As you know, Mark and I have been great friends since we were 11 years old. Our marriage is really friendship set on fire. We get to enjoy being lovers and best friends. Having Taziana is like having a new member to this friendship. It used to be just me and Mark rolling the streets of friendship. Now, our duo has turned into a trio! Soon, we hope for more “members” to this group we have created. It’s so exciting to think I’d be raising kids who love God with my best friend.
But anyway, since Taziana is the newest member to our friendship, we have to teach her what it is actually like to be a part of it. Last week while we were at the car with my mom and sisters, I heard Mark whispering to Taziana, “Baby, if something hurts, tell me okay? I’m your friend. Daddy is your friend and you can be real with me”. Taziana hurt herself and was denying it to Mark. The pain was confirmed by her silent sobs.
This was the second time Mark had to talk to her about this. The first time was in our dorm. Taziana underestimate her energy in laying back in bed and ended up hitting her head on the wall. The bang was loud enough to make Mark and I look at her and drop our chores.
We asked, “Are you hurt baby?”
She replied, “N-n-n…no!”
So I said, “That’s good, babe. Be careful next time”
Then, her face slowly turned sour and there was a transition from a silent whimper to a loud cry. She suddenly looked like she was in so much pain. Mark rushed to her and asked her where it hurt. She then confessed how she hurt her head and she took comfort in her daddy’s hug. I followed and comforted her, too.
Intentional parenting means seeing beneath the surface. It means looking at more than just behavior but looking at the heart. The first thing we saw was our daughter who was hurt and needed comfort. The second thing we saw was pride of not wanting to be seen in what the world would call “weakness”. The last thing was that she didn’t see us in that level of friendship that we wanted to. Our target as parents always is the heart. When the heart is in the right place, behavior follows.
So, we told her,
“Tazi, you can tell mommy and daddy anything. You don’t have to be okay all the time. It’s okay if you’re hurt, it’s okay when you feel bad, you can tell us anything. If you don’t tell us anything, how can we help you? How can we guide you? How can we comfort you? Nothing is too silly for mommy and daddy. We value everything you tell us”
Taziana is only two years old so she still wouldn’t get a complete grasp of what that meant but as long as she gets the slightest understanding of what this truly means, that’s good enough. We’ll never stop telling her this until she grows up. We want her to find comfort, peace, and joy in our arms instead of fear, judgement, and pressure. We’re not just her parents, we are also her best friends.
Looking at our daughter’s heart is so important for us because it helps us see if she needs guidance, rebuke, or love. We’ve noticed (by experience and by observation), that the greatest cause of division among parents and their children is because the children do not feel safe and comfortable about their feelings with their parents.
Oftentimes, children get scolded for showing weakness and showing behavior that calls for affection. This isn’t only common to kids but even teenagers. This is the reason why they choose to bring their emotional problems outside their home.
We realized that if Taziana learns that we are not just her parents but her best friends as well, she would be more open to us about her heart problems in the future. Not only when it comes to romance but anything about the heart- identity, purpose, calling, self esteem, etc. The more she feels safe and secured with us, the more she will trust us with her true feelings. The more she will trust us with her true feeling, the more we would be able to truly guide her.
This doesn’t only apply to the story we shared earlier. We apply it generally in all situations. When she suddenly bursts in tears, when she looks afraid, when she spills things, when she breaks things, when we get reports about her hitting a playmate, when she says something bad… we don’t immediately resort to nagging, discipline, or correction. We show her how much we value her and her opinion first.
“You’re crying again!”
“You’re so clumsy!”
“Bad! No hitting playmates!”
“Bad! No saying bad words!” (She doesn’t really say bad words because no one says bad words at home. She usually just speaks with negativity like “Ang panget naman”).
We first ask her,
“What’s wrong? Why are you crying? Are you hurt anywhere? Do you need anything?
“What happened? Why did you break/spill this?”
“What happened between you and you playmate?”
“What made you say that? Where did you hear words like that?”
This shows her that we trust her and that we’d never be quick to judge her. This shows her that we’ll always hear her out first before resorting to discipline. This shows that we care for her and not just acting on our emotions. It’s the best time for us to assess the heart.
For example, if she suddenly cries and answers with, “I was looking for mommy and daddy”. Then it means that she missed us and craves for affection. She was sad because she couldn’t get access to it when she needed it and thought maybe we weren’t around. A hug resolves this. But if she says, “Because I want to eat chocolates” and continues crying even if we’ve already explained that she can have one after a proper meal, it means that she is being impatient and wants to have it her own way in her own terms- which is not what happens in real life and she should learn that. This is a go signal for correction.
Another example is when Taziana spilled a whole meal from plate. It was just her and I at home (in our studio in Manila). We use a Japanese style table there so we sit on the floor when we have our meals. I excused myself to pee before we start eating and when we came back, her entire meal was spilled on the floor. I was just about to get angry but I reminded myself of what my husband and I stand for. So, I asked her what happened. “I wanted to accompany you in the toilet so that you wouldn’t be alone and scared but I fell”. Our studio is pretty small and she probably tripped over the table while trying to get to me. This was an accident and well, maybe a little clumsiness. But looking at her heart, she just wanted to be there for someone but unintentionally ended up making a mess. Her heart was in the right place and it would be wrong to scold her. She would feel bad thinking that she shouldn’t have tried to be there for me in the first place. I just replied to her with, “Aw. Thank you baby. But look at this mess. You have to clean it up. I’ll help you”. This shows her that I understand the accident that happened but she still needs to be responsible for the mess that she made.
Then, we tell her what was wrong with her actions. (if any)
If for example she says she heard other kids calling each other ugly, we would tell her what ugly means and that the Lord looks at everyone as equally beautiful. We always tell her that looks don’t matter and that it is the heart that God sees. Sometimes, we give her a “time out” so she could reflect on why it’s so wrong to call anyone ugly.
After that, we give her what she needs. It may be a hug, comfort, affection. Other times, it may be correction or discipline. But after all that, we make sure to always end to an I love you and a tight hug.
Being able to build friendship with our little girl requires a lot of work. It is not something that happens on autopilot. We really have to be intentional about it. However, it has been a marvelous journey for us. Our relationship with her has been growing deeper and stronger.
Parenting without relationship would make her put us on mute. Worse, she might trust others more than she trusts us. This would hinder us from raising her with the right standards and good character. A child truly listens to his/her parents when she trusts in them- in their love, protection, and wisdom.
It has been quite a while since my last post. I’ve missed connecting to you guys. How are you? I know not a lot of you are parents but I hope it would someday be useful to you. Hehe. But if you have kids, how is parenting going for you?
If you have kids or not, I want to ask, how are youuuu? I’d be glad to hear from you!