In the 1998 film “The Negotiator,” police lieutenant Chris Sabian (Kevin Spacey) says, “I once talked a guy out of blowing up the Sears Tower, but I can’t talk my wife out of the bedroom or my kid off the phone.”
In my case, a 6-year-old kid and a 20-month-old toddler scampering around the house, it can sometimes feel like a zoo. Differences with my husband’s parenting method add to the challenge.
It’s been said that there is no manual for raising kids, but I wonder if preschool teacher-parents have it easier. Are they able to apply their classroom management skills at home, or is their reality similar to that of Sabian’s?
Vanessa Morales-Balquiedra is mom to Felix, 7 years old, Eloise, 2, and Emelia, 1-month-old. She has a bachelor’s degree in Family Life and Child Development from the University of the Philippines and a master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Columbia University. She is a preschool teacher and educational administrator at Kid’s First Discovery Space.
Rina Montemayor is mom to Kyla, 17, and Iya, 10. She has a bachelor’s degree in Production Design, but in 2002, she found her passion for teaching preschool. She started teaching at The Little Apprentice in 2005, and became managing partner by 2012.
Is it easier for teacher-moms like them to get their kids to obey, given their training and experience as educators?
“Not exactly,” admitted Vanessa. “My kids know me best so they know how to push my buttons in the same way they know how to charm me if they make a mistake. Maybe I just have more patience than most parents since I’m a teacher. I try to speak as calmly as possible to my kids.”
Said Rina: “I can’t say that it’s easier, but being with children every day allows me to constantly realize that they learn and perceive things in many ways. Instilling obedience sometimes needs a dose of creativity. There will always be moments of disobedience at home. To me, the more important thing is how this is processed with them and being able to maintain the feeling of trust and respect between our kids and us. No special training needed for that.”
Is there any difference between the methods they employ in disciplining other people’s children vs their own?
“Training for more than five years to be a teacher and being in this profession for almost 20 years have made me realize that the strategies I use in school surely help at home as well,” said Vanessa. “I find myself making rules early on with my own kids, so they know what’s expected of them.
“My husband Eugene and I try our best to create a routine with our children so they can foresee what will happen and not be surprised, which may cause meltdowns. I don’t believe in spanking—either at home or at school. My students are like my kids so I treat them with respect, love and humor, too.”
Rina explained: “I understand that my students come from homes where parenting methods vary. For me, there is a universal way of dealing with kids. And a little tweaking here and there is at times needed to personalize the way I reach out to teach and to discipline them.
“I find myself bringing home a ‘teacher’ side of me in the way that I handle my daughters and my ‘mommy’ side also comes out when I’m with my students. Getting to know their parents in school and how they are at home is one sure way to help me manage my students in a positive atmosphere.”
How do they get their kids to obey?
“My kids are ‘all-in-one’ (compliant, difficult, etc.) at different times,” said Vanessa. “We give them choices if they don’t want to do anything I ask. Making their own choices empowers them even at a young age.
“We also offer them ‘if-then’ options, where consequences are involved. This way, they know that if they don’t follow, they must face the consequences. We try to give them things to do instead of always saying ‘no’ or ‘don’t’ to them, or we tell them what they can do.”
Rinna added: “To have children obey takes a lot of work and effort. Knowing and understanding each child’s being is a good start. I have found, though, that to instill obedience, we must be firm but not rude, consistent with the rules and not break those consistencies.
“Your approach may vary depending on the personality of your child, but laying out rules and boundaries early on is key. Explain why they need to be followed. Explaining consequences is a good way to make them understand why they are not allowed to do certain things. Ideally, positive reinforcement is what I try to do.
“But when it comes to difficult kids, I feel there are times when they must see for themselves the consequences of their actions. Then we go back to how we process these with them. That’s very important.”
How do they manage parenting differences with their respective spouses?
Said Vanessa: “My husband and I have different approaches to disciplining our kids. One thing I remind myself always is to try to be on the same page with him. I don’t call him out in front of the kids if I do not agree with his way of dealing with the situation. I normally wait until it’s just us. Same with him, once I say something, he just follows it up with ‘Follow Mommy’ or ‘Don’t get mom upset.’”
“Communicate!” said Rina. “By now, my husband Jerome and I know how different we are from each other and we’ve accepted that. We make it clear with our children that, even with our differences, we love them and want what’s best for them.
“We try and have a game plan on how to approach issues with our daughters. We try to understand the purpose of why we choose to deal with things in a certain way. Often, those differences balance out the relationship we have at home.”
What things do they wish parents of their students knew?
“Empty threats don’t work,” said Vanessa. “Promises are made to be kept. Quality time does not include gadgets. Follow through in everything is key. Presence is so much better than presents.”
Rina pointed out: “Children are tough. They are more resilient than they seem. Children hear and see more than we think they do. They learn more from our actions rather than the words we simply tell them. They’ve got their eyes on us. They pick up emotions from adults so quickly!
“Your 100 percent attention is precious to them. Getting high grades and perfect scores are not the main goals in educating a child. It’s okay to get their hands dirty, splatter paint on their shirts and spill glue on the table. They learn more when they’re having fun.”
Is there anything else parents need to know?
Rina noted: “Pay attention. Answer their questions; they never run out. Read them a book! Have room for mistakes. Don’t be afraid to say ‘No.’ Listen and learn from them, too. Support their passion. Let them get out there and discover the world, and be there to guide them.”—CONTRIBUTED