Monday, October 26, 2009

Raising grateful kids by Mary Joy Canon-Abaquin, Ed.M.

This month's issue focuses on Giving Back. Don't you love the cover? It's Karen Davila and son Lucas sitting amidst the relief goods from World Vision. So fitting for the theme and a post-Ondoy/Pepeng issue. One of my favorite articles in this issue is the one written by Joy Abaquin, founding directress of Multiple Intelligence International School, where my daughter will go (back) to for high school. (I had to pull her out for a couple of years because I had to save up for the tuition. Even then, Teacher Joy and I remained in touch, and MI is welcoming Sim back with open arms.)
I met Teacher Joy eight years ago, when I was looking for a "big" school for Simone. I didn't want her to attend a traditional school; I wanted her to go to one more aligned with my values, and how I wanted to raise her, and how I saw her adapting to these not-so-traditional times. I remember Joy sitting at the very first desk in the school office. Both of us seemed nervous and a little stand-offish with each other; two women unsure of the wonderful, caring partnership they would embark as mothers and as co-advocates for progressive education and parenting.
As years passed, Joy became privy to my, er, private life. She knew I underwent a separation, an annulment, financial troubles. She supported me and Simone all throughout, in any way she could, as principal of the school and as an educator. In return, I "worked" for MI, writing their press kits and helping them with their school programs. It was a sweet deal -- one I would have never gotten from other schools, I'm sure. Joy writes for me for the very first time in this issue of HIPP. It's about teaching kids gratitude. Gratitude is more than saying "thank you." It's a whole attitude and approach to life. You can immediately sense the warmth and sincerity of the woman whilst reading her words. Enjoy :)

Gratitude makes a great attitude—teaching kids the value of thanksgiving enables them to appreciate life’s little pleasures more

By Mary Joy Canon-Abaquin, Ed.M.

It was a long weekend and we were headed to the beach. My eight-year-old daughter gives me a big hug and says “Thank you for bringing us to the beach! You’re the best mom in the world!” My 12-year-old chirps in, “God is good! Life is good! Thank you God!” I too, say I silent prayer, “Thank you God for giving me such wonderful daughters!”
As an educator, I recognize how challenging it is to teach children the act of being grateful in a money-centered and material world. I hear teens complain all the time that their phones or iPods are not the latest models. Unconsciously, parents overindulge children with their whims as an expression of love, failing to teach them an attitude of gratitude. It is perfectly normal for children to come into this world as egocentric but our relationship with them shapes their attitudes and understanding of themselves and others. It is never too early to teach children how to be grateful.
At age two or three, children can talk about being thankful for a toy, pet or people in their lives. A toddler can hold their favorite toy, kiss it and say “thank you mommy for doggie.” At age four and five, children begin to understand that being thankful does not only extend to material things like toys and rewards, but for love, caring and acts of kindness as well. How we model gratitude in our own lives show children what they can be thankful for.

Teaching gratitude: A lifelong skill
Tom Batalla, a psychologist and cranio-sacral therapist, explains the importance of teaching children gratitude. “Gratitude makes us kinder and more generous to others, less materialistic, more forgiving, better able to deal with stress, and less prone to envy, resentment or greed. Taking all these good things together, studies show that it can add 6.9 years to your life.” Research by Dr. Robert Emmons in their Gratitude Research Project of University of California Davis (Trish, may nawala bang words dito?-em) showed that people who are grateful report higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, vitality, optimism and lower levels of depression and stress. If we could teach our children to be grateful, we are helping them to be more positive and better able to cope with life.

