Note: Before writing down my thoughts about how my parents helped me, and what I thought I did to help prepare my kids for transitions in life, I decided to ask my two older young adult children—my 24yo son finishing his Masters in the US, and my 19yo daughter on her 3rd year in college—their opinions. I needed to know if what their Tatay and I did, indeed helped.
“Let’s go and open a bank account for yourself.” Mama didn’t mean a joint kiddie bank account, but my very own adult savings account! I was a voice talent at 19 and got paid my first check with my name on it. So before she went to work, Mama immediately accompanied me to the bank.
Every time I needed to talk to someone and didn’t know what to say, she would provide me a script. She would supply verbatim contents of a business letter I had to write to my professor or to government offices. She would present me a Plan B in case my Plan A did not work for almost anything—what jeep to take in case the buses were too full; if washing and putting pressure on a wound won’t stop bleeding, I should close the open wound with my pinchers and get help; and if food stain on my blouse won’t get scraped off by my napkin, I should try leaving it on until I get an effective soap solution to avoid spreading it.
“Darling, why don’t you stay in a dorm while in UP?” “If you’d like to work at ADB, I can help you.” “You must include in your contract an amount you feel you deserve and parking space.” My labor-advocate Papa would casually throw one-liners at me, boosting my confidence and assuring me that he was my back-up.
Even before I got married, I would ask myself: “What kind of parent do I want to be?” Will I be as OC as my mom who would push me off the nest only because she extremely couldn’t accompany me? Or my quiet, seemingly dormant dad who would watch me doing what I wanted to pursue, then erupt with esteem-enriching challenges?
But first, “What kind of adult do I really want my child to be?”
The answer to my first query would highly depend on my response to the second. Logically, if you want to have a responsible child, you would be the parent who would help him become such. One quality I wanted my kids to have was a healthy self-image. So I had to work on being an accepting, affirming and empowering parent.
It was only when my eldest entered his teens that I realized that my ultimate goal as a parent was to raise an independent child: one who would be capable and confident enough to live life on his own, make his own choices, and be responsible to face all the consequences of his decisions. Yes, I wanted him to grow up to love God, to serve and honor Him, but I wanted him to do this on his own volition, not out of fear or pressure from me. I believe that if a child has strong faith in a loving, powerful, all-sufficient God, she would grow up secure and healthy. From a secure sense of identity and healthy self-image, a loving, hardworking and disciplined adult will follow.
What is the goal of your parenting?
We may have many dreams for our kids: to become patriotic citizens of our country, or an asset and not a nuisance to the community. We even dream that they will have a comfortable life, no matter what vocation they choose. I even selfishly dreamed my children would grow up to not only be self-sufficient, but also influential and have the luxuries I couldn’t afford, so that we, his parents, wouldn’t carry the burden of caring for them all our lives. It sounds selfish because of the desire to someday relax, travel, and do all the things I couldn’t do with my husband because we had to care for the kids. But that goal also meant it would put them in a secure position to live their own dreams. Then there’s the goal of raising healthy individuals—physically, socially, spiritually, emotionally and mentally—because money and prestige cannot sustain them forever.
We must ascertain our parenting goals, realizing that even the richest and most-accomplished person in the world will be naturally subject to failure and trials. Dr. Leticia Penãno-Ho, my eldest’s doctor who specialized in giftedness, advised us to help our child accept failure as something inescapable. After all, “There will always be someone better than you.”
And so beyond what they can do, I set my heart on what they can be.
Working towards our goals, we lay a foundation and build on it principles and practical steps to prepare our child for changes in his life: adolescence, big school, high school, college, graduate studies (perhaps abroad), professional life, travel, marriage, and even parenting.
Now, make it your goal to know your child thoroughly. If you have more than one, remember that each child is different. Discover how he is unique from his siblings or other kids you know.
- Spend time with him to find out his weaknesses and strengths, interests, desires and dreams. Have some fun one-on-one time with each of them. Ask questions, explore what he feels about anticipated changes. Tell your own stories and share how you also had your lot of adjustments and struggles. This will help them feel free to show you what’s really in their heart and mind.
- Get to know her by getting to know her friends. Invite her friends over and get to know them more. Find out why they like your child. You will discover who she really is outside your home.
