How To Embrace Fatherhood with Gusto

Isaac Tan laughed when he recounted how everything changed the first time his 18-month-old daughter, Julia, cried. He had to drop everything and attend to her.  

Nothing could have ever prepared the Creative Director of SGAG for that special moment. There was no time to warm up. It was drop and go.  

But he also reminisced, “That moment of holding Julia, my firstborn, in the hospital room, was nothing short of magical.”  

But those magical moments of first-time parenthood came sprinkled with a myriad of challenges. How did this young father cope? 

‘I’m first a husband’ 

Isaac acknowledged that the most difficult thing initially was the fatigue of being a new father. Having to tend to Julia through the night, support his wife, and handle the other household chores was not easy. But that’s where he gained an insight, “I’m not just a father…I’m also a husband.”  

Isaac recounted that he had made his marriage vows to his wife, and not to his child. That helped him to realise that one of the most important things in transiting to fatherhood was also to focus on his spouse as wife, and not simply as a mother to Julia.  

This focus on their marital relationship helped them to build a strong base to navigate the challenges of parenting, particularly in aligning their parenting practices as each had different experiences growing up 

He thus made it a point to talk about their day before going to bed. “As we navigated parenthood together, we took time through communicating to align what we favoured more, in terms of a way of parenting, or what we didn’t like about a certain method or logic. We were also open to making adjustments along the way.” 

One of the most important things in transiting to fatherhood was also to focus on his spouse as wife, and not simply as a mother to Julia. 

There’s no one-size-fits-all 

Isaac recalls how his father took a different approach with Isaac and his brothers. His father spent one-on-one time with each of them, taking time to build trust and understand them as unique individuals.  

This experience has helped him realise that his next child could be quite different from Julia, and that he needs to learn how to be a father to each child.   

Learn from others 

While Isaac has picked up invaluable lessons on fathering from his own growing-up experience, he also sees the importance of having a community of support around him.  

However, amongst his peers, he was one of the first to get married and have a child. This meant that his peers couldn’t necessarily understand his situation.  

So he talked to older couples who had “gone a few steps ahead of us.” He shared vulnerably with them about his struggles and listened to their advice.  

This experience of gleaning from the wisdom of others has inspired him to take the initiative to reach out to other soon-to-be parents around him – starting from his colleagues at SGAG. 

He feels that these parents may not necessarily know what they don’t know, and thus may not even know what to ask.  

Questions such as “What do I bring when my wife is delivering the baby?” may not even come to mind. Thus, actively reaching out and sharing his insights has helped Isaac find joy in his role as a father.  

He mused, “Having someone looking out for (new parents) can help them feel less alone in their journey.”

Having someone looking out for (new parents) can help them feel less alone in their journey. 

Plan your time well 

Leading a team of creatives at SGAG on top of managing fatherhood duties has meant that Isaac needs to use routines and scheduling to his advantage.  

He shared candidly, “I want to take the guesswork out of things because you are just tired all the time.”  

He plans his day with Google Calendar, knowing his obligations at each moment of the day. That has also helped him to schedule time for self-care.  

“Scheduling is my number one pro-tip,” he added, “Early on in my journey of being a dad, everything was uncertain. I found that when you could make something certain, you would be a lot more certain about everything else.” 

Fatherhood may feel like a great responsibility, but it doesn’t need to be a lonely journey. Isaac advised, “We can cut ourselves some slack, every now and then. We’re all still learning, we’re all still a work-in-progress. Also, remember that it’s no shame to ask the rest.”  

© 2022 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved. 

Children’s Day Campaign

The digital realm has become an integral part of our lives, including our children’s — offering opportunities for learning, interacting, and entertainment. However, just as digital media use is escalating, so are mental health issues in our youth.  

Research has recently shown that youths are increasingly turning to digital media for self-therapy. In light of this, experts are advising parents to be empathetic towards their children’s use of electronic devices and platforms (Channel News Asia, 2023).

Thus, before children are exposed to various devices, apps, platforms at a young age, it is critical to have healthy conversations surrounding digital literacy and for parents to both bond with and guide their children in the digital age.  

This Children’s Day, Focus on the Family Singapore aims to encourage the fostering of meaningful parent-child relationships and equip parents to raise digital literate children all while having fun! 

