Notes Dean Yap, a founding member of the 100 Voices parenting group, “Increasingly, there are more fathers who are willing to come forward and take on the role of a main caregiver, even though they may not know what to do.”
100 Voices was started by dads who are passionate about how fathers can be more involved in parenting. As a parenting support group, it has a simple goal — to redefine the way parents think about what makes a successful child.
SmartParents sat down with five long-time 100 Voices fathers to get practical advice on how to be a better dad:
* Dean Yap, 42, software developer, father of three kids, aged 6 months, 6 and 9.
* Alex Chan, 46, CEO of Babbobox, father of two daughters, aged 11 and 15.
* Sunarto Quek, 52, senior lecturer at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, father of a 19-year-old daughter.
* Andy Sim, 58, Director of the Digital Innovation Team, National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre, father of four young adult daughters.
* Dr Jawn Lim, 39, assistant professor (Design and Specialised Businesses Cluster), Singapore Institute of Technology, father of three daughters aged 6 months, 4 and 6.
Here are their better-dad tactics…
1. Remember, your kids are NOT strawberries
“I think all parents think their kids are soft because they have gone through hardship. My parents went through war and hardship and all that, so, they thought that we were soft. We’ve also been through experiences that make us think our children are soft. I think “strawberry generation” is just a label ― I think our children can be pretty resilient, too.”
“I agree that the younger generation move on from a task when they don’t see meaning in. The ability to move on and pursue something they see meaning in is not a sign of being soft. In fact, they believe so much in themselves, they are daring enough to do something they are interested in. Our kids are brought up in the age of technology and they see the world as connected. The world they live in is very different. For us, our trust must be built over time, theirs is built on a common purpose. They can actually go to a stranger’s house and stay there [like Airbnb], so I think they are more resilient than us.”
2. Recognise that your children are your teachers, too
“I have a daughter who is 19 this year. Having her made me relearn a lot of things. I realised I need to set an example for what I want her to be. Through her, I also gain a better understanding of my students. When we talk as parents, we feel that we are teaching our children but more often than not, it’s the other way round.”
“I learned one thing: Empathy. To see the world without labels and prejudice. That’s because when you ask your child why a person does something, their answers are free from adult biases and I also learned to see the world as a better place.”
3. Chuck stereotype views ― pitch in
“There shouldn’t be a boundary for what a man or woman can do. For me, at home, I wash the dishes and I clean the floor. There shouldn’t be a [specific role for man or woman]. I think it forces us into a square or a box — in terms of stereotyping.”
“Be a man and sweep the floor (laughs). The typical reaction from dads is: ‘Oh, that’s not for me.’ Also, don’t [categorise tasks into] what you can do or cannot do around the house. Some typical dads think our wives are at home and we have been working in the office all day, so we should just let her handle it. But, she has been working all day too ― that’s why we should treasure the main caregiver at home.”
Dr Jawn Lim
4. Work as a tag team with your wife
“My wife and I are a tag team. We have nightly ‘AGMs’ (Annual General Meetings) where we will talk about who did what in the day. We will also spend time pondering things like who said what. And we have also both benefitted from bouncing our ideas off another person.”
Dr Jawn Lim
5. Let your child spend time with you
“Fathers don’t have to come up with an elaborate activity to do with their child because whatever he likes to do, the child will also. If the father likes soccer or jogging — just bring the kids along and, if need be, jog slower. Children are like natural magnets who are drawn to their parents ― your child will love doing what either spouse is doing. So, don’t think too much.”
6. Make time for play/fun…
“Play can help your child gain vital skills in areas like communication, innovation and team work, maybe even negotiation and how to deal with conflict. Your child also needs time to do nothing — that’s when they will start to be creative. They’ll start to think about something to occupy themselves.”
“I think another thing that my kids learn from playing is about accepting defeat. Especially when you play competitive games. It matters how you take defeat.”
“Play mean stimulation to all the senses where my children are active and they sweat. I will bring my kids to the playground and they get to run on their own. I see the playground as a little “children’s society” where adults cannot intervene especially when there are quarrels, they will need to learn to resolve it independently. They’ll gain interpersonal skills from it.”
7. Be their playmate
“As parents, we should also love the things they love, too, including memorising the names of the characters of the My Little Pony cartoon series ― Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, Applejack ― and what are their characteristics. You can actually use the stories to teach values if you’re creative enough. Asking questions like ‘Oh, do you think Rarity’s vanity is good?’”
Dr Jawn Lim
8. Don’t overprotect your kids
“As parents, ultimately, we’ll need to learn how to release our child… Allowing her to fall will also teach resilience. As parents, it can be difficult to watch them take a fall so we stop them, but these are values and traits that will help them survive in the dynamic world today.”
9. Help your child find her purpose
“If your child has nothing to do, it’s very easy to get lost in their handphones and allow it to numb themselves to their surroundings. So it matters for your child to have a strong purpose in life and parents should help their children discover it.”
10. Don’t use school grades as a measure of success
“I always remember the old folks in my Indonesian hometown. They say 你要好好读书 以后做一个有用的人 (study hard, so that you will be a useful person) so to me, success is about being a 有用的人(useful person). Basically, you should be using your skills to contribute to society to help people. I don’t expect my daughter to be a lawyer or doctor. I told her, when she had to choose her course recently, to go with her passion and not to worry about the prospects.”
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