3 Parents in Singapore Share How They Raised Their Daughters To Be Empowered Women
Tan Kheng Hua, mother of Lim Shi-An, 22
“Years ago, a friend introduced the concept of ‘benign neglect’ to describe how he felt we were parented. This concept worked wonders for me. In hindsight, the best thing my parents ever did was to have a simple but steady love, provide a safe home and then go about living their own lives while leaving me to my own thoughts a lot of the time. I’ve raised Shi-An in pretty much the same way. She has enough quiet to know her own mind and to find her own way. She has an unselfconscious, easy sense of freedom and follow-through, as well as her own taste and interests. She’s my responsibility, but she’s different from me and that’s okay. Unless she does something horrible, I hold back my displeasure. I don’t project my desires on her as long as what she wants isn’t wrong.
“My role as a parent is to ensure she has the tools to be on her own and go out and make the world a better place, in her own way. I’m not scientific but this simple tool has worked for me. Begin sentences less with ‘you should’ and more with ‘what do you think?’. Learning by osmosis is far more powerful than being told something verbally. They’ll learn by being with you, so be the best and most authentic person you are. Your children are looking, even when you think they’re not. Your world is their world, and it’s the only world they know.”
Homegrown actress and producer Tan Kheng Hua played the role of Kerry Chu, mother of Rachel Chu, Constance Wu’s protagonist in the Hollywood hit, Crazy Rich Asians. She has been cast in the 2020 reboot of American martial arts TV series, Kung Fu
Richard Hoon, father to Elizabeth, 32; Ethel, 30; Eve, 28
“An empowered woman is a self-confident woman; she has an innate stability within herself and is cognitive of her surroundings; she knows how to relate to others and, in the process, inspires them to be an invaluable asset to society. My late wife, Ai Tee, was such an empowered woman—when you sit with her, you feel an aura of wisdom and calmness—and my three daughters emulate their mum. My eldest daughter Elizabeth is back in school studying to be a psychologist and lives in Melbourne with her husband; my second daughter Ethel and her husband are chefs at a ski resort in Austria; and my youngest daughter Eve works at an arts charity here. They are all pursuing different passions in their lives, doing what they believe in and we’ve always encouraged them to do that. My job as a father is to recognise my daughters’ talents and help them discover their calling. You have to learn how to teach, coach and mentor your children: teach them when they are young; coach them when they become teenagers; and when they are in their 20s and 30s, mentor them, and unless they ask for your opinion, you have to learn to keep them to yourself.
“My wife and I also believe in inculcating values to our children. Three things that are important to our family: firstly, we want our daughters to have a faith or a belief in something. We are Christians, so believing in God is something that we want them to have. Secondly, they have to read, speak and write well. Even if you have skills and knowledge, it is of little use if you can’t communicate well. And thirdly, we want our children to make a lot of friends. You won’t make too many friends if you are selfish or unwilling to share. Friendship, in real life, is what networking is in the corporate world. If you know how to make friends, you will always be surrounded by enough people who know and support you. Even if you have nothing else in life, I think you will be all right and will survive well if you have these three things.”
Founder and CEO of international headhunting firm, I Search Worldwide, Richard Hoon is also chairman of the Centre for Fathering & Dads-for-Life. The nonprofit organisation, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, seeks to eradicate fatherlessness in Singapore
(Related: The Benefits of Fathers’ Roles in Children’s Lives)
Iqbal Jumabhoy, father to Nada, 31; Imran, 29
“In my opinion, being a modern-day independent, strong woman is no different from being a modern-day independent man. I have always told Nada that her gender does not define what she can or cannot achieve. When Nada was growing up, my wife Maniza and I faced the difficult decision of sending her to boarding school in England as the education system in Singapore then did not allow her to pursue both the arts and sciences simultaneously. As parents, we have always encouraged curiosity in our children and have aided them in pursuing their interests. It was with this sentiment that we knew what we had to do, despite how heartbreaking it was to send her away. But it all paid off as Nada’s desire to learn gained her a spot in a top university, all while gaining a huge amount of self-confidence in the process. I believe that life throws many challenges at you, often when you least expect it.
“Together with Maniza, we try to impart to our children values of hard work, kindness and remaining grounded in hopes of them being able to adapt and face the challenges that come their way. These days, Nada and I value each other as friends and communicate in an open and honest manner. Back when she was a child, she used to listen to my every word. But now, she has an opinion about everything I do or say and in turn, tries to make me a better version of myself. Frankly speaking, I think she has a much tougher job!”
Iqbal Jumabhoy is the founder and chairman of real estate investment and development firm, The Wire Group, and is currently working on a new travel-tech platform, BlackBook, due to go live later this year
(Related: Meet The Tatler Scions: Nada Jumabhoy And Chloe Ng)