A free digital resource, The Wonder Guide, will be available for download, with tips for parents to nurture their parent-child relationship while navigating the digital playground. Download your Wonder Guide at

Additionally, a free mini activity book, What a Wonder! is also available for parents to deepen connections with their child (recommended for 5-9 year olds). It includes:
Identifying old school technology gadgets and learning fun facts about them
Conversation Starters for parent-child to engage in meaningful conversations
Stickers for interactive learning

Campaign Objectives:

  1. Strengthen parent-child relationships through healthy conversations and practices surrounding digital literacy

  2. Encourage families to embrace technology as means for meaningful connection 

Secure your free resource!

If you or your organisation is keen to distribute the What a Wonder! resource (minimum of 50 copies), please get in touch with us.

Limited copies are available so secure them now!

ParentEd is a parent education initiative from Focus on the Family Singapore.

Supported By

Is It Normal for Me to be So Angry with My Kids?

“Why am I constantly yelling at the kids?”

“Is it okay for me to be this angry?”

“What can I do about all these negative emotions?”

If you’re a parent of young children, you may have asked yourself these questions at some point of your parenthood career.

While we often turn to parenting books or blogs to help us get a grip on our angry outbursts, theory is often hard to translate into practice. For me, it takes some self-reflection to first identify the common triggers (or anger buttons), and then making a deliberate effort to practice calming strategies on myself.

Why is it so difficult to control our emotions?

Theresa Pong, former Principal Counsellor at Focus on the Family Singapore, explains, “Emotions play an important part in our lives. They help us to survive and avoid danger. More importantly, they help us to allow others to understand us and for us to understand others. Thus, it is normal for us to experience a range of emotions including anger.”

She identified four broad areas that can cause anger to arise:

  1. Personal issues – such as having conflicts with other family members or issues at work
  2. Issues caused by others – such as when a family member accidentally breaks a glass at home or your boss tasks you to complete a task within short notice
  3. External events – such as when an electrical appliance or family car breaks down
  4. Unhappy memories – such as being pickpocketed during an overseas family trip

Questions to check if our anger is well managed

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to see if you are managing your angry or upset feelings well:

  • Is your anger or negative feelings affecting your relationship with others?
  • Do you often entertain extreme negative thoughts, for example, “My kids are ALWAYS making trouble” or “My spouse is NEVER there for me”?
  • Are you constantly shouting, yelling or being hostile to your spouse/children?
  • Do you get physical often when you are experiencing anger?
  • Do you frequently act impulsively in anger, such as using harsh words on your family members, throwing things in anger, or using dangerous objects to threaten them?

As parents who have to juggle multiple roles such as caring for the kids, caring for elderly parents and work, we may find it difficult to get sufficient rest.

Being in a constant state of unhappiness and tiredness may leave us ill-prepared to deal with the multiple stressors of the day.

As such, we may find ourselves frequently in a fight-or-flight mode: At the slightest provocation, we will tend to react negatively.

The 5 steps to anger management

Fortunately for us, there are ways that can help. Theresa shared this 5-step solution to managing our anger well:

1. Be mindful of self

It is important for parents to notice how they feel when angry. For example, if you know you are about to lose your temper, your breathing gets shallow and quick, and there is tension in a particular part of your body, tell yourself these are signs you are in the “zone”.

The “zone” is when you are close to reaching your boiling point, and when you are more prone to over-react or lash out at others in such a way that you may hurt those around you.

2. Do not reject the feelings

Once you are aware that you are in the zone, do not reject the feelings. Some people perceive that it is wrong to feel sad or angry as it means they are weak. Tell yourself that it is normal to feel this way as all are us are made or wired to experience emotions.

3. Take a break

When you are in the zone or close to it, it is good to take a break. It may be just 5 minutes for you to retreat to a quiet space in your home or take a short walk around your housing estate, but this will help you to regulate your emotions and be more in control.

4. Attend to your thoughts and feelings

When you are ready, ask yourself these questions:

  • What emotions am I experiencing?
  • When was the last time I felt this way?
  • Where did these emotions come from?
  • Are there any voices in my mind that is making me even angrier (or intensify other emotions)?
  • What do I really want?

5. Act calmly

After going through the first 4 steps, you are likely to be able to deal with the situation in a calm manner.

For example, if your kids messed up the room after you have spent hours cleaning up, you can tell them firmly that you feel upset about their actions. Then administer a natural consequence such as having them clean up the room.

We can use angry moments as teaching moments for ourselves and our children.

