Teaching kids about happiness

I am a cup-half-full kind of person. Always have been. And one of my goals is to teach my kids that while happiness is a feeling, there are things we can practice to help us be happier. More importantly, I would never want them to believe that another person holds the key to their happiness.

Last year, Iana started the habit of asking me if I were happy. I do not know where she got the idea but I thought it harmless and sweet, even, as I felt how much she cared for me. Whenever I answered yes (well, I always was in a good mood whenever she asked me), I knew she was genuinely happy, too.

positive parenting

A couple of months ago, I had a bad day. That night, while carrying Iana up the stairs, she asked me if I were happy. I stopped walking and asked her to kiss me. After she did, I replied that I was. She looked satisfied when she heard my answer.

For a couple of weeks, that became our usual routine. She would ask me if I were happy, I would ask her to kiss me, then I would answer yes. Of course, after a few times, she associated her kisses with my happiness (as any two year old kid would). I know most people would not see anything wrong with this. In fact, most parents’ joy centers on their children. Something was nagging at me, however; I felt that something was not right.

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#momgoal achieved

Last night’s conversation…

Jia confided something to me.

Me: Does it bother you?
Jia: Not really.
Me: It must bother you enough to tell me.
Jia: Oh! No! I just tell you everything.

And with her words, myheart burst with bliss! ❤

Building relationships with our kids

My eldest daughter, Jia, is almost 9 years old. My youngest daughter, Iana, is turning 3yo. In terms of interests and play, their stages are vastly different. Jia’s interests are centered on tween stuff – – books, music (she’s a fan of Ed Sheeran), her writing, tinkering in the kitchen, Heelys. Plus she has a tendency to be absorbed with whatever she is doing and when that happens, she will just forget about other things. But because she loves Iana so much, she makes it a point to build a relationship with her. And because she knows from our Positive Discipline chats that to build a relationship, you have to spend time, she makes it a point to spend time with her (and Joya, too). In fact, she included daily dates with her siblings in her everyday routine.

The other day, I was beyond proud when I saw this reminder on her shelf.

positive parenting

It was so heartwarming to me that she makes an effort to be close to her sister and to build a relationship with her.

Because parents have busy, busy schedules, we sometimes forget to build relationships with our kids. We are so busy providing for them and managing them and bringing them from one summer class to another, we forget that of utmost importance is the relationship we form with them. We forget that having a great relationship with our kids saves us from having to send them to therapy later on. Haha!

The importance of time

So how do we do this? How do we form a relationship with our kids? Well, we spend time with them. It was the inspiring Zig Ziglar who said that to a child, love is spelled T-I-M-E. And this is not being beside our child while we’re on our phones… this is honest-to-goodness playing, talking, learning what interests him, getting to know him as a person, knowing his opinions about things that matter to him (even if the things that matter to him gross us out. LOL!). It does not matter if their interests are not interesting to us. We should make an effort. Spend time.

When I think about it, it makes so much sense. I spent so much time with J when we were first going out to really get to know him. I invest time on friendships I want to nurture. I practice and practice and practice skills I want to master. Basically, I spend time on things I deem important.

positive parenting

Connecting with kids shouldn’t be any different. We have to consciously spend time with them. (And no, time nagging them on things does not count.) It does not have to be hours (with work and all other stuff, who has hours?). Just spend ten minutes a day with your kids and watch them bloom!

With my super busy schedule (running a household, breastfeeding, homeschooling, being a wife, holding workshops), maybe I will do what Jia’s doing… I will post reminders on my shelf  so I will not forget to play with my kids. After all, I had them to be with them and be with them I will.


Spills, accidents, and positive parenting

My whole family recently trooped to the beach for our first beach hurrah for the year. Right after lunch the kids went to play in the sand again. They were just so happy to be in the water again after several months.

Positive parenting

They played until such time that we needed to leave for another island. Because I was not able to prepare much for the trip, I did not have food for them that they could eat in the boat. I knew they would be hungry so I got money from my wallet (thinking Php40 would be enough to buy food for the kids) and passed by the sari sari store before boarding the boat. My money was able to buy three pieces of Fudgee Bars and one pack of Hansel. (So healthy, right?! Facepalm moment, I know!)

The boat we rented was small and only two people can sit side-by-side. Jia and Joya were sitting beside each other. Jia got the Hansel and Joya and Iana got Fudgee Bars each. J was seated behind the kids and offered to open Jia’s Hansel as the water was not calm. Jia politely refused and said she could open it by herself. The next thing I heard was, “Oh no! It fell! Mom, two completely perfect Hansel sandwiches fell!”

