Is there such a thing as Western or Asian parenting? Closer to home, are there habits and values associated with nurturing children that can be categorized as distinctly Filipino?
Celia Aguila, a psychology professor from Miriam College, says that parenting style can be a product of the particular culture of its time. A 2003 parenting study she conducted indicated that parents who were in their early forties then tended to be more liberal with their children—in contrast to their own authoritarian upbringing. “These parents who were born in the 1960’s were either strict or liberal, depending on the situations they faced,” she says. “They can be more authoritarian when it comes to curfew time during dates, but were more trusting with their kids’ other choices like schools.”
Felipe Jocano Jr., a professor of anthropology with the University of the Philippines, agrees that stereotyping Filipino parenting styles is inadvisable because these vary according to numerous factors such as the aforementioned chronological eras, socio-economic status, geographical location, and ethno-linguistic culture.
The evolving Filipino family
Jocano, however, makes the observation that despite supposed differences, Filipino families do share common parenting elements. One of them is the practice of always having the child be accompanied by an elder, whether a relative, a trusted family friend, or the traditional yaya. “The latchkey child phenomenon that is prevalent in the US is pretty rare here,” he points out. “Even single-parent households will find a way to make sure that the child is never alone.”
Jocano believes that this sense of closeness cultivated at an early age is key to the Pinoy’s strong interpersonal culture. “We place a great emphasis on our kin and family who provide help in times of trouble. We learn to get along with people and tend to put their interests ahead of ours. And even when the child grows up and works, he continues supporting his parents.”
The reverse can also happen. Aguila says, “Our protectiveness encourages children to be dependent, emotionally and/or financially, on their parents until adulthood. Even if the children get married, they still defer to the parents.”
Protectiveness, when overdone, can weaken a child’s emotional, psychological, and perhaps even moral backbone. Aguila says, “I do not see resilience in many of the young people today, especially those who are born in well-off families. They are prone to depression and become depressed at minor problems. You’d see cases of a teenager who would lock himself in his room for days and not talk to his parents for weeks just because he was snubbed by his barkada.”
In contrast, though, the other young people who are forced to pull their own weight at an early age, like working students who have to put themselves through school, show more resilience. “Bihira sa mga ganyan ang depressed,” Aguila says. “They don’t have time for it, because they are working and studying at the same time.”
Sticking to traditions
Aguila’s other parenting study, made in 2006, also showed that traditional gender roles still carry some weight. Parents allow their adolescent sons to come home late and skew the curfew, but require them to do the physically heavy work at home. Meanwhile, they tend to be stricter on the girls when it comes to curfew, but apparently pamper them with shopping and other treats. Men, especially fathers and older brothers, are still expected to fulfill their breadwinner roles; failure to do so—regardless of the reason—still carries a certain stigma.
It may only be a matter of time, though, before these traditional roles and expectations change—and with them, the parenting styles they have developed. Jocano cites one atypical example, “Look at the OFW phenomenon. While mostly males go abroad, there has also been an increase in their wives going abroad. If these women are mothers, the father is left to act in dual roles. One consequence for this role shift is depression; in some cases, the father is ostracized by the in-laws for not being the ‘provider’.” As a coping mechanism, these single fathers-cum-homemakers “enter a job which allows them to work and maintain their self-esteem while allowing them to watch over their children.”
Jocano adds that traditional roles can also be challenged by the fact that there are increasing numbers of single-parent household. “There has also been an increase in the alternative forms of parenting, like same-sex partnerships where the child has two ‘daddies’ or two ‘mommies’, and I mean that in the cultural, and not necessarily biological, sense.”
Not surprisingly, the evolution of the family framework as well as their own roles has led to an identity crisis for many modern Filipino parents. “Parents today tend to doubt and second-guess themselves because of the challenges of the times,” Aguila says.