Why there are symbiotic parents and how would you know if you’re one of them?

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Nathaniel looking out of the fiberglass window of a passenger boat.

What is a symbiotic parent? How do you know if you’re a symbiotic parent? Why it is important that you, as a parent, should know what it is all about?

A symbiotic parent is, actually, a parent who adapts and enforces the unconscious parenting style to his children. He is one who would act from his perception or point of view of what his child is doing without careful consideration or understanding on the child’s feelings or why he is doing what he is doing. An unconscious parent, by the way, is unaware of the consequences of his actions in such a way that, while he’s taking action, he makes no reference to the feelings of his child.

The parent who falls under this category, no matter how hard he tried to be well-intentioned and determined of the kind of parenting he thought was right for his children, would always end up being consciously unintentional. But why was that so? Are unconscious parents bad?

No. They’re not actually bad, but they just needed help. Many of them also have wonderful qualities. They are good people who are determined, committed, caring, and kind. But, as what I’ve said, they just needed some help.

Again, let me stress the fact that unconscious parents are, actually, not bad people. But they are wounded people who have never had a chance to heal into greater self-awareness and self-acceptance. Unconscious parents are, in other words, people who could be just like most of us.

The term “unconscious parent” should never be used as something that represents “negative” but as a description rather than a judgment. It should be referred, for the most part, to the beliefs parents are holding, the actions they have taken, and the behaviors and feelings they have experienced that were “out of awareness” and therefore out of their control.

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My Madonna and Child as seen from the window.

Getting a better sense of what unconscious parenting means by familiarizing yourself with how it sounds is to learn more about what such a concept really is. The following are a few examples of what unconscious parenting sounds like as verbally reacted by parents to the upsetting things their children do or want to do:

  • “Do not do that. I told you not to play with a drinking glass. You never listen to me. You’re ignoring me each time. See what happens!” This from a dad whose three-year-old son was just curious enough to find out why the glass is transparent by holding it in his arms and tilting every way he liked until he dropped it off, hurting himself in the process.
  • “Get out of the street. If I ever see you do that again, that bicycle is gone. Now, put it away. You have no idea what you’re doing. My goodness, you’re so damn careless.” This from a mother whose daughter was just learning to ride a bicycle and who had lost control, and ridden into the main street.
  • “There’s no way are you staying out until twelve midnight. You know what happens. It seems like it has become the trend nowadays. Girls get pregnant.” This from a dad whose sixteen-year-old daughter was going on her first date ever.

These verbal reactions of a parent to a child are but simple examples, and although understandable, yet carrying a potentially wounding parental reactions to everyday events. They may be hurtful, but to be exact on whether or not they are really damaging depends on whether they are part of an overall pattern that is violating the essential self of the child.

In its mild form, unconscious parenting is everyday experience in which a parent thinks he knows what his child wants or feels, or what he should want or feel. While in its extreme form unconscious parenting is being perceived as a pervasive pattern of cruelty and neglect that permeates every aspect of a child’s life.

If you’re the kind of parent who cannot see yourself as separate from your child, then you had surely developed what is to be called a “symbiotic relationship” with your child.” Hence the term unconscious parent. All forms of unconscious parenting come from symbiosis.

When a parent self-absorbed his own childhood wounding, symbiosis occurs. And because a parent’s own fundamental needs has never been met, he would resort into projecting his own constraints and wishes onto his children, who, as he so believed and thought, could offer him another chance to live life the way he wished he had. Symbiosis, in other words and in that sense, is an expression of incomplete development on his part.

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Turning your anger into an opportunity to resolve an issue

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Once anger is left uncontained, it sabotages a desired outcome.

What is anger? How are you going to contain it when you’re at the point of exploding? As a parent, how are you going to respond to a frustration of some sort concerning your child?

 Contrary to what many people may be thinking or believing about anger as something that is destructive and dangerous, it is, actually and in fact, a positive emotion. Why? Because it could protect people from actual or anticipated danger.

As a parent, you don’t always have to suppress anger. When anger is suppressed, there’s a great chance that passion would atrophy, and your child could become a victim of many dangerous circumstances as a result.

In spite of the fact that in situations considered as non-intimate, anger could be a sort of protection, in situations that are intimate, between parent and child or between couples, anger should be looked upon as a protest against separation or the deprivation of one’s needs.

