Having a well-known minister as your parent isn’t easy for a child.
A point not lost on Minister for Education Chan Chun Sing.
The 52-year-old was recently a guest on Dishing With Chris Lee, where he discussed parenting with actor-host Christopher Lee.
Lee asked Mr Chan if his kids felt pressure when it came to their studies because their dad’s a minister.
Mr Chan, who has a 21-year-old daughter and two sons aged 13 and 11, said: “When our eldest was in primary school, I wasn’t a minister yet, so we were just like any ordinary Singaporean family.
“I became a minister when she was in secondary school, so she may have felt a little pressure (then). If she did well in school, people would say that was a given, as she's a minister’s daughter. If she didn’t do well, they’d say as a minister’s daughter, shouldn’t she do better?”
Mr Chan said learning how to cope with such pressure has been part of the growing-up process for his children, adding that he doesn’t talk about grades with them.
What he has emphasised to them instead are “determination and discipline”.
“Right from the start, I told them it was more important that they have determination and discipline. To overcome difficulties, you need discipline. If you can pick yourself up and keep going even after you fall, then you will succeed.”
Perhaps the minister’s stance is a result of his own parents’ approach to his studies.
Mr Chan said his parents never pressured him or expected him to become a lawyer or doctor when he was a child.
His mother had reminded him only not to repeat a year in school, as it would cost extra school fees and he’d have to start working a year late.
“What’s most important is that the child makes their own choice,” he said.
Every child is gifted in different ways so they should be given the space to discover what they like and do what they enjoy, he added, pointing out that a child would not have room for imagination if every hour of their day is filled with activities.
When asked if he sends his children for tuition, Mr Chan revealed that his children do take classes outside school – but only to learn things not taught in school.
Otherwise, he said, his children might be bored going for tuition classes to learn the same things taught in school. They might not pay attention as much, as a result.
Classes outside school should help widen his children's perspectives and allow them to learn new things.
When actor Kym Ng mentioned how primary school students are more prone to lodging complaints against teachers these days – something that was unheard of back in the day – Mr Chan said he was actually more concerned with parents' complaints.
He felt that parents should not be overprotective, as that can cause students to become over-reliant on their parents to solve their problems for them.
Parents have to work with teachers or schools closely, Mr Chan said.
"The feedback sharing should be two-way: When parents observe anything amiss about students at home, they can discuss them with the teachers. Similarly, teachers can share their observations with parents."
Watch the full episode below:
This article was first published in The New Paper. Permission required for reproduction.