Opinion:  We can’t control who others elect into office, but we can control how we raise our kids 2
Art by Mags Ocampo

Opinion: We can’t control who others elect into office, but we can control how we raise our kids

Whether or not we’re happy with Halalan 2019—or any election for that matter—we need to prepare the next generation. They will reap the consequences of our votes. A former parenting editor suggest ways to raise better citizens
Dedet Reyes Panabi | May 20 2019

The election results are out, and I am devastated. But that’s not the point of this article. It’s exhausting and counterproductive to keep ranting. We have our leaders, like them or not. Now what?

We can’t give up on this country, because we can’t give up on our kids. It’s ironic that the people who were too young to vote will be the ones to bear the full consequences of our choices. They will have to pay for our international debts. They will have to find work and pay bills in whatever economic state they find themselves in, an economic state we helped shape. If this government runs the country to the ground, it will be their job to rebuild it.


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It’s our job to teach them how to do it differently, because we sure as heck didn’t get it right. Philippine politics has deteriorated into one big frat war between Dilawan and Dutertard. If we’re not careful, our kids are going to pick up this kind of thinking. How can they solve the problem if they perpetuate the divisiveness that created it?

So this is where parents are more powerful than politics. We can’t control who others elect into office, but we can control how we raise our kids. We can supply what they need to turn this country around.

And here are some things we can do.


Develop critical thinking at home

Fake news is such a huge problem in the Internet age. Anyone can whip up a story, slap on a stolen photo, and then spread it on social media. With enough money and digital marketing knowhow, you can create a snowball of shares until the story is “verified” by social proof: “It’s true because people I trust say it is.”

But people don’t do this because they’re bobo. It’s human nature. Psychologists call it confirmation bias: to simplify and make sense of a barrage of information, our brains are programmed to favor whatever conforms to our beliefs and ignore what doesn’t. In other words, we will always try to look for facts that fit into what we already believe.

One of the first things I learned in Comm 101 was the gatekeeper theory: even if news sources try to be objective, biases show up in the questions we ask, how we write the article (and what we leave out), and whether the editor prints it or how it’s highlighted on a newspaper or website.

Our kids need to be aware of this and guard against both malicious misinformation and completely normal human biases. And they can do this by thinking critically. We should train them to ask questions, check the sources (and get multiple sources), and analyze what they read. And one way to guard against bias is to also be self-aware: “Why do I want this to be true/false? Am I avoiding certain facts? Am I justifying or am I actually listening?”

How do you teach this? Ask the kids: “So, what did you read on the Internet today? What do you think about it?” Train them how to do research properly for their homework—and even if it’s not required by their teacher, to check and properly cite their sources. And if your teens disagree with you about a rule, let them articulate what they feel and calmly explain their case. Talk about big ideas—or, small things in a big way. “Do you agree with what that character did in that movie? Would you do the same thing?”

As parents, we spend a lot of money on tutors and workshops to make our kids smart, but what are we doing to make them think? Encouraging critical thinking at home will ensure they will less likely acquire troll mentality, where they will just employ their intelligence to justify stupid decisions and ideas.


Teach them about compassion and sensitivity

We have to teach our kids to reach out to the less privileged (I hate using the term “The Poor” because it’s abstract and is often loaded with connotations of disdain or pity), foster in them a compassion for people outside family. Start in small ways. How do your kids treat the people in your own home? Do they appreciate the fact that their yaya left her own kids to take care of other people's children? 

Teach them to listen to other people's sentiments, no matter the social standing. Help them see and experience what most Filipinos go through. One of my friends gave her teens P500 and told them to go to market and buy enough food to feed their family of five for one week. “That’s how much budget eight out of 10 Filipinos have,” she told her kids. For a few days, they lived off rice and toyo, fish, and instant noodles. Her kids learned what real hunger felt like. It helped break their sense of entitlement. 


Get involved

Citizenship is not just about voting—it’s contributing to a community. All of us, as families, need to break out of our intellectual bubble and find a positive and productive outlet for our frustrations. Instead of ranting, let’s start doing good things, like adopting a family cause. It can be as simple as spearheading a fundraising for the nearest public school, saving money to sponsor a scholar, cleaning up trash on the streets outside the subdivision, or contacting the local community center to find out if there are any projects that need weekend volunteers. There are small efforts but they teach our kids that they can make a difference.

This country can change, one child at a time. Their future is in our hands. 


Dedet Reyes Panabi was the former editor-in-chief of Working Mom magazine.