A child may ask his mom, for example, on why has she gone so much or why has she stopped talking to him, which should be interpreted as an attempt for a child in satisfying a need and in the restoration of connection as well. Once anger is left uncontained, it sabotages a desired outcome. On the other hand, when anger is contained and appropriately expressed, a desired goal would be achieved.

When a parent is angry at his child or when a child is angry at his parent, emotional injury is a real possibility. Most parents, including myself sometimes, are tempted to suppress their children’s anger and express their own. This is where most parents could get wrong believing it’s something they have a right to do and their children do not.

Take note that anger does not have to be prohibited or suppressed. Both the parent and child should be learning to express it through a dialogue. Once they start to talk about it sincerely and to try to do something about it, it does not only resolve an issue but deepening the bond between parent and child as well.

A child’s education should begin at least one hundred years before he was born

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Nathaniel silently reads a book.

You may find the title of this article quite intriguing, but it was a quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes, a nineteenth century American poet, medical doctor, lecturer, professor, and author. Educating a child who was yet to be born one hundred years into the future may sound most improbable to many people. How could that ever be possible?

Trying to understand, in my own way, what the quote has to imply, I came up with something I need to ask myself in the first place: what does it take or mean to educate the whole child? I had to live by the fact that the way I brought up my own child today would have a significant impact on the kind of education my future great grandchildren would be getting or introduced to one hundred years hence. So one hundred years hence might be something quite different for my great grandchildren, and it should start from me.

A child gets his first education at home, directly from his parents and from the other people in his life closest to him. The lessons a child learns from this experience will serve as a compass to guide him for the rest of his life. A civilized society is the direct result of empowered, well-informed families.

It is through the family, universally considered and accepted as the basic unit of society and as the nucleus of civilizations, that the blueprint for communities and governments are modeled. Meaning to say, if we want to have a community where there is less crime and less poverty, a school that truly educates or impacts people positively, a stronger church that truly promotes morality and the spiritual capacity of a person in general, we have to empower or build stronger families first. Stronger families mean stronger societies.

Holmes most probably believed or suggested that the kind of education you would like for the next generation to have or acquire starts today, right now, with you. Child education, for the most part, lies in the way families are treating their own children and that could pass on from one generation to another. Education is a continuous, never ending process so that one keeps on learning, learning, and learning.

There’s quite a little difference between educating a child and to provide him with some schooling. Education is, in my humble opinion, the bringing up to the highest level the experiences, facts, and thoughts and ideas gained by a person over a lifetime. That’s what learning is all for and about. Schooling is, on the other hand, the formal part by which learning is gained with a hope of making you a functional person.

While one may be gaining a great deal of education from getting schooled, yet there is more to education than what academic learning can do and offer, than what was being taught in schools. An educated person is someone who understands human nature and knows how to establish, improve, and maintain relationships with other people regardless of race, gender, creed, and status in life. He becomes a well-rounded, analytical person that actively participates in the world around him.

Next to the family, schools play a very important role in educating the young minds of a particular society. Teachers and parents should collaborate in finding specific qualities they felt an education should seek to develop in their kids. Teachers and students should be interacting as whole persons. A school should be treated as a whole community.

Six reasons why kids should be encouraged to eat fruits

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Nathaniel standing before a tray of fresh star apple fruit.

Kids will have a lot of benefits they can get from eating fruits. Parents should know how important it is to consider fruits as one of the most important parts of their children’s diet. The challenge, however, is in getting them to actually do so.

But that’s why there are parents because they are tasked to help their children develop food preferences and to encourage them to eat a more healthy diet in the first place. Children looked up to their parents as role models so that when they see their parents eating fruits and enjoying it, they would most likely do the same. The following are six reasons why kids should be encouraged to eat fruits:

FOR OVERALL NUTRITION

Fruit is jam-packed with vitamins and minerals needed by the body for it to function well. It consists for the largest part of water keeping the body hydrated and well-nourished.  It keeps the kidneys and other internal organs working normally.

AS AN ULTIMATE BRAIN FUEL

Brain development and healthy diet go hand in hand. The nutrients kids are getting from fruits stimulate their memories that may boost their performance in schools. It has a positive effect on the human brain.

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Freshly picked guyabanos or also called soursop.