As simple as 1-2-3
1. Model gratitude
Model thanks. Kids do what they see their parents do. The best way to teach your child to be grateful is to model it. Thank your child for their hugs. Thank your helpers when they serve you. Thank the cashier when you receive your change. Look out for the smallest thing to be grateful for. When they hear you say things like, “Thank you for a sunny day!” or “How lucky I am to have yummy dessert today!” they too will learn to be grateful for the little things in their lives.
Establish rituals. Parents at the Multiple Intelligence International School share how they encourage gratefulness in their children. Herald Cruz, a father of four, blesses his children before they go to sleep and thanks God for each child. In our family, each of us says thank you for a blessing we received for the day before we sleep. Claudine and Raymart Santiago are hands-on parents who want to raise Godly children. They go out of their way to make their preschoolers, Sabina, 5, and Santino, 2, feel that they are special by going out on individual dates with them. This Saturday routine makes the children feel appreciated, and as parents, you can be grateful for your children because you get to really know them. According to Claudine, “Dates should not be about spending money on the kids, it should be about spending time with them. It doesn’t have to be expensive at all!” Family rituals are powerful in modeling gratitude in our homes.
2. The Language of Gratitude
Saying “thank you” in many ways. Encourage your child to say “thank you” to people they come in contact with—yaya, store clerks, janitors, friends, parents of a classmate hosting a party, etc. Ask children to write thank you notes for gifts they receive. Preschoolers can scribble and draw while children in grade school can already express their thanks in writing. Thank you notes do not just have to be for receiving gifts. Show your children that you care about them by writing positive notes for them. I received my child’s report card and to my pleasant surprise, there was a short note from my 3rd grader Anica saying, “Thank you for always being there for me and loving me and caring for me, but not only me but for everyone in our family.”
3. Gratitude in Action
Encourage generosity. According to child psychologist Batalla, “Gratitude is a concrete way of acknowledging and appreciating the good that we have received and giving something back to the source of the gift.” It is as important for children to see gratitude in action. Tess Gecijo, a 2nd grade teacher at the Multiple Intelligence International School, in her lesson on heroism, has been encouraging children for the past seven years to help less fortunate children through a White Elephant Sale of their old toys and clothes. “When children have an attitude of gratefulness, it is easier for them to want to share.”

Make kids help. The best way for children not to take things for granted is to realize the effort that others put into their lives to make it easier for them. Assign them chores at home. Make them pack away their toys, sweep their rooms during weekends, feed the dog, help prepare a snack or even wash the dishes they use. They will realize that all these take effort. It helps them empathize with others who do these things for them and encourages them to be grateful for the things given to them.
Claudine shares that it’s important to be grateful even in times of distress. She says that a grateful heart allows you to see the good side of things. She proudly shares that Sabina has learned this from her because when her brother was sick, she did not want to leave his side. Even if Claudine and Raymart can’t be with their children 24/7, they believe that when you teach your children to be grateful, you know that you are able to address their “heart issues.”
Gratitude teaches our children that life is good. More than polite manners and positive thinking, teaching children gratitude helps them to be happier and more resilient individuals. According to self-help writer Melody Beattie, “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more.” My sixth-grader, Chiara, reminds me, “Mom, God is good to us, we should be good to others, too.” It is a way of life we can adapt as a family and a wonderful legacy to leave to our children.
(for the full article, get a copy of HIPP Magazine Nov 09, at leading bookstores and newsstands)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Geeks: You’ll not have my daughter 
 (By En-Lai Yeoh

One thing I love about our magazine is that we get to have daddy contributors on a regular basis. I've had really cool fathers write for our HIP Daddy section (amazing writers like Red Constantino, Scott Garceau (oh wait, he wrote for our Shooting From The Hip section), Myke Santos, Ramil Digal Gulle and poet Joel Toledo); for October we had the privilege of having En-Lai Yeoh, a deskman for Dow Jones Newswires and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, write about his little girl, Sophie.
I know En-Lai on a gchat/beer-or-two-when-he's-in-Manila kinda basis, and have always thought of him as a smart, straight, no-nonsense kind of guy, but I never knew how tender he could be toward his daughter. This piece brought a little lump to my throat. Just a little. Heehee. And reading something not-hardcore-news by En-Lai was an awesome treat, too.

