4 moms, 4 minds, 4 fields of expertise, 14 kids between them, 1 golden piece of advice.
It’s no doubt that raising children today is different from when we were growing up. We have information at our fingertips both helpful and overwhelming; judgement, inspiration, and pressure from social media; and kids who are growing up faster than we can learn to use Snapchat.
But are there parenting challenges we’re currently facing that can actually be answered by age-old principles? These mom-experts say yes.
Without further ado, here’s what you have to hear today, frazzled mom: It’s okay to be imperfect parents, because we can’t teach what isn’t true.
And what’s true is that our kids will face numerous challenges on a daily basis and we can’t 100% strike the balance between letting go and stepping in to help. We try to be strong all the time but we get emotional too. We make mistakes – sometimes catastrophic – and yet our kids are always looking up to us as their role models.
Parenting consultant Maribel Dionisio, child psychotherapist Ali Gui, model and editor Georgia Schulze-del Rosario, and seasoned nutritionist-dietician Jo Ann Verdadero-Salamat came together for a roundtable discussion—hosted by Issa Litton—to discuss the many pressures parents are facing today, and how to combat them and effectively raise #strongnotsheltered children.
Here are a few nuggets of wisdom happily imperfect parents of any age and stage will appreciate:
Consequence is a strong teacher
Dionisio cites an instance where her son would always forget his things at home. At first they came up with solutions such as having a checklist before he left for school. Then they realized that what would have most impact is having him learn what happens when he leaves things. Soon enough, he came home with a demerit for forgetting to bring his P.E. uniform; and shortly after that, he brought his uniform to school right after it was laundered and pressed, to store in his locker for the next time he’d need it.
This is why she doesn’t believe in corporal punishment. The mum of three explains, "It doesn’t really teach the lesson. Because they remember the spanking, the hitting… if parents use the [principle of] consequences, children learn faster.
"When they fail, isn’t failure itself. When they fail, it's a lesson for them to learn and to know how competent they can be,"
states Gui. “How can we make our children strong? By allowing them to have their own wounds. Because from their own wounds – be it physical wounds, emotional wounds, psychological wounds,– it’s from their own wounds that they learn how to care for themselves, how resilient they can be, and how to not hurt other people as well.”
Very very well said.
Be there. Listen. Discuss solutions together
“We’re so busy nowadays, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be a mom to our children… [to] just listen and not conclude,” reminds Gui.
“We have to see beyond… when your child comes home and appears tired – is it physically tired? Or is there something emotional? Or psychological that affects them? Encourage openness... Let them open up,” adds Verdadero-Salamat.
Our kids inevitably face difficulties of varying magnitudes. The question is, do how do we know when to step in and when to meddle? Our experts say this isn’t a black-and-white decision.
Discussing the topic of bullying, which Schulze-del Rosario points out as more common than we’d like to think because it comes in many forms:
“Whether it's cyber bullying or in school, verbal... from a peer, sometimes a teacher, maybe an adult who doesn’t quite understand them and make them feel sad. I’m not very much a helicopter parent, but when I feel there is some negativity towards them, I become combative... and my husband’s like, ‘Relax,’” she said. “And I feel bad. Then you question. 'Okay, she's being bullied, do I step in, do I call the parents, do I tell teacher, or do I just let her handle it? Of course my 12-year-old will talk to me but she'll want to handle it ... she doesn’t want it to get bigger... whereas maybe the kindergartener will say, can you tell my classmate's mom....? It's different every time."
To which Dioinisio adds, “Get ideas from them as well." Her advice is to come up with plans A, B, C, D and go over the consequences of each.”
Discussing solutions with our kids reinforces and even amplifies the lesson on consequences. Having them look at possible outcomes depending on their (and your) involvement and “diskarte”, empowers the decision.
Set the right foundation, and let go
“Guide them [as a parent] does not mean being with them 24 hours a day. Letting go them go means I love you enough that knowing I have instilled in you the good foundation and that you are smart enough to use what is best for you at the moment,” says Gui.
For starters, have a strong marriage and a happy disposition. “Parents are the architects of the family…. You have to know what is your family vision and you have to explain to your kids... this is our plan, this is what we'll have, and maybe we can listen to them [and ask] how they feel about it,” shares Dionisio. “If you’re a single mom, be a happy single mom!” she adds.
They all concur on instilling values as the right foundation. Verdadero-Salamat builds on this saying that it’s also important for them to appreciate why the values are important. “My youngest, she takes public transportation going to school... she complains. But that is for her own future, so that she can be independent and capable, and know what’s happening out there.”
The nutritionist-dietician gives some practical advice. “Nutrition is of prime importance when it comes to building strong kids... so that they could really cope with all the challenges, the pressures. That way you’re still present even if you're not physically beside them. Feeding them the right food is one big advantage already.”
Don’t be fooled by labels, she warns. Instead, look at the ingredients list: “The first ingredient that you see in the list is the ingredient that comprises the bulk of the food item.” When it comes to milk for example, “[If] you see whole milk, that’s good because it is natural, it is pure… Filled milk – majority of the milk products available now are filled – is milk where the water and milk fat has been removed, and vegetable oil replaces the butter fat, which are hydrogenated (to prolong shelf life). In the morning, give your child a glass of whole milk before she goes to school, and you're assured that the necessary nutrients she needs to face the pressures, the energy for activities, are there.”
Provide a happy home and be good role models. Check. Instill the right values and make sure they appreciate them. Check. Give them the right nutrition to make sure they can physically cope with challenges. Check. Now let go.
(You got this, mom!)
Letting go comes with a caveat though. “You have to know each child,” shares Dionisio. “There'll be a kid you can let go at grade 1, the other kid, it might be at grade 4. Try to have a weekly date with each child, for about an hour each week... to get to know them one by one.”
Are you feeling the pressures of parenting today, moms? What are your thoughts on being an ‘imperfect parent’? Join the conversation at #strongnotsheltered