The mom in me was like “Oh no! Hindi siya mabubusog! I am sure gutom na gutom pa man din siya! Kawawa naman!” Pre-positive parenting, my husband and I would probably have reacted with “Naku, Jia!!!” or worse, “Hindi kasi nag-dahan-dahan!” or “Sinabing nang ibigay kay Daddy eh!”

But years of practicing positive parenting have apparently changed me and all I said was, “Oh! They fell.”

I could see that Jia was feeling bad. She was hungry and her food fell. I honestly would not have blamed her if she self-pitied or cried a bit. I probably would have. Because of Positive Discipline, I have learned to be less reactive and since I am more attuned to her emotions now, I knew it would have been brutal to shame or blame her.

“What a waste, Mom!” she said while looking at the biscuits on the bangka floor.

“Oo nga, sayang,” I agreed.

I did not offer her the extra Fudgee bar. That would have been rescuing and at that moment, I knew it would not do good in terms of my goal of raising responsible and grounded kids.

We were quiet after that and Jia made do with her two Hansel sandwiches. I did not hear a single whine from her.

Positive parenting
I went back to sight seeing and my own thoughts. It dawned on me, yet again, how easy it is to blame kids when an accident happens (kasi hindi sila nag-ingat, hindi sila nag-dahan-dahan, hindi sila nakinig, at iba pa). We tend to tell kids why an accident happened, how it happened, how they should feel that it happened, what they can do so it won’t happen again, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera! But when we, the adults, spill or break something, we merely say, “It was an accident.” It might be funny only if it were not so shaming and damaging to the kids’ esteem.

Days after that, when we were looking at pictures, we talked about what happened. (My daughter is actually quite self-aware for her age.) I asked her how she would have felt if I blamed her. She said she would probably have yelled. I then asked how she would have felt if I just did not say anything. She would have felt ignored, she answered. But because I just validated her feelings (Sayang naman talaga!), she coped with what happened on her own.

One thing I have learned, when I let go and let my kids handle problems on their own, they learn and it’s the kind of learning that sticks.

I know I still have to master patience and positive parenting but little wins like this continue to inspire me. 🙂

Positive parenting and sports

A month ago, Jia took part in a swimming competition. That was a first for her (joining a competition) and for me as a mom. Jia goes to a Montessori school and they don’t have grades, quiz bees, tests, and homeworks. They do not even have books and notebooks. So the concept of a competition was known to Jia only through her books. 🙂 When Jia told me that her Coach was inviting her to join a competition, I very subtly encouraged her because I wanted her to experience the discipline of being in sports. I did not expect to learn so much as a positive parenting mom from that experience. Ang dami kong natutunan, feeling ko I grew so much as a parent. So am blogging the things I learned here.

But first things first, I have to just say that I do not believe in pressuring children unduly. They will get much more pressure than they would ever need as adults so I do not see any sense in pressuring them now. Oh, but just in case you are wondering, I am also definitely not a coddling parent. 🙂

Go with child-led activities

positive parenting - child led

I think every parent faces the very difficult task of finding the balance between pushing (like a tiger mom) and being chill (like an elephant mom). What I have learned though is it’s always better when activities are child-led and child-decided, or at least, perceived as child-decided. 🙂

Learning how to swim was a non-negotiable for us. Aside from swimming being an important life skill, all our kids have asthma so we really want them to learn how to swim. Two summers ago, I kept on asking Jia if she wanted to take swimming classes. She said no and so it was just Joya who took lessons. She eventually decided to take lessons (nakulitan na yata sa akin) but the whole cycle flew by and she did not even learn how to do freestyle.

Since then, whenever I brought up swimming classes, she would say no until, because of positive parenting, I just stopped bringing it up. Then last February, while we were in Potipot Island in Zambales, Jia said that she loved the water so much, she might as well learn how to swim. Hallelujah! Because it was her decision to take lessons, she took it seriously.

Set expectations

positive parenting - set expectations

Before we enrolled in a cycle (a cycle is composed of 12 days / 2 weeks), I talked to her (and Joya, who was also taking the class) about how it would be. Since the class was everyday and it would take a toll on their bodies, they needed to be extra conscious about their diet. I also stressed to them the importance of sleeping early because their swimming class was in the morning.

Ang galing nung effect nung conversation namin. Because I explained everything that was expected of them, we did not have a single problem. Because THEY decided to take the class, they meticulously followed our agreement (be more conscious about sleep and diet) and even though I knew there were times that they did not want to go to class, they still did.

Before that first cycle ended, I asked them if they wanted to enroll in the next cycle. I explained their options and what was expected of them should they continue with the classes. They both said no. I did not push them. I knew the classes were tiring. They decided instead to rest for two weeks and then enroll in the cycle after that. I was so proud of them; they were deciding for themselves and in positive parenting, this is super important.

