Bernardo M. Villegas
Articles  >> more topics
Parents Are Still First Educators (Part 2)

             Parents of low-income households have less danger of spoiling their children.  There is the need from the earliest age to assign numerous tasks to their children, even to help in earning a living.  This explains why there is a high drop-out rate of pupils, especially boys, as early as in grade school among families falling below the poverty line,  i.e. earning less than P10,000 a month.  It may be small comfort but it is a fact that parents with scarce economic means have less possibility of turning out spineless adults among their children.  Children of economically disadvantaged families grow up to be responsible and hard-working men and women at very early ages.

            It is among the upper middle class and rich families, especially in the gated subdivisions, that there is a real danger of parents failing to educate their children in freedom and responsibility.  As the Philippines  transitions from a low-middle income to a high-middle income economy in the coming decade or so, it is even more important to make parents realize fully that they are the first educators of their children and that the future continuing progress of the country depends on how they carry out this responsibility.  It is ordinarily within the high-middle income households where the future political, business and other leaders of the country are nurtured.  We cannot afford to have spoiled brats taking over these leadership positions.  That would lead to the ruin of our society (as has happened often in the past).           In some of these well-to-do households, parents limit themselves to giving in to their children’s whims and caprices.  Although on the surface this may appear to be more comfortable and less confrontational, in the long run this approach incurs much heavier costs, and above all does not help children to mature, since it does not prepare them for a life of freedom and responsibility.  People who, from a very early age, get used to thinking that everything is solved in an automatic way, without involving serious effort or self-denial, will find it hard to mature.  When life’s inevitable blows come, it may be too late to remedy the situation.

            It does not help that social media exalts hedonism and consumerism especially in well-to-do families.  This overly materialistic ambiance does not help in fostering appreciation of the value of virtues, or of the importance of delaying immediate gratification in order to obtain a greater good.   In the face of such an adverse environment, common sense makes clear the importance of exerting special effort to counteract it.  More than ever, it is important today to demonstrate convincingly how someone who possesses the moral energy to fight against the prevailing environment is more free than someone who does not. 

            It would be very useful here to quote some passages from a classic on how to raise children in a truly Christian home.  The book is entitled “God and Children” and is authored by the late Father Jesus Urteaga, priest of Opus Dei.  In the chapter entitled “Spoiling your Children,” Fr. Urteaga reiterates what we have written above: “Freedom is opposed both to over-strictness on the part of the parents and to that over-indulgence which enslaves the children.  Many mothers love their children with a love composed only of sweetness, a kind of sugary tenderness.  But true and genuine love desires only the good of the beloved, so it is composed of sympathy with severity, patience with intransigence, understanding with firmness.” These words apply especially to the tragedy of the “Mama’s” boys who become spineless adults because of extreme indulgence shown to them by their respective over-solicitous mothers.

            Something similar may happen in some of the lavish homes in Greenhills where there is a large number of Filipino-Chinese families who became very rich as a result of the rags-to-riches efforts of a great grandfather or a grandfather.  Quoting Fr. Urteaga,  “To spoil or pamper them:  that is one of the great dangers.  It sometimes happens that parents who themselves had to fight hard for success in life, who had to overcome great obstacles and innumerable barriers, who had to suffer heavy blows and hard knocks from friends and enemies, try, when the time comes, to make life easier for their children.  And this is a grave mistake which is paid for dearly in this world.”

            And there is the case of those parents who suffered from overly strict and authoritarian practices of their own parents.  Remembering the hardships they themselves suffered from their own parents, they now try to make life too soft for their children.  They load them with material comforts; they protect them from any kind of unpleasantness; they give in to all their whims.  They think they are shielding them from sufferings.  In fact, what they are doing is denying their children the slightest chance of acquiring experience.  A normal child, who might turn out to be someone great in life, may grow up to be completely useless because of being spoiled, petted, pampered, flattered, kissed and hugged at all times.  Without sounding racist, there is nothing more disconcerting for me than to meet a Filipino Chinese who is a lazy bum!

            So that we do not remain at the level of motherhood statements, let me quote what Fr. Urteaga—who was Chaplain in a school for boys with hundreds of students in Madrid—recommends as a good practice for parents who want to raise boys who will grow up to be men of strong character.  The following is recommended:

--A fixed hour for getting up

-A fixed hour for going to bed.

-More cold showers than warm baths.

-Unless the child is sick, he must eat normally whatever is put in front of him.

-A temperature of 98.4 F shows that they are fit to go to school.

-They should not ask anyone to do things for them which they can do themselves.

-Means of transport to school are: feet, bicycle or public transport, but never get out the car just because they are going to be late.

-Teach them to finish everything fully and properly.   This is a difficult art to practise, possibly one of the most difficult of all.

            These are just illustrative of child rearing practices that can be adapted to more specific circumstances in the Philippine setting.  The important thing is to make demands from the children that will challenge their ability to exert effort not always to choose the line of least resistance.    To be continued.