Sometimes, our angry emotions are a cue for us to relook at the situation and see if there are areas we can improve. For example, maybe our kids are acting up more frequently because they’re feeling uncomfortable with certain changes or are feeling distant from us.

While practising the 5 steps shared above, do be patient with yourself and others as it may take time to see the results. However, acknowledge the effort you are making each day and celebrate the small successes. With each step you make, know that you are sowing the seeds of love and kindness in your family!

What Scolding Really Does to Your Child

Chris* will always remember his childhood experience with broccoli. Since he was young, he had always had a distinct dislike for that green vegetable. Perhaps it was the softness of the florets or the peculiar shade of green. Whatever the reason, he had never liked the vegetable, and had always avoided it when his parents gave it to him. When he was three, his parents divorced and his father remarried, and Chris went to live with his stepmother. That change in his life all but sealed his experience with broccoli.

Twenty years later, in the comfort of the counselling room, Chris shared with me that his stepmother took it upon herself to “cure” his disdain for broccoli and all things green. Whenever Chris refused to eat his vegetables, she would scold him in a loud voice, and if he still persisted, she would carry his high chair (with him in it), and place him outside the main door. There he would sit until he either finished his vegetables, or if he got so tired that he fell asleep in his high chair without finishing his food.

“It was the worst period of my life,” he recounted.

To limit the spread of COVID-19, many working parents are now working from home. With students doing home-based learning, our school-going kids are home at the very same time we are figuring out this new work arrangement. Distractions and interruptions can come more easily, potentially impacting our productiveness.

As you work towards a new norm with work and family life, consider how these 6 Rs could help you create a more successful and less stressful environment for everyone in the family!

Over time, he began to move from a sense of guilt, which told him that “I did something wrong”, to a sense of shame, which insisted that “I am something wrong”.

According to American educator and author John Bradshaw, every child has feelings, needs and desires, and that if a parent cannot affirm these aspects of a child, he or she rejects the child’s “authentic self”. In his seminal book, “Healing the Shame that Binds You”, he talks about the impact of a parent’s rejection on a child, especially if this leads to shame. According to Bradshaw, shaming makes the child believe that he or she is wrong for feeling, desiring or needing something.

In Chris’ case, the stepmother was rejecting his feelings of disdain for broccoli. By first scolding him, and then carrying the high chair outside the house, his stepmother was entrenching the notion that it is wrong to feel disdain.

This was buttressed by the deeper feelings of rejection that Chris might have felt by other onlookers who passed by the house. Over time, he began to move from a sense of guilt, which told him that “I did something wrong”, to a sense of shame, which insisted that “I am something wrong”.

Bradshaw calls this the shame identity; according to him, individuals who have been shamed on numerous occasions take on a persona of worthlessness and defectiveness.

Does this mean that we should stop scolding our children entirely? Especially since it would seem that scolding our children could lead to the development of a shame identity?

As a parent, a number of principles have guided the way I discipline my children:

1. Establishing Loving Boundaries

A friend once shared with me the concept that children are “persons-in-training”. I like this perspective very much and have adopted this paradigm when I guide my kids. Based on this view that my children are still-developing and ever-learning individuals, I work hard to establish clear and loving boundaries regarding is allowed or not allowed in my household.

For instance, screen-time is kept constant each day, and my 10 and 8-year-old sons are allowed no more than half an hour each in the afternoons after they finish their homework.

The boys are aware of this rule and while they may ask for more screen-time, they know that our stance on this is clear; they will not get any additional time, even if they beg, persuade or cajole us.

Through this process, the children learn the importance of boundaries; that they are there to keep the bad out and keep the good in.

2. Seeking to Understand

Children act up for a reason, and oftentimes it stems from their basic needs – they could be hungry, thirsty, tired, or emotionally overwhelmed. When we understand the reason why they throw a tantrum, we can anticipate and manage the situation better. For instance, large party gatherings could be a sensorial nightmare for the kids, and while they may enjoy the excitement of being in a crowd of friends, the environment might cause them to get emotionally overwhelmed.

As such, leaving the gathering just a little earlier (or later) could help to reduce the likelihood of any potential tantrum. Understanding leads to empathy, and we are then less likely to get upset with our children when we know that they are not misbehaving on purpose, but are instead communicating a physical or emotional need.

3. Removing and Replacing

We often share in our workshops that one way of managing our children’s emotions is to remove the negative behaviour and replace it with an action that is more socially acceptable. For instance, if the child is likely to hit another person when he or she is feeling anxious or stressed, it might be helpful to provide a tactile fidget that serves as a replacement object for the child to express his or her emotions.