Three years ago, Facebook and Twitter didn’t exist. Ex-girlfriends, and even the news, were much harder to track down and weren’t a mere mouse click away.
Back then, at 33, I thought I had it all mapped out. Laura Fygi. Lechon. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. I knew what I wanted, what I believed in, who my friends were, where our next dive trip would be. Then, she arrived.
As much planning as Jemie and I did, I don’t think we were ever prepared for Sophie. We bought tons of books, we surfed the Net day and night looking for the right items. We bought and bought. Preparation was the key, we said. Right.
She was born in May 2006, a typhoon in a sea of predictability. I don’t think I ever did attempt to run away from the storm, but I sought it. Three years on, I am a proud father who just can’t get enough of her. It’s because of her that I’m no longer clinging on to the past.
From the day she was born, I plotted ways to impart my own version of right and wrong to her, as she does when she feels like its time for ice cream. I felt it was my duty because I’ve seen right and wrong happen right before me. I’ve seen suffering, I knew what extremists were like. How destructive extreme weather can be. Yeah, it’s up to me.
As I write this, a dear friend and former colleague lies in a Dubai hospital bed, a victim of yet more violence in Afghanistan. Andi, my thoughts go out to you. You’re one of the best and I miss working with you. Still, I don’t know if I can go back to what I was and I don’t mind being mostly desk-bound these days, which leaves me more time for home—and Sophie. It’s where I’d rather be anyway.
I’d introduce her to the coolest authors, politicians who defined my generation, music, movies. That would set her up for life, I thought. She’d know things that other kids won’t. She’d understand suffering, and count her blessings. She’d know why she should be left-leaning. Set for life? You betcha.
But did knowing all that prepare me for life’s biggest challenge? Probably not. Even if it did, it took place at a different time, with different people and in a different generation.
Those who defined my generation (“X”) are beginning to go to better places. Michael Jackson, Cory Aquino, John Hughes are among those who have recently left us. As I approach 40, I’m pretty sure a few more I grew up admiring or reading about will pass on. The ’80s and ’90s will soon be a distant memory. Retro is me.
Back then, we didn’t know what globalization was or even begin to understand its concept. The Internet was barely in its infancy and to travel, visas were a must and no flight was cheap. The mobile phone was but a dream and even then, growing up, holding onto a clunker was something to be proud of.
We marveled at technology. Owning a fax machine was then a luxury. Windows 98 was so 21st century, and upgrades were expensive, therefore we looked at pirated software. Cellphones, too, were a big budget item, and seeing a friend whip out a new model was like, wow. Those were my battles with technology back then.
Ahhh, the good old days.
These days, I am humbled by Sophie’s ability to digest ( «Daddy, Barney said you have to share.»). Humbled by her ability to work a mouse when we’re on the Net (“Daddy, I know. Let me press.”). Humbled by her savvy consumerism at shopping malls (“But Mommy, we’re customers.”).
I await the day she shies away from us, and spends more time in school, with her mates, on the computer and texting her friends. It appears inevitable. I guess we’ll just have to provide her more opportunities to be outdoors, and even then, that brings peril as she grows.
It’s only a matter of time before she’ll “add” me or when I see her “comment” on her page about how uncool Daddy was at the school today. Whoa, maybe Facebook won’t even be around in the near future and she’d be on some other super-connected platform. Who knows, maybe Facebook will end up like the Friendster of today.
She’ll probably ask, and receive, her first cellphone about two decades before I first did. As much as I’d like to say no, a cellphone has become somewhat of a necessity, as has a computer. My guess is she may ask for both a pink laptop and BlackBerry with a pinkish hue.
So, we’ll have to get her wired up. Adjust. Rethink. Forget. Change. Yes, we can.
What then can I pass down to my daughter? Will I even leave a lasting impression on her? Will she know everything she needs to know about Daddy from Googling me or sifting through my Facebook profile? I wish I knew.
All I know is that I have to try and stay relevant. I’ll just have to keep on believing that I’ve left more of an impression on Sophie than Barney or Dora the Explorer or the educational games she now plays with me on the computer. That’s my technological challenge now—to stay one step ahead of the gazillion software engineers, toy designers, and Playhouse Disney scriptwriters hankering for my daughter’s attention.
I will defeat you, Pixar. The same goes for you, Still, it doesn’t mean we can’t be Facebook buddies.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

When the going gets tough, bet on creativity (by Girlie Navarro)

HIPP magazine may just have the finest, most erudite, most sensible financial advice columnist in the country. And I say that not because she is my friend, or, yes, writes for my magazine, but because she walks the talk. She practices what she preaches. She lives and breathes financial wisdom. Not only that--she makes sure her life is balanced: she paints, writes, runs an environment-friendly household. As early as college days, she was already playing the market. She was the first in our set of friends to buy a car, a condo unit, and travel at a whim. Still, she remains money-wise, living below her means, and really juicing life for all it's worth. When she chose not to marry the father of her son, I looked up to her more. When she decided to take her financial savvy and expertise to another level--by coaching other women and mothers to live financially-sound lives (after all, if we're saddled by debt and bad money habits, how can we relax and enjoy life, right?), to make it her personal advocacy, I admired her even more. A "serial investor," finance instructor, indefatigable businesswoman and philanthropist, she now goes full-on in raising her son, Migo, 11, alone, while enjoying the fruits of her labors. I remember sitting beside her one day during soccer practice (her son and my daughter used to attend the same camp together). She had a finance book in her lap and a pencil in the other. It was like she was doing homework. "What's that for?" I asked, appalled at the sight of numbers. "Oh, just a little something I do for fun," she said.
You would love her. You really would.

Tough times can be motivational. No money? Get creative. More often than not, it is better to start or do things with less money. If money is no object, why think twice about what to do and have? We can pick up stuff at random or do whatever to fill up the time. In business, we might spend more to impress others or indulge our ego, rather than using available resources to create the best value for the customer. By letting money take the place of planning and involvement, we rob ourselves of the joy of experience.

