By: Cristina Moreno, Bilingual Outreach Specialist, Penfield Children’s Center
While I admit I am one that gets a little ruffled when people I am not very familiar with try to give me parenting advice, I do listen intently when the advice comes from someone I know and respect, like my mom. My mom raised four daughters and has taken care of six, now seven, grandchildren, so I would say she has some insight when it comes to parenting. One of the things I appreciate the most about my mom is that although she does give out plenty of advice, she likes to stay current and hear what I have to say too. She is not stuck in her parenting ways or act as if she feels her way is the right way, and even when we do not see eye to eye, she respects my decisions while still providing an alternate, and often logical, point of view. I respect my mother immensely, and for that reason, more often than not, I follow her advice.
One of the best pieces of advice she gave me came from a conversation soon after my son was born. In those first few weeks after I was discharged from the hospital while he remained in the NICU, my mom would drive me back and forth from the hospital and stay there with me for hours on end. On one of those days, we were having a normal conversation when I expressed that I felt like I had no idea how to raise a child, let alone a boy. An important thing to both my husband and I is that our son grows to be independent, but that he always has a strong bond with us and a commitment to spending time with his family. We want him to appreciate simple things and know that he had a loving and secure childhood, and we want him to grow up to be respectful, humble, responsible, and caring. I expressed this to my mom and voiced concerns about not knowing how to draw the line between giving him a happy, carefree childhood and spoiling him.
“Do you think we spoiled you?” my mom asked me. No, I did not.
“Did you feel loved, safe, and cared for?” she continued. Yes, of course I did.
“Did we give you everything you wanted?” No.
“Did you have everything you needed and maybe a little more?” Yes.
“Did we teach you that you were better than any other person?” No.
“Did we make you feel like you were someone special?” Yes.
As my mom continued with her simple questions, I started reminiscing about all of the things she was referring to, all of the seemingly mundane day-to-day things that shaped my sisters and me, and by extension, our own families: the encouragement to try new things and succeed on our own, but also a helping hand when we needed it, the love and attention that made us feel special but still kept us grounded. The ideas she spoke of were no secret parenting formula, and as she spoke them they seemed so common sense, but before then I had never been able to put my finger on what it was that drew that invisible line between caring and babying him. My mom was able to put it perfectly into words I had heard many times before, chiquiar and consentir. Chiquiar is the action of spoiling someone, of giving in to all of his whims, bending over backwards to make him happy even when he is being unreasonable, and letting him get away with behavior that would otherwise seem innappropriate. Consentir literally means to consent, but is used as a term to mean indulge, but in a loving way. For example, if I were to make my son a special treat because he was feeling under the weather, or even just because he asked nicely, that would be consentir, or indulge. On the other hand, if my son were to throw a tantrum because I bought the wrong flavor of ice cream and so I ran out to buy the one he wanted, that would be chiquiar. Like I said, this advice is nothing unheard of or elusive, but for some reason, hearing it with terms that were so simple and familiar finally helped it click. Consentir is on par with giving positive reinforcement and positive attention, rewarding good behavior with a sign of love and affection, although not necessarily something of tangible value. Meanwhile, chiquiar more often involves rewarding the behaviors we know do not deserve rewarding, either by giving an actual reward, such as the case of conceding to buy the ice cream of their choice although their behaviors do not merit it, or simply choosing to look the other way when they do something they should not. While no single act of chiquiar, or spoiling, a child would be particularly harmful, continuing this trend throughout his childhood and adolescence can have negative consequences. The repetition of these actions, as insignificant as they may seem, can lead him to feel entitled to something he did nothing to earn and likely does not appreciate, and can lead him to feel that rules do not need to apply to him. In the end, that is basically what being spoiled means. It is natural to want to give our children the best that we can, but doing it in a healthy, sustainable, and loving way will be better for them, and your relationship, in the long run.
How do you strike a balance between consentir and chiquiar?