Using such a replacement strategy, we can change our children’s negative behaviours to more acceptable ones.

It has taken many months of counselling to help Chris deal with the numerous issues associated with scolding and toxic shame. Over time he has learnt to deal with the years of pain that he had experienced through his difficult family situation.

But till today, he still refuses to eat broccoli.

*The names and identities in this article have been changed to protect their confidentiality.


Mark Lim is Consultant & Counsellor at The Social Factor, a consultancy and counselling agency which conducts training on life skills such as parenting, mentoring and special needs. He and his wife Sue co-write a parenting blog Parenting on Purpose, where they chronicle the life lessons from parenting two young boys aged 10 and 8.

Raising A Responsible Child Does Not Need Harsh Methods

The 7-year-old hurriedly deposited the bag of goods at the kitchen table. He then dashed off to his room to play with his brother. But not before he heard a shout from the kitchen.

“E! What happened to the eggs! Why are half of them broken!”

As the 7-year-old returned to the kitchen, he was met with a frown on his father’s face. The bag of eggs was open, and it was not a pretty picture.

“Why are the eggs broken?” asked the father in an upset yet calm tone.

“Er…. I don’t know,” came the reply.

“Well, I saw how you had thrown them on the kitchen table. You were too eager to go to your room and play.”

The boy did not reply. His eyes turned to the ground and he attempted to avoid his father’s stern glare.

“Who is responsible for the broken eggs?” asked the father.

“Sorry Daddy. It’s my fault.”

“I accept your apology. But E, do you know who is ultimately responsible for the eggs?”

The little boy looked at his father, expecting him to yell at him for not properly handling the eggs.

“I am ultimately responsible. You are still a young boy, and I chose to let you carry the eggs. So although you are partly to blame for breaking the eggs, but at the end of the day, as your father, I am the one who is ultimately responsible for the eggs.”

The little boy was surprised at the response, his eyes taking in the weight of all that had just been said; and all at once there seemed to appear a gleam of gratitude on his face.

“I understand, Daddy. If you don’t love us you wouldn’t spend so much time training us and teaching us to be responsible….”

Our philosophy is that children should be treated as “persons-in-training,” individuals to be groomed as early an age as possible.

Building Healthy Habits

Since our children were young we have been teaching them the importance of being responsible for their actions. For instance, since the age of 5 or 6, our kids have been carrying their own plates to the table after we place our orders at the food centre. We are aware that they could possibly drop the plates, but we have decided that even if they did that, it’s still okay. And at home, we have used regular crockery and other utensils from an early age, instead of the plastic cups and plates which are usually used by many other kids. Our philosophy is that children should be treated as “persons-in-training,” individuals to be groomed as early an age as possible.

Many of these ideas have come from 19th century educationalist Charlotte Mason, whose writings on classical education have shaped the minds of many. A prominent teacher and writer, Mason believed that a parent’s chief duty was to “form in his child right habits of thinking and behaving.” To that end, habit formation was one of the key principles that she advocated.

I remember one of her analogies about habit formation. She noted that the train goes around a fixed railway track each day. Would it then be possible one day for the train to suddenly decide to go off track? Likely not; the railway tracks have been established from the start, and the train would not travel in a route that was not there before. Likewise, when we lay the rails of a child’s life, we establish set patterns and habits that the child will follow from the beginning of his or her life. Consequently, we need to help our children develop healthy habits as early as possible.

When we lay the rails of a child’s life, we establish set patterns and habits that the child will follow throughout life.

No Need for Harsh Consequences

What then about responsibility? Many parents have chosen an approach known as classical conditioning. If the child does something right, they are rewarded. But if they do something wrong, they are punished. This model of teaching responsibility is borrowed from psychology, and many parents today practise this method.

However, if we were to draw from Mason’s principles to teach responsibility, we would see responsibility as an extension of habit formation. So if we teach our children how to be responsible from an early age, they will start practicing good habits and take ownership of their day-to-day responsibilities.

As such, there is no need for an external stimulus like a reward or a punishment to drive our kids. Instead, our children are motivated by an internal desire to be responsible for their actions.

They can begin by learning to be responsible in small ways such as watering the plants and clearing the dinner table daily. As your kids get older, you can scaffold their responsibilities and entrust them with chores such as washing or hanging of laundry, or vacuuming and mopping the house.

