Fatherhood and my Parenting
EtonHouse International Education Group
Father’s Day is celebrated worldwide to recognise the contribution fathers and father figures make to the lives of their children. Honouring this special day, we interviewed three ‘EtonHouse Dads’ about their parenting journey and their understandings of current parenting problems.
1. What does it mean to be a father?
I vividly remember seeing my twin sons for the first time during an ultrasound scan at the gynecologist. I was so awestruck that it took me several hours before I was able to speak. I spent the rest of the day in a daze, so overcome with joy that I was going to become a father to twins!
There are many ways to describe fatherhood. Love, joy, exhaustion, responsibility. It is all those things at once. Fatherhood is undeniably a new chapter in a man’s life. This new chapter is less obvious and less celebrated compared to motherhood, but it is nevertheless a transformation that every father undergoes. It is very different from motherhood in the sense that all mothers experience a huge biological shift which leads to psychological changes. Whereas for fathers, the transformation happens from within, we can choose what kind of father we want to be for our families. Therefore, each man gets to decide how he wishes to transform. Of course, all fathers are like mothers in wanting the very best for their children.
2. In families, mothers are often doing the bulk of parenting whereas fathers could sometimes be passive. Has this changed and what are your thoughts on this?
Fathers face a lot of pressure from society to provide for their families. This is the same in all cultures and it is a belief that has been ingrained into us from the time we were children. Furthermore, because fatherhood is a very personal transformation, it is easy to make providing for your family the most important expectation that a father has for himself. Despite women entering the workforce many years ago, these ideas and values take much longer to change.
Raising children is a team effort. My wife and I both share the responsibility of bringing up our children together. Like any team, goal setting is very important. It is best that both parents agree on what values they want their children to have. Otherwise, the child will grow up with three value systems, one to make mummy happy, another to make daddy happy, and yet another where they are utterly confused! In addition, I also believe both parents need to always collaborate and communicate with each other. When my wife is tired, I try my best to help her. When we are both tired, we try our best not to fight.
3. Parents are spending more money and energy on bringing up their children. With severe competition in schools and workplaces, this leads to anxious parents and children. In a sense, parents feel obliged to provide their children with the very best and help their children succeed in this race for perfection. What are your thoughts?
In the Reggio Emilia philosophy, they empathise that children need “tempo” (time), time to explore, be curious about the world around them, and learn at their own pace. I think of this concept very often whenever I encounter this question. If you have read the book ‘The Hurried Child’ by David Elkind, he alludes to this anxiety and stress that we experience as parents and pass on to our children. The constant overscheduling and race to provide what adults think is best for children leads to children feeling anxious, tired, and often burnt out and uninspired with learning. At the end of the day, we all want our children to be happy but we end us making them miserable with unnecessary anxiety and expectations.
Instead of succumbing to societal pressure and getting caught up in the rat race, it is important to remember what our long-term goal is. After all, you can say that parenting is love towards separation, as our children will one day become independent adults. We want to prepare our children for life, not just for the next exam paper or test. They need to be resilient problem-solvers who can adapt to whatever comes their way.
At EtonHouse, we always believe that it is crucial to inspire in children a genuine love for learning while being respectful towards their talents and abilities. When children are respected, and their uniqueness celebrated, they will grow and flourish in their own right. As a father, I am happy that my children will be in an EtonHouse school where their uniqueness will be nurtured.
With that in mind, we must ask ourselves if that extra tuition will help them or hurt them? I often feel that educational excellence does not always equate to a flourishing adult.
The reality is that life does not resemble exams. There are no multiple choices nor model answers to solving a problem. And what we learn today may one day become obsolete in our fast-changing world.
Instead, take the time to help your child find what they love to do, encourage them, give them the space to explore, think, and learn. This will help nurture highly engaged children who are motivated to push learning boundaries and achieve great success in whatever they put their hearts and minds to.
In conclusion, I believe it is important to be patient with our children. Remember how we want them to flourish long-term. And remember that educational success does not always equate to success as an adult.
Ang Poh Seng
Group CFO & CEO (China)
EtonHouse International Education Group
It is probably one of the most wonderful things that has happened in my life and has certainly made me a more emotional and responsible person than before.
From the initial excitement, joy and fear of preparing to be a father, to the indescribable feelings when I first touched the little hands and feet of my newborn, and now facing the reality of life in trying to be a father who always want to be physically and emotionally involved in the growing up of my children, the journey thus far has been one that is Priceless! The smiles on their faces, their hugs and kisses, and their unconditional love allows me to experience emotions that I have never felt before.
Fatherhood involves a massive transformation for me: the way I behave, the way I look at life, the way it has made me a more responsible and determined person. I am enjoying this continuous journey of transformation with my children and family.
About “neglecting parenting”, i think bringing up a child requires the collaborative efforts of both parents. The role that each parent has to play, the core values on which both parents would wish to bring up their child, and the time and resource that each parent can afford to expend in this journey: there will be changes throughout the journey that require parents to always come together and work as a team for the best interests of their child. “Neglecting parenting”, in my view, arises mainly due to the perceptions of and pressures from the society, and the “unpreparedness” of parents in the journey of parenthood. From the initial decision of having a child together, to the bringing up of the child, it is important that parents work together as a team and ensure that everyone (including oneself) in the team is playing their role well. I do believe that even in the real case of a neglecting father and struggling mother, this issue may have been avoided by honest and timely communications within the family.
It is parents’ instinct in wanting to provide the best for their children. However, the definition of “best” in this case has often been influenced by what others are doing. This inadvertently creates the pressures for parents to keep up in the rat race, and at times, with no considerations to their own limitations.
The holistic development of a child is very important. While the cognitive development of a child has often been the emphasis and focus of many parents, the development of a child in other areas such as emotional and fitness are just as important. Further, the cognitive development of a child isn’t simply the academic achievements that he/she has been tested and measured upon. It is important to achieve a balance across the various development areas (e.g. emotional, cognitive and fitness) of a child. At the end of the day, a child is very sensitive to his/her surroundings. Anxious parents, in the pursue of wanting the best for their children, may exert unnecessary pressures on their children that may affect their future development.
Principal of EtonHouse Suzhou Baitang
To be a father means responsibility. Quality company and unconditional love are a must.
This phrase reflects a social phenomenon. However, the growth of children, especially in the pre-school stage, needs the high-quality company of both parents. There are also many families who are forced to become neglecting fathers and struggling mothers. From the perspective of the reasons behind, this problem needs the joint efforts of the state, society, families and individuals to solve it better.
“Education involution” and the “neglecting parenting” are two related social phenomena. I don’ think there will be a winner in the process of involution. However, since it is a social problem, it can’t be dealt with by just individuals. Besides, it can’t be solved within a short period. There are some key points that parents need to consider seriously: what is my expectation for my children? What do I value most about my child/children? What does the success mean to my child/children?