Going on a budget, on the other hand, can actually be a thrill ride. This seemingly “unfortunate” situation can actually help us focus more to evaluate varied options and give us clarity on how best to extract value from the money we have. We take a little more time in deciding what kind of experience we want and how to spread the happiness among more people; in short, we can take time to decide on the “biggest bang per buck” and qualitatively enjoy the outcome, knowing we’ve done our best in each area. Taken in the right spirit, the process of getting the most of what we have makes us more grounded, more involved and more creative. When we get the desired outcome on a planned activity, we reap the additional satisfaction of knowing we got ourselves a great deal to make that happen.

Despite the exalted status and recognized importance of creativity, however, not enough people tap into it. What stumbling blocks keep most from using this incredible source of power and satisfaction? Here are some common myths about creativity:

Creativity is for creative types. A lot of people think that creative ideas are really best left to people working on those fields. These would be people in advertising, media, the arts, research and development, among others. In part, this conditioning can be explained by schooling. Our art works were graded and there were a few students recognized by all, particularly by teachers, to be distinctively prolific and gifted in their aesthetic output. Teachers would favor these “gifted” few for special creative projects, a subtle signal that the rest are not good enough to lead such a creative activity. In time, other kids focus more on output they have more control over, such as data to be memorized or getting the right answer in a math test. The fact is, almost all research shows that any person with normal intelligence is capable of being creative.

My work does not really require creativity. Although businesses emphasize innovation and creativity, most workers think that these do not really fall within their area of responsibility. Why? To stay safe. When we make the jump to a full-time job and have a paycheck hanging over our heads, we try to avoid fiddling with the knobs too much, if at all. We force ourselves to put on the “mature” cap and ape the behaviors of the “successful” survivors that came before us. Paycheck is livelihood and in these times, messing with it is to do so at one’s peril. The danger, however, is that if no innovative creativity is being funnelled into the company, the company can also lose in business. There goes the “safe” job.

Money motivates creativity. Some people think that if they were paid handsomely enough, they can be as fully creative as the work requires. Pairing creative efforts to money, however, can actually backfire. Creativity requires a “flow”; too much pressure can constrict it. Research shows that beyond a level where people deem that the compensation covers their efforts, money loses its power. People value work that deeply engages them, taps into their interests and stretches their skills. It is common enough for some people to take lower compensation for the opportunity for self-development. In contrast, people who take a job purely for its monetary benefits at the expense of their personal interests tend to be clock-watchers, who lose interest in their job eventually.

So, how best can we tap into an ability that not only can save us but give our lives the quality and color to make for a fulfilling life?

Accept that creativity is for the “everyday stuff.” Creativity is not restricted to visual art works, music and other artistic experiences. It is actually the secret ingredient that spices up things on everything we can do at every moment. As restaurant prices soar, we have become more creative in how to prepare daily meals. How many ways can you cook a dory fillet? Cook-outs with the entire family have become a great source of anticipation (i.e. “What are we going to cook today?”) and an exciting group activity for reunions.

Pay attention to what you see. A can of sweet corn, when mixed with milk, can be made into a healthy snack or a cheap replacement to sugary cereals. Small potted herbs for sale can be grown at home to add variety to your ornamentals and more importantly, replace bottled spices. Small beautiful candles can replace crystals as points of interest. Documents can be shortened so they can best be understood. Gather issues on the same theme so you can cut down on meeting times and expenses. Work and life do not have to be marked by a few creative moments. You can make every moment creative and fun. With everything you’re faced with, ask yourself, “How can I make this moment beautiful/fun/productive for everyone?”

Creativity is best enjoyed as a process. Don’t be hung up on the results. There is no single standard to define anything. Ideals are moving targets, while ideas about our ideals change. This is not to discourage us. In fact, ideals motivate us to continuously do better interpretations of the same things, while ideas evolve as we grow in knowledge, experience and expertise. You can never achieve an ideal but you’ll never run out of ideas on how to go about it either; in short, life will go on being interesting, even if you’re on the same spot! Accept that there is a range of probable results; it gets better with practice.

For creative ideas, stop watching the clock. Creativity requires a percolation period and the best ideas are those that bubble up. If you sit down and force a creative output based on a Roman numbered-outline, you probably won’t get the best eureka moment....

For the full article, get yourself a copy of HIPP's October issue, available in National Bookstore, Fully Booked, Powerbooks, and leading newsstands. Enjoy! :)