ON PARENTING, NATION BUILDING AND THE 2016 PHILIPPINE ELECTIONS

Sometime in 2014, I had the privilege of attending a lecture on parenting by Dr. Miriam P. Cue, Chairman of the Professional Regulatory Board of Psychology. The lecture lasted no more than a couple of hours but in those two hours I learned something very profound that changed the way I look at parenting. One very remarkable lesson she taught her audience that day was that parents, regardless of how much they want to provide their children with in this life, can only give their kids two things – roots and wings. That is, an unshakeable amount of self-confidence to send them soaring to great heights, explore their horizons and reach their fullest potential as human beings, as well as a comfortable home that they can return to whenever they feel tired and weary; a place where they can be safe around people they can count on for optimum support, protection and love. Self-confidence would be their wings, while a safe and secure home would be their roots.

ROOTS AND WINGS

These two things – self-confidence and a sense of security – are actually two interdependent things. When a child feels secure in his parents’ love and protection, he is confident to take on new challenges and explore his surroundings to learn new things. He knows he is doing well and is on the right track because the adults behind him reinforce his behaviour positively, thus strengthening his confidence in himself. When he falls off track and makes a mistake, he readily accepts reproof knowing that this does not diminish his parents’ love for him. Instead, it is done to help him grow into a better person. The child does not detest reproof because he knows this is not an attack against him. It is merely done to keep him going in the right direction. He knows this because he trusts his parents.

Trust is another crucial thing that helps build children’s self-confidence. When their parents consistently reward them for positive behavior, they tend to repeat that behavior in the future (e.g. sharing a toy with another child, playing along well with other children in the playground). When he misbehaves, however, and gets reprimanded for such negative behavior, he knows through time that such behavior is not acceptable and entails negative consequences. For example, when he does not wait for his turn in the tire swing and pushes little children aside, mommy would remove him from the playground or disallow him to play with his favorite toy. Positive behavior results in positive rewards. Negative behavior results in negative, unpleasant consequences. Children are naturally fast learners and often they learn by observation. They would know if the rule applies only to them or to everybody in the playground. When they get to see that the rule covers everyone in the playground and that the other mommies would do the same when their own kids misbehave, they can play and have fun without fear of being bullied, knowing that somebody will come to remove the bully out from the playground.

Carefree Farm Kids in Bukidnon (Photo credit: April Ray Saylo Peduche)
Carefree Farm Kids in Bukidnon (Photo credit: April Ray Saylo Peduche)

Now, imagine if one mommy refuses to see her child’s misbehavior and covers it up instead. “Abby, it’s actually my Johnny’s turn on the swing now. Now go play with Cindy at the see saw and come back when Johnny is done.” Two things happen – little Johnny learns that it’s cool to bend the rules because mommy has his back, and Abby learns that not all adults can be trusted to play by the rules. This eventually diminishes both children’s sense of security and trust. As adults we recognize how insecurity can create voids of different sizes and young people, especially children, don’t like voids; they tend to look for anything to fill the gaps and often they come to look for fillers in all the wrong places.

PARENTING AND NATION BUILDING

In about the same year, I came across an article by the renowned clinical psychologist Dr. Honey Carandang in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. The article was called Why Filipinos Have to Learn Mindful Parenting, and here she explained why parenting is central to nation building. I guess common sense will tell us that the way we raise our children, the values we impart to them through our actions, will determine what kind of nation we will have 20 to 30 years from now when it is their turn to govern the nation. Like I mentioned earlier, children are quick at observing non-verbal cues. They hear what the adults around them are saying but they also see what they are doing. They hear their parents say it’s wrong to steal, but they see daddy beating the red light or the lady at this agency playing Clash of Clans during office hours. Parents tell them it’s wrong to hit someone, but daddy’s actions say it’s okay to hit mommy when he’s angry or frustrated. They are told education is important, but children see how mommy cannot attend the quarterly PTA meetings or sit down with him at night to ask how things went at school that day. They are told lying is not right but when mommy knew little Johnny bit Abby for the 10th time at school, she knew daddy would not spare the rod and so she tells little Johnny, “I will let this pass this time; I will not tell Daddy, but promise me this won’t happen again!” Of course, little Johnny promised again, like he always did, and as certainly as the sun rises in the east, he grows up knowing that it’s okay to break promises, bend the rules occasionally or hurt someone just as long as daddy doesn’t know. Besides, mommy has his back.

“A child who is used to parents covering up for his/her mistakes will carry on that behavior well into adulthood.”

-Dr. Carandang

There is so much inconsistency in our families and in the way we raise our children. There is inconsistency in our relationships and in our performance at work. But there is one thing I noticed we are all consistent in – we all want what’s good for our children; we all want what’s good for our lives.

PARENTING AND THIS YEAR’S ELECTIONS

Okay, that was an understatement. Of course we all want what’s best for our children. We want only the best in life! It’s just most of the time people are shy to ask. They feel they don’t deserve it (and I wonder why). We want only the best from our government. Now this thing about politics is something I’ve always shied away from and refrained from writing about, but after some time of carefully putting my thoughts together – and still ended up hesitant – I decided to write about it anyways, without endorsing a candidate be it for national or local position. I would endorse an idea instead.

This coming 9th of May, adults who are qualified to vote will be choosing their next town mayors, provincial governors, congressmen, senators and the one who would assume the highest position in the country – the president. I’m not sure how everyone chooses his candidates, but as a mother and a citizen who advocates women and children’s welfare, I will go for a leader who can provide his constituents with both roots and wings.

I believe in the ingenuity of the Filipino people. Send a Filipino anywhere in the world and he would most likely survive. In fact, employers abroad prefer Filipino workers because of the quality of their service. The trouble is, more and more Filipinos, including mothers, are leaving behind their families to seek employment abroad at the risk of neglecting what I believe is their highest duty back home – parenting and nation building. There is no single individual who can deliver an entire nation from its troubles. What I seek therefore is a leader whose track record shows competence in consistently imposing rules and providing security for his people. When people feel secure in their community, they are not afraid to move out of their comfort zones to pursue their dreams. Investors come and do business because they know they too will share in the people’s prosperity. The entire community is everybody’s playground and they expect everyone to play by the rules. When a bully shows up, everyone knows someone will come to remove him. Similarly, everyone is careful not to misbehave because they know what happens next; there is no inconsistency to confuse them. It is easy to spot this kind of leader. You can look at the way he raised his own children. Are his children law-abiding citizens whose behaviour reflect the values they caught from their parents? There is this famous Filipino saying that says kung ano ang puno ay sya rin ang bunga, you know. Mango trees don’t bear durian fruits. Is he able to follow simple traffic rules and regulations? Does he wait until he gets home to throw his trash in the garbage bin instead of rolling down his car window and throw trash unconscientiously while the vehicle is in motion? (sorry, mommy brains at work here).

There is no single individual who can save an entire nation from distress, but as the old adage goes, “the people deserve its government.” What happens after we have all cast our votes is a consequence we all face together as a nation. Regardless of who wins, nothing ever truly changes until we each change our hearts and examine the way we parent our children.

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Thank you for reading this far. I’m interested to know your thoughts on this. You are most welcome to leave your comments in the comments section below. I promise to safeguard your security and to not share your contact details. See you around!

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