Every week, Preen tackles motherhood sans the rose-tinted glasses. Our columnists L. Juliano, Marla Darwin, Monica Eleazar-Manzano, Rossana Unson, and Ronna Capili-Bonifacio tell their personal experiences like it is—at times frustrating, oftentimes confusing, but always enlightening.
I hate to say it and as I do, the words are struggling their way out of my mouth barely as a whisper, but you’re right. Yes, you who called my child spoiled, you who called her names like “may toyo” in public. I struggled with anger and played with words to lash out. But after much needed introspection, I actually agree with you.
This “you” is a relative and co-parent I had to live with for a week while on vacation. Things began normally with my three-year-old bonding with his six-year-old girl. My little one is strong willed and I took that as a sign of an empowered child who can voice her concerns and be heard, even at her age. With circumstances at their best—a complete night’s sleep, on-time nap, and nourishing meals four times a day—she’s a gentle sweetheart. She shares her toys, says the magic words (thank you, please, excuse me), greets people she meets with respect, and converses fluently. But change any one from that list and it’s a different story. She becomes whiny, clingy, and demanding, often out of my control.
I would have stood by my child’s apparent normal toddler behavior. But then I realized that my relative’s backlash was an amplified reaction of the other parents I’ve encountered recently. The looks they cast are enough to betray their thoughts. I know, because I’ve given the same judgmental stares to other kids I deemed as spoiled brats.
The behavior that used to send me nuts enough to call the attention of waiters, and once a flight attendant, to loudly complain within the parent’s earshot, is the very thing I allowed my child to be. It almost happened overnight. Well, two months.
A new business venture opened along with two more book projects on top of my regular work. I couldn’t resist the opportunities. It is Christmas season anyway, and I knew that after all the busy days, it’ll soon die down and I can focus again on caring for my child. I couldn’t rely on my husband who was a hundred times more swamped with work than I am. So I gave myself two months. I dropped my daughter off at my in-laws with her yaya during weekdays. I’d pick her up usually in her sleep. Often, I used the few hours I have with her to bond with my laptop just to meet deadlines. The same goes for weekends.
Slowly, the little tyrant began ordering the helps around. She acted out when she didn’t get what she wanted. She’s back to grabbing and no sharing. She perfected her manipulation tactics, lacing her actions with sweet smiles and hugs when she knew whining will not work. And when even that fails, she goes for the ultimate strategy. Crying, and I mean not just the usual whiny crying, but crying with fear in her eyes. Pointing at corners, shouting that she’s scared. That’s a surefire approach that sends an entire household freaking out.
What’s funny is how easy I could have detected these warning signs. But for some reason, I was oblivious. My love for her made me blind to the brat I’m molding her to become. It took an immature adult who openly bullied her in front of me to wake me up.
I was actually surprised that I was able to channel the anger into reflection, and then into action. Not that I let my relative’s demeanor slip away. I made it clear to him that if he has problems with my child, he can go to me. And that I’m not the arrogant type who’s deaf to constructive criticism. If anything, it’s my ability to adapt and understand that’s gotten me this far in my life and my career.
Since the incident, I’ve been more perceptive and hands-on. I changed my schedule and now work at 5 a.m. every day, enough time to start things off before my daughter wakes up. I devote an hour of my morning to her. My evenings are centered on her as well. I gently remind her of the magic words, urging her to communicate how she feels, and applying firmness when it’s needed. At her age, I find that role playing, deals, and consequences work better than time outs or scolding. I’ve changed the routine her yaya and grandparents created while I was “away.” Screen time has been reduced to one hour a day and any form of violence in games and books are out the window. We’re back to less refined sugar and more healthy snacks. I apply the rules of courtesy and non-violence even with how she relates with her toys. I’m surprised that in just two weeks, we’ve reached great improvement. I don’t even worry about leaving her with other kids anymore. (Funny though, how the grandparents think I’m restraining her spirits, or what they call “her true self.” Insert rolling eyes emoticon here. That’s another story!)
I guess the moral of it all is that parents shouldn’t allow all that love to cloud our better judgment. That even in straining situations, there’s always something you can get out of it. Sulk, then find a solution. I’m all about letting my child grow into her full potential, letting that inner strong-willed characteristic shine. But as the parent, it’s my job to help her developing brain know where to channel that. It’s our job to discipline them in the many ways we positively can in this day and age.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Preen.ph, or any other entity of the Inquirer Group of Companies.