My friend's labandera gave birth in January 2010, and after just two months, she was pregnant again. She delivered in December 2010 -- not just one baby, but three. This means that in a year, she found herself having four children.
Rather than getting overwhelmed, this labandera prides herself in her ability to take good care of her brood. She boasted to my friend that if any of her four kids has a crease in his uniform, she makes him take it off so she can iron it. If she sees even the tiniest stain, she washes it off immediately. Her kids go to school immaculately clothed.
While that is all well and good, I hold this example up to parents as something they shouldn't get obsessed with. If time, money, and energy are very limited in your household, then focus on devoting these precious resources only to things that will matter to your children's future. What are these things?
Twice a year, I deliver a speech to the parents of the graduating students of the Binhi literacy class that my charity group, happy2help, sponsors. Every single time, my battlecry is the same: I remind the parents over and over to read to their children at night. Parents have to think of themselves as their children's first and primary educators. If they think their only responsibilities are to clean, bathe, feed, and escort their child to school, then they are just behaving like support staff. If they want their children to respect them as authority figures, then they have to take on a guiding role in their education. How?
Explain the world to your child. Start with the ABCs. If you don't have storybooks at hand, use whatever written material you can find: food wrappers and product labels, giant billboards, videoke lyrics, or TV news reports. Make downtime on the road during traffic a time to learn.
If your child can already talk in sentences, encourage him to be an active observer. When you go to the market or mall, ask him to point out which displays or products look attractive and to explain why. If you see something unusual, such as a long line of people waiting or a stalled car on the road, ask your child to guess what caused it.
The point is to encourage your children to use their imagination to process and understand the things they see around them. An added benefit of asking them to explain their theories is it will train them to verbalize or articulate complex ideas, a skill that will come in very handy in both school and real life.
Explain people to your child. To help them become more empathetic, discuss with your children why people do certain things. While watching TV together, you might see someone who's very angry. Explain a motivation that makes sense to them, such as someone got her things without asking for her permission or someone broke a promise -- no need to be too specific.
While you yourself go about your errands, explain to your children in simple terms: "I am adding sugar to the spaghetti because the tomato sauce can be sour and I want to balance the flavors," "I am putting the wet clothes on the clothesline so the sun can dry the clothes," or "I am giving your younger sister a bath because she played outside and the dirty soil on her hands might get into her mouth or eyes."
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It's very discouraging when I hear parents get angry with their children for being makulit and asking so many questions. Curiosity is a precious gift that should be nurtured, not shot down. Of course, being makulit in the sense that they repeatedly ask for something such as more candy or TV time is another matter completely and should be discouraged.
Your child will spend most of his day in school, and you might think he already learns enough, but there are different kinds of knowledge and what he learns in school is only one kind. Parents of all educational attainments have more wisdom than they realize. All that is required of them is to reflect on these realizations and then think of the best ways to communicate these to their kids. Once our brains start figuring out how to become thought-provoking parents, we will get our kids thinking, too. Who knows how far they could go with just a little nudge from us?