Fathers Make a Difference by Jason Wong

Senior Director, MCYS
Secretariat, Dads for Life
Former Deputy Director/Chief of Staff, Singapore Prisons Service
Fathers Make a Difference by Jason Wong

Dear Young Officer,

I’m writing this because I’ve seen firsthand how important fathers are to children, having worked in the prisons for 17 years, and am now working with at-risk children and youth. Even if you’re not a father, I invite you to read on, as I have something for you to take away too.

360 degree feedback

We do 360 degree feedback at work. We should do this at home too. There’re two key questions: “What would you like Daddy to do more of?” and “What would you want Daddy to do less of or stop doing?” My son’s response to the latter: “Work less on your computer.” All my mistakes flashed back to me: “Can’t you see I am busy?”, “I need to finish this, if not my boss will scold me.” I must have given him the impression that bosses are bad and working life is no fun. If bosses told me time and again: “Don’t disturb me”, the message sent is “You’re not important” and I would stop going to them after a while. I’ve since stopped doing that to my children.

Mothers can help

Fathers are wired differently. Mothers buy toys for their children; fathers can act as toys – as a plane, horse, monster or Superman. Research shows children need such physical play. Mothers say, “Don’t run so fast”, “Don’t climb so high”; fathers say, “Run faster”, “Climb higher”.

Mothers protect by preventing children from getting hurt. Fathers protect by preparing them so they won’t get hurt in future. Both are needed.

In Singapore, three out of 10 fathers find their wives a barrier to their desire to be more involved fathers. This is maternal gate-keeping. Mums can support dads. For example, I know one who helps by buying tickets for her husband to watch movies with their son.

Be role models

Parents often ask me how to teach values. I tell them they’re teaching values all the time. Our children watch us daily, and in the process, learn good and bad values directly. Decide what you want your children to learn from you, then live your life accordingly. Children also need heroes. If they can’t find them at home, they find them elsewhere. Character and values are more important to me than academic achievements. Smart people, even scholars, end up in prison too.

Build relationships

A minister once said: “Singaporeans don’t suffer from lack of material wealth. We suffer from poverty of relationships.” The home is where children learn about relationships. How you relate to your wife, and to your child, will determine how your child relates to you and others in future. Relationships are vital to influencing behaviour. Rules + Relationships = Response; Rules – Relationships = Rebellion. Rules are necessary, but whether it is prison officer and prisoner, boss and employee, or parent and child, positive relationships are the key, not rules.

Influence other fathers

Fathers, influence your children’s friends by influencing their fathers. I started a fathers group in my son’s school, after realising that if more fathers are involved positively in their children’s lives, my son would have more positive peers.

Be good ‘fathers’ at work too

Over the years, I’ve had father figures at the workplace who taught, guided and stretched me, like a nurturing father would. They let me fail and learn from my mistakes, yet lifted me up, and said “It’s ok, try again”. They encouraged me to go beyond my comfort zones and believed in me even when I doubted myself. They sought my best interests, instead of using me to serve their personal agenda. If you have staff, be a good “father” to them. You can also help employees who are fathers be better fathers. In doing so, you are helping to raise the next generation.

More fathering tips at dadsforlife.sg

    Mar 13, 2012
  • link facebook
  • link twitter
  • link whatsapp
  • link email