ONLY TWO things scare my child: cockroaches and not being allowed to watch her favorite shows. I use the former to make her get out of the bath and the latter to make her finish her food. Parenting experts are eye-rolling or shaking their heads as they read this. With matching “tsks.” I know. I get a C minus in Progressive Parenting, but probably at least a B for Gentle Parenting because I didn’t have to scream my lungs out to say “No TV if you don’t eat!” Patting myself on the back for that. Small wins, right?
I grew up in the ‘80s, and scare tactics were the norm. “If you don’t take a nap, the monster will get you.” The monsters were either the kapre, duwende, wakwak, sigbin, et al. Parallel to the monsters were the police. “If you don’t obey, we’ll call the police.” Wow! Talk about punitive measures. And sometimes, our parents would pull out the guilt card with “Do you know that many children are starving in Africa? Finish your food!” I was seven, and I thought, why couldn’t we just give the food to these “starving children”? Why do I have to eat it for them? I’m full!
My child is only two and a half years old, but I can definitely say she’s the Boss. And recently, she’s been showing some real thespian skills too. My husband simply thinks she’s obviously just a mini version of Mommy. And he’s laughing because I finally met my match. I don’t want to agree. So, let me explain. How did I get to this mess of being unable to fully manage my child?
Well, in my mission to break the cycle, and be a modern parent of the 21st century, I ironically messed it up. I wanted to limit saying No to reduce “negative energy”, but I basically ended up with a child who also wouldn’t take No for an answer. Governments don’t negotiate with terrorists. Mommies like me use scare tactics. I know the right thing to do is to make her understand why bath time is over and why she needs to eat. As with all things, everything must come to an end. And food is essential. I don’t know how other mothers can make their toddlers obey without a fuss. How I wish my child would simply say, “Okay, mommy.”
These scare tactics were not even planned. They just presented themselves spontaneously. The cockroach used to be just an insect she saw on the learning poster in her playroom. She loved identifying the different insects. Now, the cockroach is something to be avoided because it will “bite her butt.” Yes, I told her a lie. Cockroaches are not likely to bite humans except in cases of extreme infestations or if there’s no other food source. The more probable thing that a roach would do is fly towards you. But it’s not gonna bite. I know I did a bad thing there. Let’s not get started with the TV thing. I’m desperate to feed my picky eater.
MOM could very well mean Master Of Manipulation in my book. These scare tactics work on my daughter now, but I know this is only for the short term. Soon, she’ll read facts about cockroaches and eventually eat without being forced. And the worse is she will realize that mom was lying. That’d be the day I’d say my own “tsk”.
But I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Parenting is hard. Baby books tell me about gentle whispers and calm reasoning, but it’s a different story when you’re dealing with a tiny human hurricane. I don’t have any intention of traumatizing my child. It may sound crazy, but in this trial-and-error journey called parenting, all I really have is this burning desire to see my child thrive. My intention to steer her to the right path may resort to “boomer ways” amidst millennial parenting styles. But rest assured, I draw the line at cockroaches and screen bans. Maybe you haven’t noticed it, but the word scare also has the word “care” in it.
Jill Palarca is a licensed professional teacher specializing in Media and Information Literacy, and is also currently the chairperson of Media Educators of Mindanao. She is mom to angels Meryl and Lyanna, and rainbow baby, Andrea.
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