Parenting is a terrain of battle you can never fully prepare for. There is no guaranteed formula. Instead, there are high percentage practices, good examples and bad ones. But no single theory or practice is fool proof.
1. When a young or middle aged parent gives advice, I remind myself, they're still in the middle of their experiment. Let's just wait and see the results.
2. When an older person, whose kids are all grown up and doing ok, gives advice, I think to myself: times changed so quickly, this advice probably expired.
3. The amount of factors in any one family are so many, it would take a super-computer to calculate all the possibilities. A one-child upbringing is far different from a multi-child one. The boy-girl birth order dynamic is totally different than the girl-boy, or boy-boy or girl-girl.
Once you have three kids, you get the middle child problem. A fourth child, in turn, eliminates middle child syndrome, but initiates chaos theory, which is the idea that after three kids, order in the house is actually impossible.
4. Now note that every parent was also a product of an upbringing, so you have to factor what the parent is. A first born will expect rules to be followed. A second born will be more tolerant of independence and risky behavior. And in today's world with all the divorce and remarriage you have a plethora of combos such as being the mom's first born but the dad's third.
5. There are two parents and they have their own dynamics. You have the fiery dad and the sweet mom. Or the rigid mom and the chill dad. Or in some families, the dad who's 60 and the mom is 32. All sorts of combinations.
6. Then you have to factor in ethnicity and culture. Immigrant families come from rich cultures and observe strict parenting. White kids get to enjoy other privileges, like sleep-overs and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 7 Enter technology, which throws the whole thing off the rail for good. Even as adults, do we have *any* precedent of any generation or any righteous predecessors who dealt with cell phone use and all the junk that comes with it? We have none. We're the first generation to deal with it. So if we as adults have no precedent and no clue how to handle it, how are we supposed to give any meaningful advice to the next generation? We agree on one thing: the stuff is poison for your brain and your soul. As for what to do about it: nada.
All we can do is trial and error, slip ups and repentance. But here's the zinger, things change so fast now that by the time we figure out what works and what doesn't, new technology will have transformed everything, and all our new-found knowledge will have become irrelevant.
By the time I had finally conquered TV, the internet came along. By the time I dealt with that, YouTube was born (arguably the greatest time waster in the history of mankind). By the time I reigned that in, the iPhone was in every pocket. If I as an adult cannot keep up pace, how in the world should I expect a high schooler to??
All of these different things is why parenting doesn't come with the a handbook. Way too many dynamics.
What we do have is ancient high percentage good habits. If you do these things, there's a higher chance of avoiding disaster.
-Focusing on studies is a great habit. It keeps kids busy. It gives them short and long term goals. Crushing their exams gives kids' high self-esteem, and it makes their future brighter. Also, when you get good at it, it's fun.
-Being home more than not is an ancient idea that has a high percentage of good results. There will be exceptions, but kids who are rooted in a home and have dinner with their family tend to be more stable.
-Memorizing Quran is amazing. Can you go out there and find a hafiz who fell through the cracks? Sure. But in the main, it's the opposite.
-Sports is great. It releases energy, teaches team spirit, and gives harmless experiences on winning, losing and overcoming.
-A good community is priceless, because at a certain age, the parent becomes influence #2, having been displaced by 'friends' at #1. So you better hope they have good friends. And to get good friends, you need to have dinner parties with other families who share the same beliefs and morals as you. And to do that you need to live near a good mosque where those things are taught and reinforced, so it's a cycle.
If you are part of a community, you get more information. You see good examples, and you see bad ones. A bad example is even more important than a good one, because you get to say: "You see the nasty infection on that kid's nostril? That's what happens when you try to pierce your own nose. Want to try it yourself?"
In the end, there are high percentage practices, good examples and cautionary tales. Then when you finally discuss all this with the wisest person you've ever met, they say, "None of that matters. All you really have is dua." But it might be all you need.
May Allah help all parents in the umma and give us sabr and wisdom. Ameen!