things than social interactions. He may not notice the talk but he is absorbing it while he focuses on fast lawn mowers. Mom and Dad will need to talk with him more about these issues.
Allah tells us to test our children. "And test the orphans [in your charge] until they reach a marriageable age; then, if you find them to be mature of mind, hand over to them their possessions." (Quran 4:6)
We already have the Book of Guidance, the Holy Quran. We have during our lives time to learn it and put it into practice. In His Mercy, we are not expected to be perfect.
"And if God had so willed, He could surely have made you all one single community: but [He willed it otherwise] in order to test you by means of what He has vouchsafed unto, you." (Quran 5:48)
"Behold, We have willed that all beauty on earth be a means by which We put men to a test, [showing] which of them are best in conduct." (Quran 18:7)
Allah tests us until we die, giving us chances over and over to correct ourselves and make amends. Can we not give our children the opportunity to show us they have learned to manage themselves?
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) gave people time and space. He gave lectures some days, but not all the time, so he wouldn't tire them. When he was instructing Muslim preachers he was sending out on a mission he said,
"Preach to the people once a week, and if not that, then preach to them twice, and if you want to preach more, then let it be (not more than) three times. And do not make the people bored with this Quran. If you approach people who are holding a conversation, do not interrupt their conversation by preaching, lest you should cause them to be bored. Rather be silent, and then if they ask you, preach to them while they are eager for it." (Bukhari)
We can read how he played with his grandchildren and the children of others. He didn't go around spying on people. He even asked that people not tattle on others.
"O you who believe, avoid much suspicion, for some suspicion is a sin, and do not spy upon one another."( Quran 49:12)
When have you noticed that your child learned something you weren't expecting? Think about that example. How often do you look for small tests of your child's learning? Some people are so busy 'parenting' that they miss the signs that their children have already learned what they are trying to teach. Can you think of a way to test your child to handle more adult responsibilities in a polite natural way, so he doesn't realize it? How will you reward him if he passes? How will you handle it if he needs more work on the subject?