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ALL IN THE FAMILY

The world’s best parenting practices, Part 2

(Last of two parts)

British journalist Mark Wood studied the best parenting practices around the world. Last week, we discussed his findings about the central role of physical play in children’s development.

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A New York Times article sent by National Scientist Fr. Ben Nebres states, “To the untrained eye, play can seem aimless, repetitive, wild or foolish. But play can offer a window into the developing mind. Piaget viewed certain kinds of play as milestones, signs that a child had reached a new stage of development. Studies conducted over the past few decades suggest play serves a more crucial role. Play can help kids learn, plan and even persevere in the face of adversity.”

Bottom line: Parents, let your children engage in physical, nondigital, imaginative play.

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Another best practice involves the wise use of praise. Wood combs through three decades of studies to show that praising children only works if it is sincere, specific and realistic, and targets things that children can change.

Praise is useful to encourage children to persevere at tasks, rather than to feel superior to others. In short, praise should not be used solely to raise self-esteem.

“If children with low self-esteem attract excessive praise, it will make them more risk-averse when it comes to failure rather than more confident to try new things no matter what the outcome,” says Wood in his book “Planet Parent.”

“Parents have to ask themselves how hard their child was actually trying when he or she displayed this behavior, while simultaneously paying close attention to what happens when praise is delivered, in case it’s reinforcing low confidence rather than tackling it,” he says.

According to Wood, parents in China Asia raise their children to prepare them for the future. They equip their kids with skills and habits to cope with challenges in life as adults. On the surface, Western parents say they want the same thing, but Wood questions this.

“While Western parents are concerned about their children’s psyches and self-esteem, parents in Asia … assume strength, not fragility,” says Wood. “Rather than seeing struggle as an indicator that you’re just not very clever, that your ability level is low, that you have no talent for something, as is often the case in many Western cultures, in Asia it is seen as an opportunity to achieve … Struggle, which includes initial and even multiple failures along the way, is seen as a sign of progress rather than a signal to parents to wade in with praise or even to give up and move on to something that ‘comes easier.’”

Unfortunately, many Filipino parents appear to imitate Western culture in this aspect. For instance, being poor in math is something Filipinos take for granted.

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“In areas that are viewed as vital, like maths and science,” says Wood, “an initial inability to grasp, succeed and excel is ploughed through using a combination of hard work and determination, often supplied in copious amounts by parents as they refuse to let their beloved children give up on the task and themselves.”

Norwegian parents, says Wood, also let children take calculated risks, which means letting them fail in small ways.

Many Filipino family business leaders complain that heirs make poor decisions or shy away from responsibility. But these same parents spoil their children and do things for them, so when faced with discomfort, the latter burn out and break down—natural consequences for those who never developed resilience.

“Continuously keeping children away from something because they might not do it properly, then exposing them to it cold when they are older, would rightly be seen as a recipe for disaster and failure,” says Wood.

Crucible experiences, with accountability, are essential to training heirs (see column on Feb. 17, 2022). Our study on Ateneo students shows that parents (and strong faith and sensible peers) are crucial in helping children develop resilience (see column on May 5, 2022).

Courage and resilience cannot be developed overnight—the earlier children learn to take responsibility, the more confident and competent they will be in facing an uncertain future.

Get “Bouncing Back: Life and Learning in a Time of Crisis” at unipress.ateneo.edu or at Lazada or Shopee.

Queena N. Lee-Chua is with the board of directors of Ateneo’s Family Business Center. Get her book “All in the Family Business” at Lazada or Shopee, or the ebook at Amazon, Google Play, Apple iBooks. Contact the author at [email protected]

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TAGS: All in the Family, Mark Wood, parenting practices
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