However, as parents, we should bear the ultimate responsibility for what happens under our care. As such, we need to monitor whether the plants are being watered or if the dishes are being cleaned properly, continually guiding and reminding our kids if the leaves turn yellow or if there is leftover soap on the dishes. There is therefore no need for harsh punishment. We instead replace this with regular training.

What if the child refuses or forgets to do his chores? Chore refusal is a behavioural issue and needs to be resolved accordingly, with an appropriate punishment such as a “time in” or a withdrawal of privileges. As for forgetfulness, we all forget things from time to time; we can simply remind the child to do the chore, regardless of how inconvenient it may be for them.

“Daddy,” said the 9-year-old, “It’s already evening and I have yet to water the plants. I’m very tired and I really want to go to bed.”

“Yes, Z. I know it has been a long day for you.”

“But Daddy, I know I must water the plants. It’s my responsibility.”

“Yes, Z. You are absolutely right. Why don’t you ask your younger brother to help with the lights?”

And so the younger child reached out and switched on the balcony lights, while the older child proceeded to water the plants. The younger brother then completed the task by switching off the lights.

“You know Z and E, you have both done very well. Daddy is very proud of both of you!”

And the boys beamed a brilliant smile, even as they headed to bed.

Think about:

  • What is one way your child can help out in the home this week?

Working From Home with Kids

What first comes to your mind when you think about working from home? Do you imagine it will be more difficult to get work done or do you think it will be a less pressurising way of working? While telecommuting has its perks, like time saved from travelling, it definitely has its own set of challenges as well.

To limit the spread of COVID-19, many working parents are now working from home. With students doing home-based learning, our school-going kids are home at the very same time we are figuring out this new work arrangement. Distractions and interruptions can come more easily, potentially impacting our productiveness.

As you work towards a new norm with work and family life, consider how these 6 Rs could help you create a more successful and less stressful environment for everyone in the family!

1. Ritual

Before the new measure of working from home was implemented, the “ritual” of getting ready for the day and commuting helps us to shift to “work mode” by the time we get to our workplaces. It would be helpful to create something similar even when we work from home—stick to a standard waking up time for everyone, continue to do the usual morning rituals of showering and breakfast with the kids.

Some people find it helpful to change into clothing that’s slightly more like their usual work wear. Pro-tip: wearing pajamas won’t help you feel productive!

Others mentally prepare themselves for work while doing some exercises or having a cup of coffee before they start the work day. Continue these morning rituals, set a time for work or school to start and keep to it every day as well as you can.

2. Room

There are those who can get productive work done when propped up in bed, but for most of us, that may not be conducive—especially when the kids or work kept us up late the night before!

Set up a well-lit designated workspace in your home that allows you to have good sitting posture and minimal distractions. Try to avoid spaces that might draw you toward doing something else, like the bedroom or kitchen. Parents of younger children may need to work near their children, so as to keep an eye on them as they play or nap, while parents of older kids can use a separate room as their “office”.

In the same way, we can set up a space for home-based learning for our kids. Make sure they understand that it’s a space for them to focus on online classes and homework, and not for playing or other activities.

As you consistently utilise these designated spaces every day, you will be drawing “boundaries” for your kids and they will understand that’s Daddy’s or Mummy’s work room or this is where I sit for school time. This adds a sense of our third “R” to their lives.

3. Routine

Just as it is useful to us to know what’s ahead in our work day by planning a schedule that includes time for work, breaks, and meals, our kids would also benefit from having such a routine.

For older children, plan each day’s schedule with or for them. Tell them that just as they have a set of school tasks to finish, Daddy and Mummy also have work tasks to complete, so everyone will have to work together as a family to get our work done. Think of ways you can increase your kids’ ownership over this schedule, say, by letting them write/type or decorate it. Then put it up where it can be easily seen, and follow it as closely as possible.

For toddlers, printing out visual cue cards can be a great way to communicate schedule. You can print out photos of what you want to fill their day with—whether playing, reading, eating, sleeping—and stick it somewhere prominently. Every time you move on to the next slot, remove the former card and make a big deal about the new card. You can even put a timer on if you like and every time the timer goes off, it signals the time for the next activity.

If you have children who are too young to keep themselves engaged while you’re working, you may need to plan your schedule around their routine, say, naps, meals, playtimes, and baths. This may mean starting work earlier before they wake, taking breaks during the moments when they need you most, and returning to work after they have gone to bed.

