CRITICAL THINKING

True or False. Animals cannot create things.

This was one question on Ryan’s science quiz on which we had a discussion. The teacher’s guide said that it was TRUE, but Ryan insisted that it was FALSE.

I gave Ryan the chance to explain why he said the statement was FALSE. He said that birds make their own nests and beavers build their own dams, so in that sense, animals can create things. He did have a point, so for that, I marked his answer correct. (One of the reasons why I love homeschooling 🙂 )

As his homeschool teacher, it is easy to mark his mistakes wrong because the answer key says so. But I want more for him than just accepting what the books say. I want him to think and process every information that he comes across with. I need to be secure when my kids challenge me, not out of disrespect, but out of determination to learn.

As the school year is drawing to a close, I want to look back on the past 10 months and know that I didn’t just spoonfeed information to my children and they blindly memorized everything. That is not how I want my children to grow up. They can remember the names of all of the Philippine presidents but do they know what makes a good president? ” Critical thinking, is a skill that elevates thinking beyond memorization into the realm of analysis and logic. ”

My goal for educating my kids is to equip and empower them for life. More than memorizing facts, which can be easily googled anyway, I want them to know how to think, how to reason out, how to challenge statements, how to weigh information, how to solve problems and make decisions.

WHEN IT’S OKAY TO IGNORE

“Mom, Ryan’s baseball friend told me that I’m small and that I can’t play baseball,” our three-year old Joaquin said.

Over the years, even my older kids have come up to me at one time or another to report that a classmate or a friend told them they were not good enough.

It’s inevitable that our kids will hear put-downs from others about their looks, their potential, their achievements and just about any trivial thing that concerns them.

As parents, we can react in different ways. We can go and confront that boy who put down our child and warn him to stop bullying our son “or else…” Or we can pull out our child from that school and look for a more friendly environment for him. Or we can constantly hover around our child and make sure no one comes near him who has bad intentions. Or we can teach our kids to attack with meaner words like “Yes I’m small but I’ll grow bigger but you, you’ll stay ugly forever!” (Believe me, there were times in the past, I was so tempted to attack!)

Or we can simply tell our kids to ignore the comment. We can teach our child to listen to the right voices and reject the wrong ones.

When Joaquin told me about the incident, I reminded him of the video we just watched entitled “Dave and the Giant Pickle.” (Talk about timing…) This was VeggieTales version of the biblical account of David and Goliath. I reminded Joaquin that even if David was small, he was able to kill Goliath because God was with him. So even if other kids tell him he’s small, he can still do great things because God will help him. “So Joaquin, you are big because God is with you!”  I saw how his face lit up as he received affirmation from me.

Of course, your response will depend on the gravity of the situation. If your child is constantly being bullied by his classmates and he is starting to hate school because of that, by all means move him to another school. But if it is a simple case of immature teasing, teach your child to ignore those comments, and feed his mind with the right ones. When others say discouraging things to our children, let our words of praise and affirmation speak even louder!

DISCIPLINE IS PAINFUL

We were already geared up to go to Toys ‘R Us, as anonymous child had been wanting to go there for weeks. He was clutching his wallet in his hands, and was looking forward to finally get that toy he’d been saving up for weeks. You know the look on your child’s face when he is about to open a birthday present? I was happy to see that look on his face.

On our way, anonymous child said something that was disrespectful to me. It was hurtful to be spoken to by one of my children like that but I tried to convince myself that maybe i should just let this pass and not make a big deal out of it. I didn’t want to ruin our supposed “date” to the toy store.

But there was the nagging part of me that just didn’t want this to slide. I knew how important it is to God that children honor their parents. And if I didn’t do anything about this, I was communicating to my child that his behavior was acceptable.

So I did it. I explained that what he said didn’t show honor to me and he had to be disciplined for it. I knew it would break my son’s heart, and it broke mine more to see it, but I had to cancel our trip as a consequence of his disrespectful attitude. I reminded him of Ephesians 6:1-3 that says ‘Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.’

When children honor their parents, God rewards THEM, not us. The promise of everything going well and enjoying a long life is given to children who honor their parents, not to the parents. And don’t we all want our children to receive that promise? That is why we need to teach our children to honor us. It is not so we will feel good about ourselves, or that others will see how well-behaved our children are, but so they honor God and receive His promise. It was this biblical principle that convinced me to just head back home instead of to the toy store.

When the Bible says “No discipline seems pleasant, but painful…” (Heb 12:11), I think it’s not only talking about the one who is being disciplined, but also about the person doing the disciplining. When I discipline my child and give him a consequence, it doesn’t give me a sense of happy satisfaction or enjoyment. It hurts me to see my child in pain. It hurt me to see the look on my child’s face when I told him that we were not going to the toy store anymore, knowing how excited he was to go. That’s why, often, the easier thing is to look the other way and not deal with misbehavior. But a parent who is serious about raising his child the right way should be tough enough to handle the “unpleasantness” of discipline.

It is not for our own good, but for our child’s.