Strike a deal! (And prepare to live up to your end of the bargain.)

positive parenting - deal

Three days into their second cycle, Jia came home one day saying that she did not have a good day because she was being transferred to a male coach the next day. Honestly, I was also not comfortable with the idea so I told her that we would talk to the Head Coach so she would not have to transfer. At mali ako dun, maling mali. I should have investigated and asked first (This is a cardinal rule in positive parenting.) and not be the typical enabler parent. 🙁

The next day, when we arrived, the Head Coach informed me that Jia was indeed being transferred to a male coach. Coach Roel (the Head Coach) explained that Jia was actually being promoted to the advanced group. Jia, however, vehemently refused to transfer. She probably even felt I betrayed her because I told her that she did not have to transfer. So while the clock was ticking (read as: yung oras namin sa swimming class ay nauubos), Jia and I talked. She was crying and I have to admit nase-stress ako na yung oras umaandar (sayang pera!). We probably talked for more than 15 minutes but I knew that she needed to do it on her own accord, so I consciously ignored the time. I knew that ordering her to get into the water will NOT work at all!

She was saying that she did not want to attend swimming classes anymore. I reminded her, in a kind and firm voice, that we already paid for the whole cycle and to not attend would be wasting money. By that time, I could see the Head Coach signalling to me that she could just stay with her current coach. It was the easy way out but I knew that I needed to convince Jia to go to the advanced class.

In the end, I struck a deal with her — she would try one class and if she did not like it, she was free to go back to her old coach . I did not have to cajole nor order her. It was a deal we both decided to go into. Thankfully, after the class, she told me she wanted to stay in the advanced lane. Had she decided to stay in her current class, I would have had no choice but to fulfill my end  of the bargain.

Be your child’s advocate… ALWAYS!

positive parenting - advocate

When Jia decided to try the advanced class, I explained to the Head Coach how uncomfortable Jia felt. I think it made all the difference because the Head Coach (with whom Jia was very comfortable with although he’s a male) watched out for her. I think the fact that I did not discount Jia’s feelings worked out really well. She felt validated.

Interestingly, Joya was also being asked to transfer to another coach during that time and he also did not want to. In his case, I knew his reason was because the new prospective coach had a tendency to raise his voice. Now, at our home, we do not condone shouting. In fact, one of Joya’s “favorite” issues to raise during our family meetings is shouting. He abhors shouting and absolutely hates being yelled at. (Well… who does?) The coach he was being transferred to would shout at his students. Some people might think that what I did was meddling but I would not want anyone to shout at my son (but I am sure you know how, in sports training, shouting at kids is just so common, it’s not a big deal anymore). So I talked to the Head Coach and said that I was aware that the new coach had the tendency to raise his voice but Joya would not like that. It worked! Joya was given to a soft-spoken coach instead. The transition was so easy!

Validate feelings (A very important positive parenting tool!)

positive parenting - validate feelings

I was very busy the week before the competition and was frequently out of the house. Exactly one week before, a Saturday, I got home at 10:00 p.m. and Jia was still awake. She said that she waited up for me because she needed to talk. When I lay down beside her, she confided how tired she was and how pressured she felt. She was crying and my heart was breaking. I could imagine how physically and mentally exhausting their training was. I could not even do two laps in their pool and she, my seven year old daughter who did not even like attending her PE class, was doing laps after laps. She was a little above one meter in height and was swimming possibly half a kilometer every training session.

I listened to her. At one point, she was trying to blame me for joining. She said that she knew I wanted her to join. I pointed out to her, very kindly, that although I wanted her to experience the discipline of being in sports, it was her decision and something she committed to. I did not tell her that others have it worse (something I might have done if  I were not a positive parent). I did not point out to her that other kids are more tired because they have to work. I did not cite other kid athletes. I did not tell her that she is blessed. I just listened and validated that what she was doing was indeed tiring.

Because I felt how exhausted she was, I started to doubt the wisdom of letting her join. I did not realize the toll it would take on her. I talked to my husband and told him I would have Jia take the next training days off. He agreed. The following day, our whole rested and just bonded at home.

The next day, Monday, I told Jia she could skip training but to my surprise, she refused. I realized that she was merely letting out steam and exhaustion. There I was, panicking, and I did not realize that what my daughter needed was just validation. She felt that she was listened to and that was enough.

Expect more from your kids

positive parenting - expect more

You know the expression “With high hopes but low expectations”? Well, I went to the competition with low hopes and low expectations. Jia’s classmates have been training much longer than she had. A few have trained for more than a year. Jia trained for a few weeks. I thought I was doing her a favor by not expecting her to win. After all, I felt like I already won since Jia was already benefitting from being in the sport. On hindsight, it was the worst thing that I did.