AS A RICH SOURCE OF NATURAL FIBER

The fiber in fruits help prevents constipation, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Fiber serves as a natural broom for the body. It cleanses the system from wastes and impurities that could help kids from chronic diseases.

AS A NATURAL FOOD

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The exotic fruit called “durian.”

Fruits are produced naturally by fruit-bearing trees or plants for animal and human consumption. Both humans and animals help spreads its seeds. Eating an all-natural food like fresh fruits could have a significant impact on children’s health.

AS A LOW FAT, LOW CHOLESTEROL FOOD

High amount of cholesterol is not good for the body. Much of this cholesterol is acquired from consuming animal products like meat, and dairy. Regular fruit consumption could lower children’s caloric intake, therefore preventing unhealthy weight gain.

IT MAKES KIDS FEEL BETTER

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The serotonin compound found in bananas may help fight depression.

Eating fresh fruit (especially a banana) on a regular basis could cure depression. Fruit has a miraculous healing effect on human beings. Kids would surely have a lot to benefit from eating fruits regularly.

Why cooking a highly nutritious Filipino style chicken soup is the best birthday gift I can give my wife as she turned thirty two

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The highly nutritious, authentic Filipino dish called “tinolang manok.”

Two days ago, my wife turned thirty two and I prepared something I knew she would love right on her natal day. I was cooking a traditional Filipino dish called “tinolang manok” or Filipino style chicken soup. Tinolang manok, by the way, is an original Filipino main dish and best complimented with lemongrass, green papaya wedges, malunggay leaves, ginger, onion, and bell pepper.

During her previous birthdays, while we’re still residing in the city, we always ended up dining in expensive restaurants which were, to some extent, quite boring already. Now that we’re on our fourth month of living in the province, it would be special, I thought, if I’m going to make it province-like, with all its simplicity and plainness without sacrificing quality and intent. Sure, some restaurants in the city serve tinolang manok but what’s making my chicken tinola really special was the fact that I’m the one cooking it.

Tinolang manok is a comfort food for me and my wife and yes, even our three-year-old son also loved the way it tasted. I really liked the way our adorable Nathaniel sniffed something from the air, with matching closed eyes, each time a tinola is served on the table. And, suddenly, as he opened wide his eyes, exclaimed, “Wow, sarap” which means delicious in English.

I would be crushing the softened chicken meat on his plate so it would be easier for him to chew and then mixed it up with rice and soup. This simple authentic Filipino dish is highly nutritious my toddler would surely benefit a lot from. Moringga, which is one of the ingredients and grows abundantly almost everywhere in the Philippines, is considered by many as a superfood.

It’s very simple to prepare or cook but the dish itself is full of nutrition not to mention the fact that the ingredients I’ve used were all organic. In case you’d like to know how to cook the Filipino chicken tinola, you may follow the simple cooking instructions below:

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My wife picked up the two free-range chickens needed as a main ingredient in cooking the traditional Filipino chicken tinola.

For the ingredients, you’ll need:

  • One kilo whole chicken, cut/sliced into pieces/preferred sizes.
  • Two pieces medium-sized ginger crushed or sliced into strips.
  • Three medium-sized bell peppers sliced into strips.
  • Five stems of lemongrass.
  • One small unripe papaya or, if there are no available papaya, chayote cut into smaller pieces.
  • One plate of malunggay (Moringa) leaves.
  • One and a half liter of water.
  • One medium-sized red onion, diced.
  • Five tablespoons edible/cooking or olive oil.
  • Six garlic cloves, minced.
  • One and a half tablespoons of salt.

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    Spices…

How to cook:

  1. In a large and deep pan, heat oil and saute garlic, then the bell pepper, followed by the onion and ginger.
  2. Add the water and the lemongrass.
  3. Bring to a boil before adding the chicken.
  4. Simmer for about fifteen to twenty minutes or until the chicken is cooked.
  5. Add the salt.

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    A plate of Malunggay or Moringga leaves.
  6. Add papaya or chayote. Continue to simmer for four minutes or until the papaya softens. Be careful to not overcook it, though.
  7. Add the malunggay leaves. Turn off the fire or heat.
  8. Serve steaming hot on a glass bowl with plain rice on the side.