A LATE NEW YEAR POST

2012. I wish I had a better start. After our 2011 year-end trip, most of us got sick. I was tired of being woken up at night by coughing kids and giving medicine round the clock. Added to that was the huge task of cleaning up the house of the left-over mess from the holidays. I was tired and grumpy (and hungry from our one week fast.) I didn’t realize the extent of my  temper until Joaquin told me the other day “Mom, can you not shout again? Please have a nice attitude.” My 3-year old couldn’t have said it better.

Haay… I am reminded once again of my inadequacy and incompetence. I really cannot do this parenting thing on my own. I need divine help. I need God’s grace. I desperately need His help.

A mental preview of 2012 is enough to make me feel excited and exhausted at the same time. I am anticipating a busy year as Nathan prepares to take his college entrance exams, while Janina prepares for highschool and pursues her new-found “career” in theater, and as I homeschool the kids and manage all their extra-curricular activities on top of our speaking engagements and ministry.  No complaints here. I love being fruitful. I just know that I cannot do this on my own.

As we go through another year, I acknowledge my complete dependence on God. I cannot even come close to being a good wife and mother without God’s help. I cannot be an effective speaker without God’s anointing. I cannot mentor and coach other women without His wisdom. I am nothing and cannot be anything without God.

DON’T YOU JUST LOVE BEING A MOM?

Two nights ago, Ryan came to our room asking if he could sleep with us. Occasionally, one of our kids will knock on our bedroom door in the middle of the night, pillow and comforter in tow, saying he had a bad dream and just wanted to be with us. It is for this reason that I have a spare mattress in our room. I love it that we are able to give them the comfort they need.

Joaquin, who has been clingly the past days, told me yesterday “Mom, don’t leave me ok? You’re mine, ok?” That just melted my heart.

Last night, after we had a family group hug, Janina asked us “Don’t you just love having 4 kids?!” And I exclaimed, “It’s the best!”

Tonight, Nathan said that he wants a Kindle for his birthday and Janina gladly volunteered to pay for half of it. It gave me joy to see that my kids actually love each other. 🙂

It’s not always easy. In fact, let me be honest and say that it has been a lot of hard work. It’s never perfect. But I can’t imagine my life any other way.
Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him. Psalm 127:3

STEPPING OUT OF THE WAY

Sometimes it seems the easiest thing to do is to give our child what he wants and make him happy. It is such a temptation to be the answer to our child’s wants and needs rather than teaching him to believe God for it or to work for it.

When our daughter, Janina, got her new puppy, Briggie, it wasn’t without faith, hardwork and tears.  When she first brought up the idea of getting a Maltese, we told her that she will have to use her own savings. Not only that, we wanted her to be the one to look for one that is affordably priced. Paolo and I thought that this would be good training for her. We would pray with her for the puppy but we expected her to do all the legwork necessary.

We saw Janina spending hours online and on the phone looking for a Maltese and comparing prices.  She learned what questions to ask the sellers and how to haggle for a lower price. There were nice, accommodating people and rude to very rude people, and she learned to deal with all kinds. One night, after weeks of doing that, she was in tears because she couldn’t find one that fit her budget. It was at this point when Paolo and I almost gave in, and thought of just raising the money ourselves to help out our little girl. But somehow a voice inside us told us to step out of the way and teach Janina to wait on God and believe Him for His provision. Janina was already getting impatient and desperate, yet God commanded us to stay away from the situation. That is not always easy for us parents especially when we see our child distraught and discouraged.  We realized that this was as much a lesson for us as parents as it was for Janina.

A few days after that incident, Janina auditioned for the musical “Sound of Music.” Thank God for His favor, Janina made it! With the money that she will earn, she could finally buy the Maltese she’s been wanting and be able to pay even for the dog’s food for life :D. No wonder God told us to step out of the way–He has already set His plan in motion!

I think about that and wonder what would have happened if we took matters into our hands and made things happen for Janina. Then Janina would have missed out on experiencing first hand the faithfulness of her Heavenly Father as her provider. And we as parents would have missed God’s assurance for us that He will take care of our children.

I realize that sometimes our goal for our children is so short-term. They want something, we give it to them. They’re happy. End of story. But God is not just concerned about our children getting what they want and making them happy.  He wants our children to get to know Him better and to grow in their faith as they wait upon Him. He wants a relationship with our children.

“Oh how great is the love the Father has lavished on us!”

THE ABILITY TO UNDERSTAND

Think about this for a moment… What would you say if your son comes home one day and says he feels bad for losing the student council elections? Or if your daughter says that one of her classmates don’t like her?

I bet you would tell him “That’s ok. There’s always next time.” And you would have told her “You really can’t please everyone. There will always be people who will not like you.”

How we respond to our kids when they open up to us is crucial if we want them to keep that openness. Oftentimes I find myself giving “pat on the back” answers like “It’s gonna be okay” or sounding preachy and saying statements like “You know you should just forgive.” What I’ve realized over the years is, though there will be a time and a need for answers like that, what our kids initially need is our empathy. They need to know that we are not too old or too distant to understand what they are going through. They need to know that we can understand what they are feeling. They need to know that they can vent out their feelings to us without being judged or being preached to. I guess that’s why there is a “communication gap” between parents and children… when both parties fail to make the effort to understand each other.

