Dr Maliki shares ABCs of parenting at Bapa Sepanjang Hayat’s first education forum

Second Minister for Education, Dr Maliki Bin Osman, was the guest of honour during Bapa Sepanjang Hayat’s first education forum on Sunday 18 September 2022 at the Lifelong Learning Institute. He shared his takeaways from his parenting journey of over 20 years – the ABCs of parenting. Dr Maliki’s children two children are 24 and 27.

First, we have A for Active Fathers.

a. Those of who are vintage here would remember growing up in an era where fathers played the role of a stern discipline master. It was a time where fathers tended to be more emotionally reserved, and perhaps not as closely involved in the day to day their lives o their children’s compared to mothers.

b. But times have changed. Today, chaptehs, five stones and country erasers have given way to TikTok and Genshin Impact. In this Internet and social media age, young children are exposed very early to wide range of information and influences, which have definitely raised the complexity of parenting.

i. For example, young children today are more likely to face social comparisons on social media. Online harms towards children – such as cyberbullying, or the risk of young children seeing offensive content online – have all become more prevalent.

ii. Our children also have to learn to balance their studies and co-curricular activities, cope with the changes in their adolescent years, and manage family and peer relationships. It’s not easy to be a young person today. There is so much more they have to deal with today.

iii. Some may impose unduly high expectations on themselves over narrow definitions of what success in life means.

c. As fathers, we need to actively connect with our children early, and help them navigate this big, wide, and ever-changing world.

i. Being active fathers means we must stay vigilant to what our children are exposed to, and steer them away from danger. We need to make a conscious effort to be part of our children’s lives as they grow and mature.ii. We should be their role models to impart the right values, help them develop their confidence, teach them to recognise the many broad definitions of success (not just to get a university degree), and inculcate in them valuable life skills like resilience in the face of challenges.iii. We should be their pillar of support, so that they know Dad will always have their back as they explore their strengths and interests in their journey of life.

iv. For the young fathers today, my advice is to take advantage of your children’s young age to be present in their lives, especially when they fall ill – this is the time when they are most vulnerable and your presence will strengthen the physical and emotional bond with your child that will last a lifetime.

d. Our children grow up all too quickly before we even realise it. We cannot turn back lost time and opportunities to be part of their childhood and adolescence.

i. Personally, I try to have regular and open communications with my children to let them know that I am always there for them. When they were in school, I try hard to send them to school in the morning and use the time in the car to talk about life and everything else under the sun, not just “Have you done your homework?”.

ii. I make an effort to attend key events and milestones like their school sports day or drama performances. And I have never missed any of the parent-teacher conferences, even when my daughter was in JC.

iii. My children are more grown up now, but these are things I still do to show that I care. I would send them WhatsApp text messages several times a day to find out how they were doing and I would go to their rooms when I return home at night to make sure they are okay.

iv. Recently, I shared in a MOE Schoolbag article about our “tilam bawah katil” (TBK) – which is really a security blanket for my children till today. The TBK is always under my bed, and my kids know they can come and lie on it to cry or seek support from my wife and I.

Next, we have B for Balanced Parenting Roles.

a. In March, the Government released its White Paper on Women’sDevelopment. It underscores our aspiration for equality between men and women in a fair and inclusive society.

b. The White Paper would not have been possible without the extensive consultations and feedback we heard from so many Singaporeans. One thread that emerged from our consultations was how gender roles in parenting should be re-considered.

i. I fully agree that as a society, we can embrace more fluidity in the roles fathers and mothers play at home.

ii. Mothers can provide for the family financially and carve successful careers for themselves if they want to. On the other hand, fathers can stay at home to assume a larger share of caregiving responsibilities, if they choose to. I know of many more fathers who embrace household chores, such as being “iron men”. Housework and caregiving are definitely not the sole remit of women! It is heartening that we are seeing more young fathers being more “domesticated” and comfortable doing housework and feeding their children in public.

c. Parenting is, and should be, a team effort. So to the gentlemen present today, I encourage you to be an active and equal partner to your wives. Both fathers and mothers can complement each other in the lives and development of their children.

Finally, there is C for Community of Parents.

a. The family has been and will continue to be the cornerstone of our social fabric. We will continue to make every effort to reinforce family bonds, and ensure our children grow up to become confident and resilient adults.

b. Since it takes a village to raise a child, there is no question then that with strong communities of parents working together, we can nurture a happy and healthy generation of young children.

c. This philosophy guides our thinking at the Ministry of Education, and it is why we encourage Parent Support Groups, or PSGs, to work hand-in-hand with our schools in their parenting journey.

i. The advantages are two-fold: On one hand, parents can pick up tips and insights from each other to better guide their children. On the other hand, positive school-home partnerships can help our children develop self- management skills, have ownership over their learning, develop a sense of purpose and build resilience. Our schools and parents can also work closely to support our children in pursuing their strengths and interests, and to impart good values and attitudes.

ii. I will give a few examples of the good work done by our PSGs.

a) Jing Shan Primary School’s PSG reaches out to their parent community with initiatives to strengthen parent-child relationships. In April 2022, the school held a ‘Positive Parenting Symposium’ with the theme “Well-being at the Heart of Thriving Families’ where invited speakers shared about how parents can better interact with their children and identify early signs of stress. Through their communication channels, the PSG also shares tips, resources and their personal experiences with the parent community.

b) Bowen Secondary School’s PSG has also worked closely with the school to support their parents. They have a mentoring programme where fellow parents share useful tips and resources with one another. The PSG also helms a “For Parents by Parents” segment during the school’s Meet-the-Parents sessions and holds Zoom sessions to engage parents in leading topics such as ways to build positive relationships with their children.

iii. To support all PSGs, MOE launched a Mental Well-being Resource Guide earlier this year with tips on how parents can be peer and resource supporters for each other. This guide is complemented by an online PSG repository that provides the most up-to-date resources that PSGs can refer to for their ongoing efforts to promote mental well-being among children.

d. Community partners like the Centre for Fathering have also provided strong support to our community of parents. Initiatives such as your “Back to School with Dad” activities or “Eat with Your Family” Days have been very meaningful to all our fathers and their families and I certainly look forward to more of such initiatives from partners.

Other speakers at the event include Deputy Mufti of Singapore Dr Hannan Hassan; clinical psychologist Md Haikal Jamil; educator Jailani Bin Abu Talib and social media enthusiast Sofian Rosla.



















Other speakers at the event include Deputy Mufti of Singapore Dr Hannan Hassan; clinical psychologist Md Haikal Jamil; educator Jailani Bin Abu Talib and social media enthusiast Sofian Rosla.