After we have eaten our lunch, we remain seated for orange juice and a small talk. “So what’s your birthday wish, darling?” I asked my wife. “That from now on, each time I celebrate my natal day should be as special as this one because you had not only given me your time in the first place, but for cooking my favorite dish as well,” she said. Before I could utter a word, a burp escaped my lips. That should be saying Happy Birthday, sweetheart.

Twenty little things that mean a lot to my three-year-old son

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Nathaniel was keeping himself busy cutting papers.

When Nathaniel turned three years old, I was amazed to see startling developments in him. He was already showing signs of being fascinated by ball games, able to run and climb, polished up his fine motor skills, speak in well-turned sentences and can engage in complicated conversations, could concentrate on building blocks or other ways of putting things together, and many more.

Watching him play, walk, and talk could only put a smile on my face. I was thinking about the future, twenty or maybe thirty years or more from now, and wonder what memories he will have to treasure when he becomes an adult. My own childhood experience reminded me that I was finding just as much, or even much more, joy in the little things as I did in the big events of my life.

I was struck with the idea that to have a little special moment with my son does not need to be a big affair, after all. But it’s about taking a portion of my precious time to really go out of my way and spend it with my son which is one way of showing to him how much I love him. Here are the twenty little things that mean a lot to my three-year-old son Nathaniel:

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Nathaniel, in a Santa costume, with his cousins Yana and Audrey.
  1. Going out for a walk with him. It could be anywhere as long as it is a safe enough place for kids and adults alike to roam at.
  2. Showing as much enthusiasm in the things that he does. When he finds it interesting to scribble anything on a piece of paper or notebook, then it is important that I had to go down to his level and make such an experience a little bit more creative and something which we both could learn from.
  3. Praising him for the right reasons, at the right place, and at the right time.
  4. Giving him a chance to fight his own battles when he’s trying to prove something before I had to intervene.
  5. Reading him stories from children’s books. Read books with him.
  6. Watching the full moon together.
  7. Crack a joke and to laugh with him at these jokes.
  8. Teach him how to draw a bird, cow, a tree, or anything using a pencil on a piece of paper.
  9. Buy him crayons and teach him how to color hand drawn objects.
  10. Letting him choose the clothes he would like to wear.
  11. Play with him. If it is going to be a pillow fight, then so be it.
  12. Give him a chance to browse our family pictures on my cellphone.
  13. Show him my old pictures including those of my childhood.
  14. Cook him pancakes. Or let him play under the rain.
  15. Let him watch me plant a tree and teach him the importance of watering it.
  16. Dress him like a Santa.
  17. Buy him ice cream, and then scream, “I Scream.”
  18. Let him ride in a hammock with me.
  19. Take selfies together and try making wacky faces pose.
  20. Giving him a chance to teach me something.

And this life is like a heart-shaped, dried leaf

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Each one of us should mature into what our true beauty resembles.

March is here and, if you live in tropical countries like the Philippines, you could already feel the infernal heat of a summer. When I say infernal heat, I mean exactly that, but no, I’m only exaggerating it actually. But the fact that it’s always hot here all year round, the heat that a tropical summer generates would be extremely difficult for people coming from cold countries to endure. Surprisingly, foreigners who came to adapt to the local weather appeared to be really enjoying it.

So this was where this dried leaf topic started. Yesterday morning, when I accompanied my son to our backyard where the towering fruit trees were and chickens roam, I noticed how our backyard was littered with falling leaves. Most of the leaves were already dried, brown-colored or rusty.

This may be the adverse effect of the drought called El Nino, I thought. And then there’s what they call global warming which was something to worry about, as well. But then, I know, for leaves to fall off trees is a natural thing. It just happened naturally and you can’t do something about it.

In the Philippines, extremely hot weather is often the cause for trees shedding their leaves. Unlike in the colder regions where trees shed leaves in autumn and winter. One thing is common though, trees shed leaves in preparation for something worse to come.

It was when I started raking the leaves with a hard broomstick that my three-year-old son Nathaniel called up to me. “Papa Nap, look, heart,” he said as he held in his hands a heart-shaped, dried leaf. “Oh that was beautiful,” I said.

I took the heart-shaped, brown-colored, dried leaf and carefully placed it upon the stony ground. “Time to photograph it, son,” I said as I shot a smile at him. He smiled back. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing my son’s happy face at that.

Indeed, there are lots of good things you could get from nature if you’re only attentive enough to pay close attention to details. This heart-shaped, dried leaf has a secret message to me: that it’s beautiful to grow old when the fullness of light and color are for the last days. My son helped me discovered it.

