“Tigas ng Ulo Mo!”: How To Parent Stubborn Kids Without Breaking Them

Stubborn children or teens are a struggle to parent. But that doesn’t mean we need to break their spirit.

Ang tigas ng ulo mo!” is a statement we Filipino parents use to tell off our kids when they refuse to do what we want them to do. We see those kids as “pasaway” (rebellious), “stubborn”, “salbahe” (savage), or “bastos” (rude), and many other things. Because they deviate from what society demands, parents tend to resort to ‘breaking’ their kids’ spirits in order to protect them.

But do we really have to break their spirits?

Because Filipino culture heavily relies on following the rules, some of us feel there’s no other way. Letting our kids run rampant with their stubborn and defiant nature also subjects us to a sense of shame or one of the core values of Sikolohiyang Pilipino: hiya. Society often doesn’t look too kindly on parents who let their kids make decisions on their own or allow their kids to express themselves. Filipinos often see these kinds of parents as “horrible”, “neglectful”, “awful”, and even “not worthy”.

Filipinos see parenting as a task that involves being “extremely hands-on” where kids are a lump of clay that needs to be molded in the way society deems right.

Breaking their spirits to protect them?

A lot of times, our reasoning for screaming, yelling, insulting, and controlling everything involving our stubborn kids is because we do it out of love. We rationalize that our harsh wording is a lot better being heard from us rather than outside—because as family, we don’t lie to one another. While it’s hard to avoid sounding harsh (especially in telling things as it is), it’s not hard to explain one’s wording. It’s why Filipinos sometimes get into extremely abusive relationships. Yelling, screaming, and insulting them is a form of love.

How to parent stubborn children (without breaking them!)

When parenting a stubborn child, don’t go in with the objective of winning the argument. Because of how competitive Filipino culture makes us, we decide to not “take any prisoners” and crush all opposition regardless. But our stubborn kids are not our enemies. They are our kids! We are their caretakers, shelter, and their strength.

Let them explain their side first. Stubborn children are quite passionate and will strongly express their beliefs. While most of the time it’ll be a clash of values and the beliefs we grew up with, resist the urge to immediately crush the argument but instead, enter the dialogue with the desire to learn. Teaching and parenting our stubborn kids work two-fold: we teach our kids but our kids also teach us.

It’s a struggle but it’ll be worth it

It’s hard to let go of our competitive streak as Filipinos and the power and authority we hold as parents. But there’s more grace and benefit to be found in the long run in hearing out our stubborn kids. Besides, the world develops and grows more when there are more stubborn people. When there’s a need, someone has to be stubborn or hard-headed enough to break the old rules to make a better world for everyone.

So if your kids are being “tigas ng ulo“, trying hearing them out. It’s better than fighting with them and getting your blood pressure up and growing more white hair.

Other things in Filipino parenting culture that needs changing:

Gaslighting: What It is and How Parents Can Avoid It
How Utang ng Loob Made Filipino Families Toxic
Defining What’s Toxic in Filipino Families and How to Change That

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