We need to make sure our kids feel relief and comfort when they open up to us, not guilt or condemnation or frustration. And so whenever they share things to me about their day,  I try to ask them first “How does that make you feel?” or say “I know how you feel.” And I also try to remember similar experiences from my past and relate to them how I handled the situation. By doing this, we connect with them on an emotional level and show them that we do understand what they are going through. That’s really the main reason why they vent out in the first place… to know that there’s someone who understands.

BE A STUDENT OF YOUR CHILD

When I graduated from college, I was glad to be done with books and research and studying. But four years after, when I was pregnant with our first child, I found myself devouring books again, but this time with excitement and eagerness. I found myself, yet again, being a student… a student of my children.

For the first time last week, I played NBA on the PS3. I stayed away from it all these years because the buttons just looked so complicated. But my son Ryan persisted, and I found myself enjoying the game with him.

The older my children get, the more I realize I need to spend time to know them and to know about them. Not only do I need to study how they develop physiologically, but I need to understand their temperaments and their individual preferences. I need to learn what motivates them and what discourages them. I need to learn to play the games they play and sing the songs they sing. I need to get help from other parents who can help me train and discipline my children.

I wished they had Motherhood 101 in college. I didn’t realize that I had so much more to learn until I became a mom. I am glad that there are so many resources available to us now… books, blogs, parenting seminars… they are easily accessible. And spend a lot, lot, lot of time with our kids so we can discover the person they are and are becoming. If we want to be effective in what we do, we should never stop learning and getting to know our kids.

SIBLING JEALOUSY

I got a text from a friend who just gave birth and was asking me for advice on sibling jealousy. This brings me back 12 years ago. I distinctly remember the scene at the hospital. I just gave birth to our second child, Janina, and Nathan came to visit her for the first time. I purposedly positioned Janina down on the bed so when Nathan came in the room, he would have access to me or to the baby, wherever he wanted to go to first. After giving me a tight hug, he immediately went on the hospital bed to take a closer look at his baby sister.  His face was beaming, he was all smiles, he was a proud kuya (big brother!) That was the start of a wonderful brother-sister relationship which holds until today!

Nathan and janinaNathan was an only child for three and a half years until I gave birth to Janina. He was our firstborn, and he was the first grandchild on both sides, thus he was used to our undivided attention, and we knew we had to thoroughly prepare him for the arrival of his sister. I’ve heard stories when the older child became aggressive towards the baby, or on the other extreme, became withdrawn from everyone, because of jealousy. We were determined to make sure this didn’t happen.

Different kids react differently to a new sibling. Most will be excited. They require little preparation. They’re instantly the ideal kuya or ate. But some kids on the other hand, require more preparation. They don’t instantly bond with their baby brother or sister. Some feel a resentment towards the new baby. A few blogs ago, I wrote about how preparation can be a key to a lot of our children’s successes. Here are a few ideas to make the transition easier.

Once you know you’re pregnant, refrain from statements like “you’re not my baby anymore.” You need to constantly assure your kids that your love for them will not change even with the coming of the baby. You also need to stop people who tease them about this.

Show him pictures of your developing baby week by week or month by month. You can buy a book or look for pictures on the internet. Explain how your baby is growing.

You can buy a doll to practice having a baby around. You can use it as a tool to teach your other kids how to be gentle with babies- no eye poking, no fingers in ears, mouth, how they need to be quiet when the baby is sleeping, etc.

You can pull out the pictures of your older child from right after he was born, and talk about how excited you were to have him in the family. Tell them stories about how cute he was, what he did when he was very small, how he cried, how he slept.

Take siblngs shopping for stuff for the baby. Let them pick out clothes, blankets, toys. Bring them to your doctor’s appointments.

Organize a playgroup for your older child before baby’s born so he feels he has his own group.

You can make a “big brother/sister” or “I’m a kuya or ate” shirt with your older kids.

Take the older child out for a special date for just the two of you or a special day of fun just before the baby is  born.

Get them a gift from the baby when the baby is born . If the baby arrives and immediately has a present for the older sibling it might help turn a positive swing on it.

When you first see the other kids after giving birth, when they come to visit you in the hospital, don’t hold the baby so you can give them a hug first. Leave the baby in the bassinet so they could run over and jump in the bed to see you and spend a few minutes with you and then introduce them to the baby.

When your friends and relatives come to visit, tell them to say hi to your other children first before the baby.

When your older child asks for your attention, never say that you can’t because the baby needs you. Whenever you can, try to accommodate the older child first. If you can delegate other things to the yaya like changing the diaper or burping, do so, so you have time for the other kids.

Ask help from your older child when you’re giving the baby a bath or changing diapers. When you’re breastfeeding, don’t exclude your older child. You can ask him to sit beside you and watch a video together as you feed your baby.

Do not make other changes like potty training or moving to another bed. Do these changes before the baby is born or a few months after he has adjusted to having the baby at home.

The arrival of your new baby should be a wonderful time for everyone. And with effort and some creativity, it will be!