Growing up back in Queenstown in the now-defunct Mei Chin Primary School, life was certainly a lot easier and simpler compared to what my 12 year old son experiences today.
As much as I have my gripes about our book-smart education system, I would like to think that at the very least, it inculcates discipline. So as parents, it's our role to encourage our children to develop and cultivate curious and analytical minds.
Reading the newspaper daily, visiting art exhibitions and watching movies provide our family with interesting conversational topics. The latter has recently become an intellectual debate about auteurism, plot and characters.
Our hyper-connected world today constantly bombards my kids with culture-shifting information that may influence their ideals and shape their values. There is no way to 'curate' the World Wide Web and shield our children because they receive information wherever they go and are influenced the most in school. So having the right values allows them to better navigate and make wiser choices.
To impart that, my wife and I worked out a simple life-smart curriculum. Our kids are enrolled in the university of life where its 24/7, always-on, 365 days a year - focused on passing on knowledge that will take them through the years (in the most natural way) and being there as their BFFs:
Birds and the bees
- Be a brother/sister to your friends
- Fights and resolutions, protecting precious relationships
- Identity, finding your anchor
- Grooming, being the real you
I remember after last year's final examinations, I took my then 11 year old boy out for night cycling. It was a long ride as we covered the new park connector from ECP leading up to Marina Bay Sands.
I took that opportunity to start a conversation about understanding physical and psychological changes at the next stage of his life and what to expect. To my surprise, he'd already heard it in school. The awkward and surely cringe-worthy conversation soon became a discussion, which paved the way for an open channel of questions.
On our way back home, I told him I never had the opportunity to discuss this with my Dad because being a typical Asian father, it was not natural for him to do so. I found out through friends and library books. We also discussed about curiosity and how that could lead us to a wrong path. That part of the lesson is not complete and I fully intend to work on it and to be there when he needs consultation.
The Lunar New Year gave me another opportunity to engage him in the area of his wardrobe and grooming. Like most 12 year olds, he is messy and will continue to wear his over worn tees until they burst.
Shopping with him gave us time to talk about identity and what we see on glossy magazines. We delved deep about being comfortable and most important of all, being ourselves and not subject to stereotypes or brands.
We also spoke about affordability and making choices of what we need versus what we want. So it was fun for us to define a budget and hunt for bargains together.
Our life-smart university requires my wife and I to be creative. We need to constantly seek out opportunities in our daily routines to bring up topical lessons at the end of each engagement.
It's not too difficult. We build on each little success and it soon becomes instinctive. Most important of all, we make a conscious effort to stay authentic. Children smell cheese from a mile!
©2016 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
Jeff turns 40 this year and one of the best decisions he's made is to start a family young. Now he enjoys picking their brains for insights as a professional working in marketing communication.