- Connect with your child’s teachers/mentors/coaches, and the parents of her friends. Build a network of support and prayer with them to watch over each other’s child. Commit to work as a team to co-raise the children. Be transparent to them when you witness their children in unfavorable situations, the same way you’ll appreciate them when they call your attention too.
And then move forward with TTWR:
- T for Teach – Don’t expect your child to know what to do and how to handle situations if you have not taught him. Demonstrate through your life example, and take him by the hand in the learning process.
Sometimes we just need to teach our kids practical life skills. My mom drove me on my first day of high school when I moved to a bigger school and instructed me how to ride the jeep going home. She took off early from work and attended a campus activity with me to discover what my newfound faith was all about. She taught me how to set the table, pick up my endless spaghetti noodles with a fork, place my napkin on my lap and avoid speaking if there’s nothing nice to say. Her persistent reminders were “Never be in a hurry.” “You are young only once.” And whenever I was off to a party or a trip with my friends, she would go, “Behave.” They were few but impactful.
On days she couldn’t be around, she made sure my older sibling, aunts or helpers would cover for her. She couldn’t be available all the time, but she was always accessible.
- T for Train – Training our kids to stick to what they were taught is necessary. Reinforce good behavior. Discipline and correct them immediately. House chores are not learned by doing it once. Listen to but do not tolerate complaints.
- W for Walk – Especially during puberty, instead of hovering over them, walk alongside them, holding them accountable, without sticking your nose into everything they do. There’ll be times when they ask for help in homework or request you to go with them to the salon, to clothing shops, or to the doctor. As much as possible, make yourself available when they ask for your presence. During their adolescence, respect how they are developing their own tastes and convictions. Always present options and the corresponding advantages and disadvantages of some choices—a certain outfit, hairstyle, piercing/tattoos, friends, activities, dating and marriage.
- R for Release – Most children can be left on their own by age 18, although some mature earlier and can be trusted. Let go of them by this age, and all the more so when they have graduated from college, have joined the workforce and entered marriage. By this time, you must have established that you will always be their strong support.
Based on your knowledge of each child, focus on areas where he needs to be constantly taught, and trained. Exemplify and show them how to solve problems, pray, seek help, and how to entrust conflicts to God when all means have been exhausted. There are times you just have to go step-by-step with them, integrate discipline, rewards, affirmation and slowly let go, until they can do things on their own.
The pace and methods you apply for each child will differ according to their maturity and personality. Our eldest Mishka has always been adventurous, outgoing and a fast learner. He liked that we allowed him to handle things on his own. He appreciated us for being well-informed about his choices, yet respecting them. He feels that his Tatay and I “were very hands-off with big decisions but always made sure that I could ask you for help, which is why I didn’t really have a hard time adjusting to living alone.” My introverted daughter Nik preferred that we were around during her entrance tests, her first days in a new school, that we accompany and orient her about university life and how to go about possible problems or conflicts she will face.
In his Tedx Talk, Ted Dintersmith shared how we should prepare our kids for life “by equipping them with skills to solve problems; to take risks and accept failure.”
I try to be all that my mom was to me and improve here and there. I am working on being more transparent about my weaknesses and imperfections and being humble enough to say sorry to my kids when I’m wrong. As I wrote this with my right hand, my nine-year-old daughter Miro asked me to clutch hers with my left as she was falling asleep. Though I really wanted to finish what I was doing, I’ve chosen to allow my kids to interrupt me. I want each of them to be assured that I’m always available, to be unafraid to be affectionate, and to be secure enough to love and give unconditionally.
Let’s aim for excellence instead of perfectionism—teaching our child that growth is about getting better than yesterday, not better than others. I still have to remind my competitive youngest Yakob that winning is not about being first, but giving our best and not giving up.
Life is tough, and with the internet, gadgets and social media, stress is much different from what we experienced. At their early age, we must exemplify to them optimism and faith in God. We cannot always be there for them, but they can always have the reliable, living Supreme Being who is our help, hope, and strength to persevere while the turbulence goes on around and inside us.
More into numbers than words, Richelle Joson-Ligot grew up writing merely in her head and in her heart, making up stories and characters, mixing up syllables to mean a new idea, and recording these all on diaries and in cassette. A voice talent, homeschooler, creative consultant, and choreographer, she is gifted in many ways, but considers the best gifts in her life to be the people the Giver has blessed her with – husband Tot, and children Mishka, Nikita, Miro and Yakob.