Almost 200 parents were in attendance at the Crowne Plaza Changi Airport for a parenting seminar and book launch organised jointly between the Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP) and Centre For Fathering Singapore (CFF).
The Guest of Honour, Dr Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Social and Family Development, noted the seminar’s oversubscribed status, indicating the growing awareness of the importance of fathers playing an active role in their children’s lives. Dr Faishal acknowledged that today’s parents were more attuned to the need to enhance their parenting skills.
“The foundation of a strong family, and consequently, resilient children, is a strong marriage,” Dr Faishal declared, as he outlined the seminar’s major theme – building strong partnerships between father and mother in raising happy families.
With learning being a key part of effective parenting, Dr Faishal highlighted two evidence-based parenting programmes introduced by the Ministry, namely the Positive Parenting Programme (PPP) and Signposts for Building Better Behaviour. These programmes provide tools for reducing the stresses of parenting, and improving behaviour.
Launch of the book, 10 Inspiring Fathers
Following his opening speech, Dr Faishal and the invited guests and speakers at the seminar unveiled the book, 10 Inspiring Fathers, to the attendees. The book features the stories of ten fathers in the Malay-Muslim community, ranging from community and business leaders to fathers of children with special needs, all of whom whose journeys to be involved in their children’s lives have been both a challenge and an inspiration.
The audience then sat back to enjoy the presentations by the two invited speakers. First on stage was Dr Mohamed Fatris Bakaram, Mufti of Singapore, followed by famed regional Motivational Speaker, Dato’ Dr Haji Mohd Fadzilah Kamsah. Their delivery in Malay was sharp and witty, offering many insights into the unique as well as universal challenges for Malay Muslim dads and families.
In between the sharing sessions, a break allowed the participants refreshment time, and some asked for autographs and photos with the speakers, while we caught up with the Executive Director of AMP, Mr Mohd Anuar Yusop.
Interview with AMP’s Executive Director
Highlighting a key point in the seminar, Mr Anuar said, “Mufti has shared that whether one parent is working, or both parents are working, the parenting duties and responsibilities at home must be shared equally, so we should not have this perception that the mother should play a bigger role at home than the father.”
The Executive Director also pointed out that a dad should not be someone on the ‘outside’. An involved dad needs to be knowledgeable, understand (the issues of) bringing up children, their behaviour and psychology. He has to gain these types of knowledge at seminars such as this, and through reading on the topic, which is key.
Mohammad Ali Dawood
We also spoke to one of the dads featured in ’10 Inspiring Fathers’, Mohd Ali Dawood.
Ali juggles a successful career in the aerospace industry, and is also a founding partner of My Inspiring Journey – MIJ Special Education Hub. He and his wife Faraliza started the special education school in 2011, initially offering weekend religious classes, which expanded to offer holistic learning opportunities to children with special needs, especially autism.
Ali offered some deep insights into the struggles of dads with special needs students (his eldest son is on the autism spectrum), as he told us, “Most men struggle with accepting and coming to terms with the reality of raising a special needs child.” The most significant difficulties were social – struggles for acceptance, even with extended family; not being able to manage “simple” tasks like playing ball with others; and the steep learning curve of the critical early years.
“Dads need to be ready, especially (with) the pressure to hold the family together,” Ali said firmly. His resoluteness was obvious as he also described the measure of discipline it takes for parents to raise a special needs child well.
However, he also provides encouragement and some keys to success, namely, having a short, medium and long term plan. One needs to focus on a long term career that would be secure, through training and sheer hard work. Short term plans such as earning the understanding and support of in-laws, siblings and other extended family members are similarly invaluable.
Finally, the most effective long term strategy is in optimising the partnership with one’s wife. For Ali, he did this by identifying some areas where his wife was better off being in charge – for instance, in the running of MIJ.
Conclusion – a note on dads of children with special needs
As inspiring as it was to hear Ali’s story, we also learned something about raising children with autism in a fast-paced society like Singapore. One of the deepest needs of these dads is their need for our patience when we meet children with behavioural difficulties in public. We need to give them more acceptance and tolerance, being generous with the benefit of the doubt and less judgement or blame.
It makes all the difference to them, and arguably, to the world in which we raise our own children. Indeed, it takes a village – a society, to raise a child.
The learning points at this seminar were plentiful and rich, much like the journey of being a dad for life.