Fatherhood is a big responsibility, but also a blessing: Steven Chia
SINGAPORE — It has become common practice for parents to take up to a year off work when their child sits for the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), but TV presenter Steven Chia pooh-poohs the very idea. “Why do parents take a year off when their kids have PSLE? It’s the kid taking the exam, not the parent!”
Doing so will send your kids the wrong signal. Chia asserted: “Primary 6 becomes a year of no play, no sports, no anything that’s not the PSLE. How is real life anything like this? What are we teaching our kids?”
Chia’s daughter — Lucy, 11 — will be taking the national exam next year and he had this suggestion: Break the exams up into separate projects instead of having kids sit through it all at once.
“We need some tool of measurement but why not break (the exam) up into projects?” he said. “Perhaps a project worth 20 per cent in Primary 5, then another in Primary 6, then another 20 per cent for community service and so on.”
Chia, who hosts Talking Point on Channel 5, said that with several projects, the exams will allow for a better measurement of your child instead of those who just “perform”.
“I have to say that I think the PSLE is a cruel exam. A 12-year-old child is measured on their performance on that one day and the next four years of their life is determined by that,” he said.
When he is not busy informing the nation about the hot topics affecting Singapore, Chia spends his time with his family — wife Tania Gin, daughter Lucy and son Joshua, 7. “To me, any time you spend with your kids is quality time, and the more time you can spend with them when they’re younger, the better. Children just want to hang out with you.”
When it comes to helping to develop his children’s interests, Chia said that he preferred to take it as it comes.
“Both Joshua and Lucy are taking tennis classes for the experience. I’m not expecting them to be school players. They both enjoy doing art ... Some people say that by this age, you should be able to spot some talent; but for me, I just try and go with the flow,” he said.
Even though Chia said that he likes to have fun with his family, that doesn’t mean that he won’t play the disciplinarian if the need arises. “Most dads would consider themselves the fun dads, but at the same time I would say I’m the disciplinarian at home. Once I raise my voice, they know that I mean business,” he said, adding that he stopped short of using physical punishment.
“I think, in this day and age, (we) don’t need (to cane them), lah,” he said.
“But we also do the stand-in-the-corner routine. I think with every punishment, it’s essential that it comes with an explanation. So, they will go stand in the corner when they are punished, then I’ll talk to them after the punishment to make sure they understand what they did wrong in the particular situation.”
Being a familiar face in broadcast news — he hosts current affairs programme Talking Point — it probably comes as no surprise that Chia would get his children interested in current events. However, he tries to make the news relevant for his children by simplifying the concepts.
“They don’t watch (the shows I do) because they are too young. I explain to them (for example) why a guy leaving a bag at an MRT station is a bad idea; why people are worried about that, because it could have been a bomb. If it was a bomb then people could have been hurt (or) died from it. I simplify the concept for them to understand the message.”
Another tool Chia uses to as a resource for information is technology and the Internet. “When they ask you a question about something, you can Google it and then share it with them instantly,” he said, adding that he and his wife didn’t have any strict house rules for their children when it came to using gadgets.
“It hasn’t been that bad of a problem yet. But we are keeping a close eye and thinking about it. They watch a lot of TV. They are not online a whole lot. My son is on the phone but it’s really to play games, not to watch YouTube,” he said.
“I make sure to be around when my kids are surfing the Net, so that I can have some sense of what is it that they are looking at. To make sure that there is some explanation to what it is that they see, because they can form the wrong opinion, and friends can often shape their opinions incorrectly.”
Like many working parents, Chia said that managing that work-life balance can be a challenge. “Our society is one that works quite late and spends more time in the office. A lot of times we will prioritise work over family life,” he said.
“(However), you also want to be around to teach your kids, and at the same time protect them from the many strange things that are happening (online) in the world today. It’s obvious that there are things that don’t agree with your own principles and values, so you’ll need to be wary and careful.”
So what does he find most rewarding about being a dad? “Really, it’s about knowing that these guys are yours and you are there to help mould and shape another life. To know that these guys are totally reliant on you for their livelihood and everything that they learn — it’s a big responsibility but nonetheless a blessing. From a purely selfish point of view, it’s really about having these guys to love… “And they give you so much love. Young kids, they run and hug you each time they see you and every time is special. I mean as they get older this will change, lah!” he added, laughing.
“I love the fact that when I’m gone, even if just for the day, they jump into my arms when I get home. So, every ‘homecoming’ is fantastic. It’s the prefect end to a long work day.”
As with any parent, Chia said that he has certain aspirations for his children. “To be just good, kind and generous people,” he said. “Generosity in particular, to me, is important. Knowing that the world isn’t about them and that it’s about a larger community.
“I just hope that we’d have given them enough skills to go on and lead their own lives … so that they can think for themselves and make their own informed decisions in the future.”
His advice to his children when they embark on Life’s journey? “Whatever you do, try your best. Don’t worry about how it turns out. If you fail, just try again, but never let it get you down. Nothing is worth dying for. And always know your Mum and Dad are here for you any time, for anything. We will love you, no matter what you do.”
A version of this story first appeared on SmartParents.