Parenting is definitely a big challenge is for us. I think it is for most parents. Even the most “prepared” ones experience the unexpected. That’s one of the most beautiful parts of parenting, it feels like opening a gift; a surprise. We receive a charming present but it’s up to us to discover what is inside.
What will she be like? What does she love? What does she hate? What does it mean when she cries? Is it okay that she’s doing this? How do I teach her to become a better person?
Receiving Taziana was the biggest blessing we ever had. However, she didn’t come with a manual. Thank God there are Christian books and blogs out there that help us learn how to raise our daughter (and future children) into a person that the Lord designed her to be. Although our influence on her will not determine her ENTIRE journey in life, it is still very crucial and makes a big impact. What we instill in her during her early years will be something she can carry even to adulthood.
I personally enjoy reading Christian books and blogs about self growth, marriage, and parenting because I like learning from others. I like learning not only from their stories but also from their mistakes- it minimizes mine. Hehe. Though no parent can have the immunity from failure, reading about parenting help me find solutions. As a result of this hobby, we’ve come up with a few general guidelines on how we are raising our daughter. My husband and I talk about it, apply it, and evaluate it.
Different children have unique characters. That’s why not one specific way of parenting works exactly the same. Every household is different.
First, we act the way we want her to behave
The first way that kids learn is through imitation. They speak and act the way they do because they have seen it in their environment. Children who like screaming and cursing have either heard it from television or from their own household.
Last summer, Mark spent the weekdays in Manila while I was hands on in taking care of Taziana in Laguna. Tazi is a really sweet and gentle girl. We’re also really proud that she has been growing up to be obedient. However, during that week I’ve noticed a change in her. She began throwing unnecessary tantrums, raising her voice, expressing too much irritability, and starting to be disobedient. As a response, I resorted to being more firm and strict. It didn’t work.
One night, when Tazi was already asleep, I had a phone conversation with my husband and I vented my feelings out. He said, “how do you respond to her? How have you been towards her recently?” I didn’t answer him specifically but his questions retained in my mind for some time. He was right. That week I have not been very mindful on how I respond to stress. I frequently frowned and barely spoke to her with affection. I was also easily irritated and my patience has greatly decreased.
Little did I know that children are smart enough to be able to observe this, all the more to imitate it. That’s what we’ve noticed in her: she does what we do.
So the following day, I did my very best to be patient, loving, kind, and understanding towards her. At first, her “attitude” was still there but as the day ended, I noticed that the usual sweet and gentle Tazi was coming back! It strengthened my belief in “we must act the way we want our children to behave”.
Since then, Mark and I have been cautious on how we respond to problems and stress, what we do during our free time, how we talk to others, and how we react when we feel wronged because we want to set as good examples to Taziana.
You can’t shout at your children saying, “stop screaming!” and expect her to stop. You can’t tell your children to study/ read books more while you’re on your phone or television the whole day. You can’t expect them to respect you and other people if they hear you constantly talk harshly towards others.
The best way to lead them is to lead by example.
But you must see to it that this right of yours does not become a stumbling block for those who are weak. 1 Corinthians 8:9
Second, no means no
When we set rules, we stick to it. When she cries or when she adorably pleads to get what she wants, we are tempted to give in. But we don’t. Hehe. This teaches her that rules can’t be bent and she will learn to trust in our competence. Although obedience is hard, we don’t want her to grow up thinking “mom and dad said no but I’ll just have to throw a few tantrums and it will be a yes”.
An exception to this, of course, is when we make wrong decisions. But we have a certain way of turning a “no” into a “yes”. We have to tell her why we changed our mind. We assure her that it’s not merely a mood swing but an actual decision that was made. For example, Taziana is not allowed to eat candies, she only does on special occasions. One day, she asked for gummies but I said no. But later on, I realized that she has been eating her meals well including her veggies and she deserves the gummies. So, I approached her and told her, “you know what baby, you’ve been a very good girl and you’ve been having healthy meals too. I was wrong, you deserve the gummies as a reward. I’ll give you one later”.
We never say “no” then give in to a “yes” after a few episodes of crying. Otherwise, she will think of it as “I only have to cry to get a yes”. And that, my fellow parents (and future parents), is a very dangerous mindset for a future teenager. That’s like saying, “if mommy and daddy won’t give me what I want, then I’ll just rebel against them”.
Third, we stick to promises
This is somehow related to our second guideline: it builds trust. We don’t bribe her in order to keep her well behaved and end up not giving or doing what we promised. When we say something, we commit to it.
Fourth, we don’t underestimate her age
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
The most common parenting misconception is thinking that they are too young to understand. That’s why it’s common to see parents who spoil their children in their early years because they are “still babies” have a hard time later on. They try to discipline them when they are older. The biggest key in parenting is to start early. It’s a lot harder to teach older kids because values, habits, and mentality have already been instilled. It’s very challenging to uproot them.
