Conversation with Our Patron, Speaker of Parliament Mr Tan Chuan-Jin

Our Patron, the Speaker of Parliament Mr Tan Chuan-Jin with our CEO, Bryan Tan

As Centre for Fathering-Dads for Life enters a season of celebrating fathers from every generation, it is fitting that we would enter Parliament House to interview our Patron, Speaker of Parliament Mr Tan Chuan-Jin.

After all, within these halls of power, Singapore’s founding fathers set the foundation and framework for the remarkable story of our nation – and for our continued progress and prosperity.

We were invited into the Speaker’s Chambers to meet with the Speaker, Mr Tan, to talk about his personal experiences with his father, and his experience as a father to his own two children. The Speaker also shares the things that he cherishes and hopes to pass on to his children, as well as to fathers and young Singaporeans today.

Growing Up Years

“From young, I can remember running, doing the shot put and triple jump in primary school,” Mr Tan said. “I remember my dad was coaching me at the park for some of these events because he was doing all sorts of different sports when he was in his school days.”

His father was a clerk-turned-accountant, while his mother was a schoolteacher. Mr Tan recalls going running together with his dad in those early years of his life. Another deep memory had to do with their domestic life, doing household chores, and taking on responsibilities in the home. “That left an imprint,” said Mr Tan.

Many of these elements of his relationship with his father are, coincidentally, reflected in his own experience as a dad today. Mr Tan and his son, who is 16, enjoy running together.

Mr Tan said, “When I was young I guess my father was around my age now. And then you see the parallel in the passage of time. You look up to your dad, he was fitter, he was stronger and all that. Now is the stage where my son is actually faster than me. So you think to yourself, the same thing is happening to me right now! I guess it makes one suddenly feel ‘older’! But I think you also begin to think about who you are and what kind of father you have been and can be.”

Values – Passing the Torch

Some of the values that the Speaker grew up with, especially with regards to domestic responsibility for children, have also been passed down to his children.

“There’s a certain value that comes from doing some of your own chores, with kids cleaning up their own shoes, or sorting out belongings and packing up their own room, That’s something that keeps us grounded. In terms of what my dad did, I think that had left quite an impression.”

Mr Tan leads the dads in a making a fatherhood pledge

Although there are obvious similarities between the habits his father inculcated, and those that he teaches his children, Mr Tan feels that it is hard to say how much of it was a result of his father’s influence or an extension of what he had internalized himself, but clearly what his father did would have been an impact.

He added, “if we are conscious in the way we parent (today), then one day when our sons become fathers, the conversation about (passing the torch) becomes more possible.”

Values for Our Children

It is clear that Mr Tan prioritises developing his children to be the best version of themselves. Developing self knowledge, sound values and the right attitude will set them up for success and happiness.

“Helping our children learn about the measurements of success – defining how one is successful is important. It is about us learning our place in life, and just seeking to do well and just be diligent. And if you enjoy it, and find it fulfilling – just improving, maybe that’s okay!”

“Another thing that I feel quite strongly about is being involved in society and giving back, reaching out to others, and understand how that can make a difference for us. That’s something that I guess, quite deliberately, I try to share with my children.”

At 20, his daughter (now studying in university) seems keen on social matters. She initiated an effort to bring some of her fellow university students to Pathlight where she had previously been interning for five months.

The idea is to help Pathlight students to be involved in giving back. At the same time, the university students also learn about people with autism.

Last Word

The Speaker takes heart that there seem to be more active dads these days. However, there are also parents who are are not making time. Mr Tan believes that when we spend time with our children, it makes a world of difference to them.

“Clearly, what our children really want is our presence, for us to be there, sharing our thoughts,  imparting ideas and doing things together. It is through these contacts that many different types of learning and bonding occur.”

Mr Tan speaks with participants at our last Dads for Life Camp

“Some cite time constraints for not spending more time with their children. Some may have time, but they actually prioritise other things first. Hence, some will outsource to others and pay them to do the things that you might otherwise have been able to do yourself.”

We must be present, as much as we can.Speaker of Parliament Mr Tan Chuan-Jin