Let’s not forget to build family values in our society too

I read with disbelief and sadness the Straits Times  (20 April 2011) report that a newborn baby was found buried alive in a rooftop garden in Eunos. Thankfully, this miracle baby is in stable condition and recovering in a hospital now. Although it is not immediately known what the circumstances of this case are, it seems like a case of an unwanted pregnancy.

I recall the words of Father Simon, a priest I met at a seminary off East Coast Road while doing my recent walkabouts. After listening to my self-introduction, he told me what he thought is wrong with our society: The rate of divorce is going up, there are over 10,000 abortions each year, breakdown in family relationships, teenage violence, a suicide a day, and more. He felt the government has extolled economic development at the expense of family values, resulting in our society going on a mindless pursuit of the 5Cs – Cars, Condos, Cash, Country Club and Credit Cards. It’s time to remind ourselves to focus on relationships and basic values too.

I agree totally with Father Simon. Despite a busy schedule running a growing start-up and having occasional part-time projects and community work, I believe strongly in family ties. Hence, we took time for family holidays, even if it was for a drive into Malaysia for a short stay. We only have our children for a while and then they will grow up. The time to influence them and to put values into their lives is in the early years, before they get caught up with friends in the teenage years.

Three years ago, I started a nightly schedule with my son that continues to this day. I would create and tell a random story while lying in bed with my son, then 9 years old. It became a series after that, with the character going on a daily adventure from whatever I can imagine while lying in bed. It is like the 1001 Arabian Nights, just that it’s more random. After a few changes of characters, we settled on a fictitious boy named “Ah Boy” and since then, “Ah Boy” has had different series of adventures, going round the world seeking treasures in different places, becoming the grand prix driving champion as we modified his adventures to chase the F1 series, becoming the star of various sports my son loved, and so on. Sometimes, he would create a part of the story and I would continue and vice-versa.

My wife and I do not need our children to be scholars or to be in top schools. We prefer that they develop good values and be useful people in society. We do not believe academic achievements are the only way to succeed in life; life success can also be measured in  different ways other than financial success. 

Happy kids in Bhutan

I went on a recent trip to Bhutan, the “happiest place on earth”. It is known as that for a good reason. Keeping the people happy is a key agenda that motivates the king. The happiness is not just individual happiness but collective happiness. It’s about preserving the culture, allowing sustainable economic development, preservation of the environment, and good governance. The Bhutanese believe that in doing so, it will create a culture of happiness. Indeed most people I met are generally happy and laughing, even though materially they are worse off than us. It prompted me to think how much one really needs to be happy? Contentment is a matter of the mind, not of actual wealth.

I like the national Dads for Life movement, sparked off by Mr Jason Wong, Director at MCYS. I have listened to Jason speak and truly applaud what he has done. A good civil service leader does not just administer rules mechanically. He should have a heart for his job. Jason has that and hence he could move such a major movement. It is good for the country. We should have dads (and mums too) playing a more active part in their children’s lives no matter how busy they are with whatever they are doing. We should all learn to refocus our priorities in life and decide for ourselves what’s truly important to us in life.

While campaigning for GE2011, I met a former MBA classmate, Mr Seow . He told me he gave up 10 years of his high-flying hotel career as GM to spend quality time developing his son. During that period, he did mostly part-time lecturing and projects. His son recently topped his cohort in the humanities course at a top JC in Singapore. Mr Seow’s sacrifice is certainly commendable. He speaks proudly of his son’s achievements, and rightly so.

A former NUS student of mine and now helper in my GE2011 campaign, Mr Yap shared with me that his son has Asperger Syndrome (a form of Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD for  short). This was discovered just as he was entering mainstream school at primary 1. He looked after his son full-time to help him cope with mainstream school.  Realising that the awareness for ASD is low in Singapore, Mr Yap started an online forum (http://shoulders.freeforums.org/) to support parents of children with ASD and at the same time promote awareness of ASD. His story is now compiled with those of other children with autism into a book titled “Come into my world” (http://www.come-into-my-world.com/),

 Both Mr Seow and Mr Yap are excellent examples of  fathers who had decided that their family mattered more than career progression. There should be more of such examples  in Singapore. 

Perhaps then, we may have less unwanted pregnancies, less teenage violence, less family violence and less suicides.


6 comments on “Let’s not forget to build family values in our society too

  1. Truly moral and social values have been eroded over the years. My 2 children now aged 30 and 25 underwent so many educational changes during their formative years here that I question the educational policies they put in place. There were so many changes that made my daughter felt they were just guinea pigs. Both my kids chose to go overseas for their A levels and tertiary studies as they felt “packaged’by our educational policies. No moral nor social skills were imparted.

    When my son was in ACS(I) the class was asked to take out the most precious thing to them when the house was on fire. Only my son picked the little kitten . The rest of his gifted friends chose material possessions. When asked why, he replied because the little kitten is life, which is the most valuable thing. The teacher was taken aback. The rest of his classmates expressed disbelief that he did not pick the something that cost good money. The whole educational system has breed the value that $$” is the most important thing to the future generation of Singaporeans.

  2. “Contentment is a matter of the mind, not of actual wealth.” – I will tweet this, quoting you.. It was great writing, Jenn Jong..just two words to describe it – “wholesome philopsphy”

  3. I was appalled too when i saw the news article! I think that in this money-driven society, many people tend to forget our roots. We should never take family values for granted as families are the building blocks of our community.

    I tell bedtime stories to my child and it helps me to understand him better. We should not put the blame on generation gap! I believe as long as you put in the effort to draw closer to them, generation gap will not be a problem. good post! All the best in all your future endeavors.
    -millow ghee

    • Thanks Millow. Glad to know you are spending time with your child with bedtime stories. Enjoy the conversations. It will be soon when they will start talking more with friends when they get into teenage years, so do it now 🙂

  4. Dear sir,

    This article is the one thing that truly convinced me that you are the one I want to vote for. Please keep up the good work, and continue to focus on values such as these; rest assured of my support and prayers. Thank you!

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