Because I did not expect her to win and I was just after the experience, I did not even clarify the mechanics. It was our first time in a swim meet and had NO idea what was happening. Jia was included in eight events. This is embarassing but I did not even know that she was just competing with other 7 year old girls; I thought she was competing with all girls 11 years old and below. The way I encouraged her seemed insincere. 🙁

In her heat, she would come out second or third and she was starting to lose hope. It was only after the sixth event that I talked to the Coach. He assured me that Jia was doing really well and was way exceeding his expectations. I was surprised! He explained to me how the whole thing goes. When I explained to Jia, she felt super motivated! When she felt better, she did better!

positive parenting - swimming
Jia got a Bronze in the 25 meter Freestyle event. This was the event after we talked.  When I expected more from her, she felt it and also expected more from herself. Ang galing! Positive parenting for the win!

I encouraged Jia to join the competition to learn from the experience. I ended up getting more from this experience than Jia did.

Positive parenting and spreading love

I realized that although I love, love, love positive parenting, I have not really blogged about it so much. So from now on, will do just that to spread more awareness about positive parenting. 🙂

I always say that hurt people hurt people but this is the first time I’m blogging about the opposite — those who feel loved spread love. 🙂

Positive Parenting Ph: Kids who feel loved spread love.

Two weeks ago, Jia felt jealous of an opportunity given to Joya. After I processed with her, I realized that I have not spent so much time with her in spite the fact that I have been bringing her to her writing class and have been supporting her in her swimming training. I resolved to fix that so we had a date last Wednesday (just the three of us – Jia, J, and me). That night, while we were out, J and I felt how much Jia basked in our attention. We felt guilty as we realized that we have not been as attuned to her the past few weeks.

Positive parenting special time: Jia, Mommy, and Daddy date

A few days after, Jia was feeling the pressure of a competition she was training for. Unfortunately, I was out the whole day. When I got home at 10:00pm, she was still awake, waiting up for me. We were able to talk and process her feelings. The day after, I made it a point to spend almost the whole day with the kids and during the family meeting, J and I apologized to them because we have not been as present to them as we should have been.

Through these, I think Jia’s love tank was filled (that’s my positive parenting talk for “she felt loved” which I got from How to Really Love Your Child by Ross Campbell).

One morning, a couple of days after, Joya woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Jia was reading a book and Joya tried to get it from her a couple of times. I did not interfere at first because that’s the rule at home (as much as possible, we do not interfere with the kids’ quarrels and issues).

The third time it happened, I asked for the book and asked calmly what was happening. I did not tell Joya he should not get the book. I also did not tell Jia that she should share. I asked them what was happening. Jia replied, “I think Kuya is cranky and that is why he keeps on getting my book.”

Have you ever experienced being in a bad mood but not fully realizing how bratty you were being until someone points it out? I have been in that situation a couple of times. And when Jia replied to me, I saw Joya’s face fill with understanding. It was as if he realized how unreasonable he was being because he was cranky.

What happened next was something I never would have expected. Instead of Jia whining about Joya’s mood or ignoring him, she turned to Joya and asked, “Would you like me to make you banana cookies?”

Joya was caught offguard. He came up to Jia and gave her a hug. Jia hugged him back. And then when they saw Iana watching them, they beckoned to her to come for a group sibling hug.

Positive parenting: Sibling group hug

Positive Parenting: Sibling love
I was beyond proud. ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

And yes, I wholly attribute this to positive parenting. 🙂

The real deal with Positive Parenting

A few months ago, I invited a friend to attend my Positive Discipline workshop. She told me straight out that she did not believe in positive parenting. I told her I respected her opinion and we just talked about parenting in general.

What she said, however, really puzzled me. As I was very passionate about positive parenting, I could not understand why people would not like it (Yeah, I know this is sooo one-track mind thinking! Hahaha!). One day, it just struck me, she probably did not believe in positive parenting because she, like many people, just associate positive parenting with no spanking and no yelling and babying your child for all eternity. And with the abundance of teeners and young adults these days who feel entitled and who are very dependent on their parents, the idea of raising a spoiled child is just unacceptable to anyone who wants to be a good parent. I finally understood where she was coming from.

So let me first put this out here.

Positive parenting quote

Positive parenting is NOT about not spanking and not hitting your child and giving your child everything. Positive parenting is about knowing your child deeply and being connected to your child. It is about making your child feel she belongs and that she is significant. It is about giving limits to your child, building an environment which promotes responsibility, encourages self-awareness, and basically grooms a child to be a productive member of society.

While the core of positive parenting is about connection, this post will tackle the “discipline” aspect of positive parenting to address common mistaken beliefs about it.

In a positive parenting home, a toddler who bumps a furniture will not be immediately scooped up by the parents. Parents who practice positive parenting will definitely not scold and hit the furniture and tell it that it was bad furniture for being where it was.
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