Bernardo M. Villegas
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Raising Courteous and Caring Children

          Pope Francis, in his Apostolic Exhortation on Love in the Family reminds married couples, quoting the Synod Fathers, that “one of the fundamental challenges facing families today is undoubtedly that of raising children, made all the more difficult and complex by today’s cultural reality and the powerful influence of the media.”  The Pope insists that the overall education of children “is a most serious duty” and at the same time a “primary right” of parents.   He reminds parents that “all other participants in the process of education are only able to carry out their responsibilities in the name of the parents, with their consent and, to a certain degree, with their authorization.”  This primordial parental task is made more difficult in these times when some of our leaders, starting with the head of state, are giving the wrong examples in the coarse language they use and the lack of refinement in dealing with other people.

         That is why I was very glad to receive through Viber a very useful set of guidelines on how to make sure that at home, Filipino parents—despite the odds of a hostile political and media environment—can still go against the current and form among their children individuals who are courteous, refined in behavior and sensitive to the needs of others.  A friend, Rafael Evangelista, regularly sends inspiring messages to his friends.  I want to share with a wider audience one of his latest Viber messages concerning the upbringing of children.  By following his advice, we can make sure that Generation Z children (those born in the third millennium) can be immunized from the bad examples that they may see in some of our leaders who are constantly being paraded by an undiscerning media for their boorish and coarse language.  Actually this series of advice will surely remind those of us from both the baby boomer and X generations what our parents drilled into us incessantly.

         Teach your children to always say “Please” when asking for something and “Thank you” when receiving something or when someone has helped them.  Teach them to say “Welcome” after someone has thanked them.  Teach them to say “Excuse me” when they need to go through a crowd, bump into someone or want to get someone’s attention.  Teach them to not interrupt, whether it be a conversation between two people of which they are not part (unless it is an emergency) or when someone is speaking to them.  Show them how it is impolite to comment on other peoples’ characteristics or physical appearances, unless it is a compliment. 

         Teach your children to always ask for permission when they want to use something that is not their own.  Highlight the importance of showing gratitude.  Show your children how to write a simple thank you note. Especially when they receive gifts in the mail, they should not be allowed to use the gift until they have properly thanked whoever gave it to them.  Give your children a lesson in hygiene. Teach them to cover their mouth when they cough or sneeze and to never pick their nose in public and always use a tissue.  Teach them to politely respond when someone asks them how they are and to always ask the question in return.  Tell your children how important it is to respect other people’s privacy.   They should always knock on closed doors and wait for a response before opening them.

       Enforce the idea of table manners.  Teach them to not reach across the table to get something, but instead to ask someone to please pass it to them.   Teach them to hold the door open for others if the opportunity presents itself and always say, “Thank you” if someone holds the door for them.  Show them how to clean up after play time and after meals.  Teach them how to make their bed.  This will go a long way in helping them “make their lives.”  Teach them to show respect by standing, taking their hats off, and placing their right hands over their hearts when the National Anthem is played or when the National Flag is carried in a parade.    Tell them to always remember people’s names, and to address people in accordance with recognized decorum and manners, using “sir,” “mam,” “po,” or similar words when addressing elders.  Teach them to respect their elders, parents, grandparents, teachers and persons in the exercise of legitimate authority.   Teach them not to litter and show them by concrete examples how important it is to keep our earth clean.  Tell them why it is important to always show good sportsmanship whether they win or lose.   More importantly, they should be convinced that losing is not the end of the world, but a lesson learned that can lead to winning ways.  Tell them it is wrong to bully others, for whatever reason, and that positive results can better be accomplished by friendly and constructive dialogue.  Tell them, however, that there is nothing wrong with standing up for one’s legal rights and legitimate beliefs.  Tell them about values.  Better still, teach them by word and example about value formation, especially love of God and country, the core of good citizenship.

         These may appear as very small or trivial things.  But God (and the devil) is in the details.  It is primarily in the family, with the right child rearing practices, can parents ensure that the next generation of Filipinos will continue to retain the many positive values of courtesy, politeness, refinement, and good manners that have been part of our culture.  Whether it is from the so-called cultural or ideological colonization coming from other countries that have lost even the most elementary rules of  good conduct and behavior or from the bad examples of the wrong kind of leaders who actually seem to enjoy flaunting their coarse language and boorish actions, the parents of today have to do everything possible to provide their children with the vaccine of “good manners and right conduct.”  For comments, my email address is bernardo.vilegas@uap.asia.