There’s no perfect routine—take time to experiment with different approaches before settling into a rhythm that works for your family.

4. Restraint

Self-discipline has been found to be key for those who work well from home. After we’ve planned our schedule, we need to stick to it to concentrate on our goals for the day. That means not doing lots of housework or heading out for a long trip in the middle of the work day!

When we practise self-discipline, we are also setting an example for our children on how to set limits on themselves. It’s important for parents to explain to their kids that when Daddy and Mummy are in their workspaces, they need to be able to focus, and so they cannot be interrupted frequently, unless it’s an emergency (and communicate what constitutes one)!

If you find that they are interrupting your work too often, you can give them a quota on the number of requests they can make when you are at work. Through this, they can learn some self-discipline by deciding which requests or questions they really need to ask and which ones can wait until later.

5. Rest

Let your children know that throughout the day, you’re going to take regular breaks and stick to them. During break times, engage with them—and be present! At the end of each break, remind them that you’ll be going back to work and will join them again at your next break.

Kids who are old enough to work independently can usually concentrate for about 30–45 minutes at a time, with 5–15 minute breaks in between. You may like to use a timer to help you and your kids keep track of time.

Give them permission to have more active indoor activities to release the energy that builds up when they’ve been sitting for long periods of time.

Remember that you need to get away from your desk from time to time, too—a good break does wonders for productivity!

6. Rewards

Finally, remember that this arrangement is new for your children. So be intentional in affirming your children when they have put in effort to stick to their schedule and the limits you’ve set.

Older children are able to understand the principle of delayed gratification: that doing their learning and homework first will have benefits later. Help them to understand the importance of sticking to a schedule to get a reward later on. Then, plan a surprise and spring it on them sometime during the week when they’re least expecting it. This will better reinforce their positive behaviour, which you will hopefully see more of with time.

You can also have a reward system where they get points for age-appropriate good behaviour and they get to redeem rewards (bubble tea, fast food meals, more TV time, etc.) with the points.

And don’t forget to affirm and reward yourself, too! This arrangement is a learning journey for you as well, and there would be tough spots along the way as you figure out what is best for you and your kids. When you hit upon something that works well for the whole family, that’s worth celebrating!

As we work on these aspects of Ritual, Room, Routine, Restraint, Rest, and Rewards, may we also discover the joy in connecting with our children in new ways!

Adapted from Staying Sane while Working from Home with Kids by Joannie Debrito ©️ 2020 All rights reserved. Used with permission from Focus on the Family.

Dads Need Other Dads to Grow in Their Parenting Journey


Our third Survey for Dads was conducted from 04 May – 31 May 2022 through the databases and social media channels of Focus on the Family Singapore. A total of 269 fathers responded.   

This year’s survey focused on understanding dads’ self-efficacy in parenting, and uncovering the importance of “dad-friends” in supporting a dad’s journey of fatherhood.

Research Findings

Working Mum Burnout: How Do We Recognise the Signs?

Burning out in motherhood is not rare – especially when you are juggling parenting, work, and many other responsibilities all at the same time. As mothers go through the ebb and flow of life, how can they safeguard themselves against burnout?

Join our host June Yong, as she chats with Sharon Ow, a working mum of two daughters. Sharon shares authentically about her experience with burnout, identifies warning signs, and provides practical tips on keeping burnout at bay.

Parenting is a journey not meant for journeying alone.

Should you be in need of help or support, our counsellors are available to lend a listening ear. Make an appointment with us at

If you have enjoyed this episode, please leave us a rating and review on Apple Podcast or Podchaser. It’ll be very helpful for others to find our podcast. You can also help us by copying this link to share with your friends.

You can also support us by giving monthly. We appreciate your generous giving as every dollar helps to sustain our efforts in strengthening families. Do note that if you are based in Singapore, one-time gifts above SGD$50 or monthly donations above SGD$10 are eligible for 250% tax-deductible benefits.

Is the Internet Parenting My Child?

Unlike my generation who grew up with a more gradual pace of technological advancement, my children were born into an age of widespread Internet connectivity, and have hence interacted with the online world from a much younger age.  

One harrowing encounter we had was when we allowed our 4-year-old son to use a smart phone app to help him build with Lego. Moments into scrolling through blueprints, he came over with the phone and asked me for help. It turned out that he had accidentally clicked the subscription button and almost paid the fees for a premium plan!  

