Saturday, October 5, 2013

ABCs of parenting

“ABCs of Parenting”
Sun.Star Davao, Oct. 5, 2013

When my eldest daughter Anicka turned five, I started bringing her on one-on-one dates with me for once or twice a month. No daddy or little sister in tow, my focus and attention was just on her.

Oftentimes, we would go to our favorite Thai foot massage center and pamper ourselves for one hour. This would be followed by a meal at a restaurant of her choice. Occasionally, I would introduce her to new dining places to encourage her to appreciate cuisines that she is not familiar with.

During these mother-daughter bonding moments, we talk about anything under the sun.

Seven years after, we still have the same ritual. We have our massages and food trips. This time, however, our exclusive dates have also expanded to watching movies and concerts (you know, Pinoy showbiz and girly romantic stuff) that I am sure my hubby and youngest daughter would not be interested in.

Most parents lament that when their kids become tweens and teens, they would start to clam up and keep secrets. But, I feel blessed that at age 12, Anicka still updates me about her life --- from the mundane to “serious” teenage concerns.

A for Attention-Giving

In a recent parenting seminar entitled “ABCs of Parenting” organized by the Davao Christian High School Parents-Teachers Fellowship, highly respected parenting and relationship expert Maribel Sision-Dionisio shared that she also practiced these one-on-one dates with her three kids Rafael, David and Angelica until they were 12 years old.

“Going on a one-on-one date with each child is a way of letting him or her feel that they have your undivided attention. It makes them feel special and loved”, she stresses.

By giving individual attention, you get to discover the uniqueness and different interests of each child. You also establish open communication with them early on.

Now in their 20s, Maribel’s kids Rafael, David and Angelica, still talk about their day’s
activities to their parents, even if these are “affairs of the heart”.

B for Build Self-Worth

For as simple as a P50 budget meal or an ice cream cone date, Maribel and her kids would engage in fascinating stories during these special moments. The hands-on mom would openly affirm the child’s latest accomplishments, no matter how trivial or small they may be. “No sermons, no judgments and no criticisms”, Maribel points out.

In building self-worth, parents, family and peers are important sources. That’s why it is imperative that we do not use fear or threats when correcting our kids. Instead, we should employ a more positive approach and acknowledge effort.

Instead of loudly accusing a child with “Why is your grade in Math so low?!”, the
“Helping Our Children Do Well in School” co-author suggested that we question, “Do you think you did your best with this test?” or “How much effort did you exert in preparing for this test?”.

Once you feel that your child achieves significant improvement in the next test, praise him or her with such words as “It looks like you really worked hard on your Math this time. I know you could do it!” Recognize effort and hard work, not just ability; encourage persistence; and explain that mistakes are a natural part of learning.

C for Communicate Regularly and Well

In talking to children, Maribel advises parents to speak to them at eye level so that one doesn’t feel “powerful or powerless”.

“Do this with chairs and tables so you can see ‘eye-to-eye’ and the child will feel that you want to level with him/her but in a more intimate and respectful manner”, Maribel discloses.

Always talk to the kids about how their day went, ask “What was fun today?” and “What was upsetting?”. Refrain from giving opinions and comments.

I read in a “Reader’s Digest” article before that U.S. President Barack Obama would use their regular family dinners as an opportunity to check on his wife and kids. They took turns in sharing their “roses and thorns” stories for the day; roses for “good things” and thorns for “bad things”. If someone as busy and powerful as President Obama could still find time to do this with his family, what is our excuse?

D for Discipline Your Kids

Discipline means to "teach and instruct the child or teen to behave constructively and appropriately". With proper discipline, children grow up feeling confident, conscious of their actions and be accountable for them.

When the kids were younger, Maribel did not always give them anything they wanted. Instead, they had to earn an allowance by doing household chores. This taught them the value of discipline in order to save money.

“Don’t spoil your kids. If they want to buy something, let them get the money from their allowance”, says the co-founder of the Love Institute, a company which provides personal and systematic programs catering to each person’s relationship needs.

Maribel also believes in setting “house rules”. Kids should understand that when they do something, it will always have a consequence whether good or bad. They will ultimately be responsible for these consequences.

The “Working Mom” magazine columnist shares that there was a point in her son David’s grade school life when he constantly forgot to bring his P.E. uniform at the Ateneo. Every time this happens, David would call his mom to bring the uniform to school to avoid getting a demerit.

After several occasions, Maribel realized that if she would always be called to the rescue, David will never learn the consequence of his irresponsible actions. This prompted her to stop “saving” David.

Eventually, David became more concerned and mindful of his things. He would bring his P.E. uniform days early and would put it in his locker. He also tried to earn merits to offset the demerits.

E for Enhance Couple and Individual Relationship

Don’t neglect your relationship with your spouse even if you have a full schedule- earning a living and taking care of the kids.

“Make sure you continue to work on your marriage”, discloses Maribel who has been a marriage counselor at the Center for Family Ministries (CEFAM) for over 10 years.

Just like our one-on-one dates with the kids, there should also be regular couple dates to “fan the flames of your marital romance”.

In addition, affirmation is valuable in making each spouse feel that they are
acknowledged for his or her contributions to the family.

Maribel also warns parents to be extremely aware if they are neglecting their personal needs over family as this is unhealthy. She reminds parents that “love and care for others starts with love and care for the self”. Therefore, enjoy your precious “me time”. You deserve it!

F for Financial Responsibility

And, finally, Maribel discusses that F is for financial responsibility.

Maribel advises families that living within means is not only crucial for budget purposes but for those different needs as the family go through different stages in their lives. It is absolutely imperative that we plan for our family’s finances.

 “When you know that you have been responsible in this area, then you will not feel anxious if something happens. You are also assured that even if you don’t have to put extra hours at the office and sacrifice time with the family, you are still financially secure”, she says.

Companies such as Philam Life have plans such as Family Secure which can help you prepare for your family’s future.

With these “ABCs of Parenting”, Maribel hopes that parents will be able to raise their children to become caring, confident, capable and productive members that our society needs so much. After all, as the saying goes, “It is easier to build up a child than it is to repair an adult”.

Happy parenting!

The “ABCs of Parenting” Family Talk school tour is a partnership between Love Institute and Philam Life. This is part of Philam Life's financial literacy advocacy which complements Love Institute's advocacy for responsible parenting. Responsible parenting necessarily includes careful financial planning.

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