Thank God because my husband and I learned about this during the very first stages of our parenthood, so we were able to apply it soon. When Tazi had just turned one, she used to sit in a baby’s high chair during meals. Whenever she spilled soup on her table, we would hand her a tissue and tell her “here you go baby, you have to learn how to be responsible with your mistakes. It’s okay, I’ll help you, I’ll be here”. She does the first cleaning and a cleaning by a one year old was obviously still dirty. Hehe. So we still have to do the main cleaning. But cleaning was not the point, what we actually wanted to teach her was that she needs to be responsible for her actions while affirming her that mommy and daddy will always be here for her when she make mistakes. She doesn’t do the “cleaning up” on her own. She can always count on us when she needs us, but she shouldn’t expect us to clear the way entirely for her. She needs to learn how to fight her own battles. Afterwards, we praise her for doing a good job.
Yes, this early. Hehe. Even now that Tazi is already 2 years old, we still apply the same guideline. When she takes off her socks, when she’s figuring out something, we let her try on her own first. We guide her rather than doing the whole task ourselves. This will also develop her self confidence.
We also practice speaking to her with great sense- avoiding baby talks and concealing truth. A very hard part of being student parents is dropping her off to Laguna because we have to go back to university. At first, we made a mistake of sugar coating things or sometimes just sneak off so that she wouldn’t cry. But we realized that children are very smart and they are capable of understanding. We recently practiced having a conversation with her before leaving. “Baby, mommy has to go back to school again and you’ll have to stay in Laguna for a while. I have to study so that I can graduate and we can start being together every day together again. Be a good girl while I’m away, okay?”. The first attempt heart breaking as she replies with, “no mommy, no school. I want to go to school with you (no mommy, no school. Ako rin sama school)”. But the succeeding conversations were a lot better. After my usual I have to go back to school dialogue, she now replies with “Okay mommy! I love you!”.
Of course, explaining things to them has to be done with great care. Although we shouldn’t sugar coat things, we can still talk to them without crushing their hearts. We have to break it to them gently and smoothly.
Children are smart and they understand. Sometimes, children understand better than adults.
Fifth, we do our best to be consistent in discipline
Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death. Proverbs 19:18
During my journey as a mom, I discovered that withholding discipline from my daughter is a selfish act rather than an act of love. Withholding discipline from her also meant withholding the chance for her to learn, and hindering her growth.
Whether it’s in the form of pleasure withdrawal, letting her experience consequences, or occasional spanking, we make sure Taziana gets disciplined when she needs to be disciplined. However, we also have guidelines for discipline: disobedience, disrespect, and lying. We never discipline her out of anger or emotions. We don’t scream and shout our way through it.
If during meal time, she starts moving in and out of her seat instead of eating well when we’ve clearly asked her to stay in place and respect her meal, she would not be given the pleasure of having dessert. She’s also potty trained now but she tends to get accidents when she’s too preoccupied with playing. She would hold her pee in when she plays. We’ve told her many times that it’s not good for her to maintain this habit and that she can always go back to playing after a trip to the john, but she still did not obey us. So, we asked her to wash her wet panties. We helped her of course, but it was just a way for us to show her disobedience lead to consequences.
When she does get the occasional spanking, we do it in a private place so that she wouldn’t feel humiliated. We also maintain a calm and gentle tone while explaining to her while she had to go through it, “It’s not very nice of you to say that to daddy. That’s being disrespectful. We love you that’s why it’s important for us that you learn to respect others”. We close the conversation with the affirmation of love and a few hugs and kisses. After that, we go back to cuddling and playing! Our bond strengthens even more! 🙂
Last, we apologize when we make mistakes
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4
One of the most important things that we want Taziana to learn is humbleness and humility. The best way to teach her that is by demonstrating it ourselves. We decided to step out of the norm that says parents are always right and should never put down their pride for their children. Having this improper mindset causes children to first, build resentment towards their parents. And second, they get the misconception that to live with pride is a good way for a person to live.
When Mark and I make mistakes of unnecessarily raising our voice, we have a heartfelt conversation with Taziana and tell her how sorry we are. Although at first, it seemed that she still may not understand, we never stopped this habit. “Baby, I was wrong. I should have been more gentle with you. I’m sorry”.
Eventually, we observed that Taziana acquired this healthy habit. Some time last month, Taziana was playing and jumping around. I asked her to be more careful but she accidentally hit my face on the process. I was hurt but just laid in bed quiet. My sweet baby suddenly approached me and said, “I’m sorry mommy. I love you! Ila-love kita (I will hug you)”.
It’s such a joy for me as a mom to see this character in her. She’s only two years old but she’s learning how to be considerate of the feelings of others.
That’s it for now. Hehe. These guidelines were developed from the experiences (including both failures and success) of others and of our own. I’m sure there will be a lot more to learn about our daughter and a lot more to discover about parenting. But for now, this is what we have got.
When I was pregnant, I was scared because I didn’t know what it’s like to raise a child. I was worried that I wouldn’t be a good mom or that I might make a mistake that will cost my daughter her life. But the more I got to know stories of other parents, the more I realized that no parent is perfect and we all make mistakes along the way.
What is essential is that we learn from our mistakes and remain open for improvement.
I hope the short stories from our experience in parenting would help other parents out here, especially the young ones. It’s a much greater challenge to raise a child while you’re still figuring things out but it’s very much possible with the guidance of the Lord.
Just because you are a young parent, doesn’t mean you can’t be a great one. I believe in you! 😉