Besides this incident, the prominence of Internet technologies in the home exposes our children to other risks, including online safety, graphic content, privacy, and so on. However, such technologies also possess great potential for our children’s development.  

How then do we strike a balance in using technology with our kids? Based on our experiences, we have learnt the following principles: 

1. Lead by example 

Children often reflect their parents’ behaviours, and just as we hope they will pick up our good habits, they also catch our device habits from us. Even if we were attending to important matters on our phones, our children would interpret our actions as valuing device usage over relating to them.  

It is important to first be disciplined with device usage ourselves before expecting it of our children. Hence, we try to remain device-free during specific periods of the day, such as during mealtimes, reading time and playtime. My wife and I also try to ensure each of us have sufficient time to attend to our work responsibilities, so we can be less distracted when it is time to be present with our children. 

As parents, we should be role models of good device usage to our children. 

2. Build socialisation and outdoor time into family routines 

One of the best ways to help the family stay unplugged is to build it into family routines. We meet with family and friends about once or twice a week for playtime and catch-ups. We also take our children outdoors regularly, be it walks in the park, playground time or even errand runs to expose them to active lifestyles. This encourages them to move away from online media and towards physical and social activities.  

However, because we carry the Internet in our pockets, the challenge is limiting device usage while out and about too! We should remind ourselves to keep our phones away as far as possible (unless expecting urgent calls), and immerse ourselves in the moment. 

3. Set reasonable boundaries

With online media being widely available and accessible, it is unrealistic to cut it out of our children’s lives completely. Instead, we aim for moderation by setting reasonable limits on screen time.  

For example, most online content exceeds 5 minutes. If we wouldn’t watch 5 minutes of Netflix at a time, we shouldn’t impose this on our children! A useful benchmark is to stay within guidelines by KKH, which recommends screen time of 1 hour and below per day for children aged 18 months to 3 years.  

There are also child-safe apps that help keep our children safe online. For example, YouTube Kids is curated with age-appropriate content and offers more parental controls than the standard YouTube app. Parents may also use screen-pinning on their phones to prevent children from accessing other apps or functions during screen time.  

When children are meaningfully absorbed in their preferred tools of offline play, they will be less drawn to online entertainment. 

4. Invest in a variety of play methods that suit your children 

When our children are meaningfully occupied with their preferred tools of play, it is easier for them to rely less on devices for entertainment. Our son enjoys playing with Lego, which keeps him offline and occupied for long periods while helping him develop creativity and motor skills. 

It is important to find toys that our children enjoy and that are challenging enough to keep them engaged. For example, we intentionally curate our son’s Lego sets by looking for themes that our son would be interested in, and have an age-appropriate difficulty level.  

5. Take advantage of the benefits of technology

Although the Internet comes with many risks, it is also a powerful educational tool when used appropriately. There are far more educational content options than we ever had in the past.  

We should use this to our advantage as far as possible. Our son has picked up a wide variety of knowledge and skills from watching various programmes online, including art (e.g., drawing and craft), culinary skills (e.g., cooking demonstration videos), language, as well as math and science. When used within healthy limits and with close guidance, online technologies can be a rich source of knowledge and exposure for our children. 

Remaining connected to our children 

It can seem an impossible task to free ourselves from the grip of connectivity in our homes, since there is no manual for how to raise children in the Internet age. At the end of the day, however, technology should be seen as a tool. Our role as parents is to set safe boundaries around the use of technology, manage its risks, and enable our children to draw from its benefits.  

Ultimately, there is no replacement for our role as parents in the family. What our children need to grow into healthy and well-regulated individuals is for us to be present and loving in their lives. In a world where our attention is constantly being competed for, let us challenge ourselves to develop the most important connection of all —that with our children.  

© 2023 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved. 

Conversation Starters for Healthy Sexuality

Talking about sex may seem awkward at first, but as you press on, it will begin to feel more natural.

Our effort to help our children develop a healthy understanding of love, relationships, and sex in marriage, is worthwhile.

As you take the first step towards a lifetime of healthy, wholesome relationships for your child, this eGuide will provide you with tools and tips to keep the conversations going! 

Suitable for parents with children aged 4 to 15 years.

Conversations About Sex Need Not Be So Tough

Research shows that when parents engage their children in topics on sexuality, their children grow to make wiser choices in relationships and sex. To help you overcome your fears in broaching the topic, we have designed a Talk About Sex video series specially for parent and child (aged 7-12) to enjoy, engage with and learn together!