Each one of us should mature into what our true beauty resembles. And no matter what color of life you were having, in the end, when you learn to let go gracefully, you will find beauty, joy, and peace.

But did it ever cross your mind, even once, thinking how and why do leaves fall off trees? I’m bringing up this topic to your awareness because there’s something I want you to know with what I found out on the matter. Sure, science has a better, acceptable explanation for that. But the other, much deeper reason really interests me the most.

Leaves falling off a tree and blown away by the wind may seem an ordinary scene to most people that they barely noticed it happening. But I am one of those who would like to see this naturally-occurring thing in a different light. I hope this sonnet I had just finished writing could shed some light on the path you’re treading:

And this life is like a heart-shaped, dried leaf
That fell off the twig of an unknown tree.
Blown by the wind to everywhere but, if
With luck falls on the ground not far away,
As someone sees it, gives a wondrous glow.
Even if it lands on a stony ground
And yet, for those who really want to know,
A truly beautiful thing could be found.
Not with mere a superficial seeing
Though. There’s more to what the vision must
Aim with a focused sight: it was keeping
What could nourish the soul; not for what lust
Demands. When a tree starts to lose its leaves
For colder, dark times ahead: it survives.

How to communicate effectively with preschool children

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One of the best ways a parent can do is to verbalize what his child is thinking.

Talking about young children and how to communicate with them effectively, especially the preschooler ones, some important things must be considered. Preschool children, by the way, are those who fall in the under six years old category. While it is true that very young children don’t have the vocabulary of the rest of us nor the experience to accurately pinpoint abstract ideas, yet it is advisable for you, as a parent, and also for the rest of the adults of their lives, to talk to them with the same respect and intelligence that you’re going to show when you talk to everyone else.

Children under six years old are keen observers, great emulators, sensitive, and highly curious individuals. So communicating with them is something that requires a lot of patience, skills, and understanding. You must remember that, when talking to them, given the qualities of children under six years of age may have had been possessing, your body language is as important as what you say.

Yes, even your facial expressions are enough for the child to pick up and to interpret whether you’re interested and ready to hear for what he or she has to say. It would be important for the child when, seeing a powerful adult stops what he is doing in order to face his child, parents get down on his or her level and invite their child to tell what’s on his or her mind. And, if ever, you, as a parent, are puzzled or a bit confused by your preschooler’s behavior at any particular moment, ask him or her about it.

It is important to treat your child as a person and see if you can find out how he or she is feeling. You may start by asking your child, “Is there something wrong?” Or “Is there something bothering you?” And, yes, do not forget to offer your service by asking: “Can I help you with something?”

One of the best ways a parent can do is to verbalize what his or her child is thinking. This can be done, to start with, by encouraging the child to tell you first so that you don’t have to spend much time guessing. But it’s not always going to be what you expect from your child each time.

Sometimes, words do not come easily to your child and you think you know what’s going on. Ask your child instead, for this particular situation, a question that may help him or her identify and explore what it is that’s troubling him or her.

It is an ability of a parent to develop such a skill of putting into words what’s worrying both him and his child. And, by doing so, the parent should be careful enough not to use words that are full of misery or terror. He must be able to convey it well to his child that he understands how his child is feeling and that such feelings are normal.

There are times when, in trying to talk to your child, the right topic comes up at the wrong time, and you know you have to continue anyway. Even when you’re caught off guard, you want to keep your wits about you and remember why it is important to empathize, mirror, and validate, no matter what else you’re doing at the given moment. Unless you have some choice in the matter, paying attention to the physical setting of the dialogue is a good idea.

Communicating effectively with preschool children is all about, in my humble opinion, learning to dialogue and to stay with it until both of you (parent and child) reach empathic connection with each other. Show that you’re there to listen to what your child should be saying in the first place. Pay close attention to the physical setting, and be nonjudgmental.

Put in mind that you’re not there, in a dialogue with your child, as though you had to defend yourself in interchanges with your child, and he is not going to defend against you, either. But both of you, in the atmosphere of mutual understanding, are beginning to build solidly on such a new empathic connection that’s being formed. It is not just about talking with your child though, but you have got to do more than dialogue with him or her by teaching him or her to dialogue with you.