Page last updated at 08:48 Asia/Manila, Wednesday, 02 July 2014 PH
With some exceptions, Filipinos are well known all over the world for the tender and loving care (TLC) that they are able to manifest in such service-oriented professions as medicine, nursing, care giving, waitering, teaching, retailing, business process outsourcing and other occupations involving close and personal interaction with customers or clients. This "calidad humana", as labeled in a project conceived by former Chilean Ambassador to the Philippines, Roberto Mayorga, with several Philippine universities, is indeed a human quality which places the Filipino overseas workers a cut above workers from other countries. As cases in point, I have heard British and American patients expressing preference for Filipino nurses because of TLC. When I lived in Barcelona, I realized that many of the best restaurants in that most visited city prefer to hire Filipino waiters because of TLC (in addition to their excellent personal hygiene). Senior citizens all over the aging world in Europe and Northeast Asia heap praises on Filipino caregivers for their TLC. The Philippines surpassed India in total employment of call centers because of the Filipino's pleasant personality vs the Indian's argumentative character.
It easy to say that Filipinos, like other Asians in the Malay race, are programmed to be caring and compassionate because of their inherited culture. But the question still remains how are these humane traits transferred from one generation to another? One possible answer to this question can be found in a very insightful article by a professor of management from the Wharton School of Finance of the University of Pennsylvania, the author of "Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Successes." In an article that appeared in the Opinion Review section of the International New York Times (April 12-13, 2014), Adam Grant gave parents some advice on "how to raise a moral child." The gist of his advice is that children learn how to be tender and compassionate from the personal examples of their parents. Most Filipinos are caring and compassionate, at all social levels, because of the personal examples they witness in their parents or older relatives. As they say in some religious circles, Fr. Example is the best preacher.
I have my own take about the role of nature as distinguished from nurture in bringing up caring children. Professor Grant opines that part of the TLC trait is inherited: "Genetic twin studies suggest that anywhere from a quarter to more than half our propensity to be giving and caring is inherited. That leaves a lot of room for nurture, and the evidence on how parents raise kind and compassionate children flies in the face of what many of even the most well-intentioned parents do in praising good behavior, responding to bad behavior, and communicating their values." I personally would give less importance to genes. My study of Christian philosophy tells me that every human being is programmed by his Creator to give of himself. Why? Because every child born to this world is made unto the image of God who is Infinite Love Himself. Everyone of us (including business people) can go beyond the love of pleasure and the love of friendship. Each can love with the love of benevolence, the unselfish giving of oneself to others without expecting anything in return. This "gratuitousness", as Pope Benedict called it in "Charity in Truth," is in our spiritual DNA. This potential to love unselfishly, however, can be blunted or even completely negated by the utter lack of character formation in childhood and especially by the bad example from selfish parents and other adults to which the child has been exposed in his early years. It is of the nature of every human being, made unto the image of God, to show compassion to others. This ability to love unselfishly, however, has to be nurtured by the right practices of parents and teachers. Among such laudable practices is for parents to bring their children along with them when they carry out such corporal works of mercy as visiting the sick, the poor, or prisoners.
What are some child rearing practices, in addition to the primordial personal examples of unselfish behavior on the part of parents? Professor Grant provides some evidence-based advice: Praise of good character is effective in nurturing good behavior. As he wrote, "Praise appears to be particularly influential in the critical periods when children develop a stronger sense of identity. When the researchers Joan E. Grusec and Erica Redler praised the character of 5-year-olds, any benefits that may have emerged didn't have a lasting impact: They may have been too young to internalize moral character as part of a stable sense of self. And by the time children turned 10, the differences between praising character and praising actions vanished. Both were effective. Tying generosity to character appears to matter most around age 8, when children may be starting to crystallize notions of identity."
There is also the very Christian concept of distinguishing between the sinner and the sin, a point being constantly stressed by Pope Francis. Parents must focus on condemning bad behavior without attacking the person of the child. By explaining why the behavior was wrong, how it affected others, and how they can rectify the situation, parents enable children to develop standards for judging their actions, feelings of empathy and responsibility for others, and a sense of moral identity, which are conducive to becoming a helpful person. As Professor Ward elucidates: "The beauty of expressing disappointment is that it communicates disapproval of the bad behavior, coupled with high expectations and the potential for improvement: "You are a good person, even if you did a bad thing, and I know you can do better." This is actually a paraphrasing of words often used by Jesus Christ to admonish sinners: "Your sins are forgiven you. Sin no more." Christian parents have all the wherewithals to raise moral children. They have the insights from philosophy and empirical sciences as well as the supernatural help they get from their faith. For comments, my email address is email@example.com.