Welcome to the second weekly installment of my post series, Parenting Around the World!
This week we’re taking a look at the other side of the world to find out how parents raise their children in the Philippines.
I spent my middle and high school years in the Philippines as my parents were missionaries there. While this may give me some insight into Filipino parenting, being raised by expat parents at a missionary school left some definite gaps in my knowledge.
I’ve filled in these gaps by interviewing one of my Filipino friends Nathan Santos, and by doing some academic research into Filipino parenting styles.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
This means that needs of the family are prioritized over the needs of the individual. Family is highly important in Filipino society, and children often grow up with aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and other extended family members living in the same house or compound as the immediate family. All of the family members take part in the raising of the children, not just their parents.
Elders are respected
The way children behave is a reflection on their family. They are expected to be respectful and honouring towards their parents, and other elders in the community.
Some ways children (and even adults!) show deference to their elders is by inserting the word “po” into sentences. There is no English translation for this, but it is a word used to signify respect towards the person one is talking to. Also, when answering in the affirmative, the word “opo” would be substituted for the usual “oo”.
Additionally, children and young adults greet older relatives and family friends by putting the elder’s hand to their forehead in a sign of blessing.
Obedience and deference towards parents and other elders in the family extends far beyond what Western culture expects from children. Parents exert influence over a child’s life decisions, such as career, relationships, and finances.
Unlike in Western culture, where spanking has become increasingly taboo and discipline in and of itself is a waning practice, Filipino parents use discipline frequently to encourage children’s obedience. Spanking is an acceptable practice, and considered a necessary part of raising respectful children.
There is an age, however, when the real discipline begins. Very young children are highly indulged and rarely reprimanded. When children reach school age (or work age, depending on the family), that is when the real conditioning begins. Children are expected to be diligent and dutiful, whether in their studies or their work.
In the Philippines, as in many developing countries, there are few options for exceptional higher education. Therefore school children must work hard to get ahead if their family expects them to go to university.
Children are cherished
This talk of discipline is not to say that children aren’t well-loved, cherished, and even spoiled. As a culture, Filipinos love children and think well of them. Filipinos tend to be quite generous to those close to them, and children are frequently the recipients of gifts and trinkets just for fun.
Children are included in adult activities
Here in the United States, children are often sent to bed early or left with a babysitter if the adults are getting together for a party or event (and let me tell you, Filipinos love parties). Children in the Philippines stay up with the adults and are not excluded from adult activities.
In the same way, when children have birthday parties, many adults are also invited to the celebration. It’s just not for kids.
This is most likely a direct result of the family orientation in Filipino culture. The family participates in activities and events together, rather than splitting off by age group.
Because independence is not a highly valued quality in Filipino children, they are usually monitored during play by a parent, sibling, or yaya (nanny). This ensures that children stay safe, come home for meals, and – most importantly – are kept clean! Cleanliness is extremely important to Filipinos, and children are no exception.
Young children often run around with a little towel tucked into the back of their shirt so their yaya can run after them and wipe their sweat if their play is too active.
While Filipino children aren’t usually babysat in the Western sense of the word, most families have a relative or maid close by who can keep an eye on the child when the parents are away. Having a family member close by at all times may also help foster the sense of community and togetherness that is inherent in Filipino culture.
Filipino parenting is a lifelong process
As my friend Nathan pointed out, Western parents typically expect the child to move out after high school or college, develop their own career and social life, and be essentially independent from the family at a young age.
Filipino parenting isn’t like that. Children do not necessarily move out as soon as they reach adult age, and indeed many families simply add on extra housing space to accommodate their children’s families, or they buy/rent a house very close by so that the family remains intact.
Families are interdependent. Children rely on their parents for as long as it takes to get them settled on a career path. In return, the children are expected to care for their parents once they are no longer able to work and provide.
If children are brought up well, there will be a lifelong bond between the parents and the child that includes emotional and relational support. Children rely on the wisdom of their elders, especially their parents, to make good decisions for the rest of their lives.