Saturday, March 28, 2015

10 parenting lessons to learn from Lee Kuan Yew

Although Lee Kuan Yew, the founding father of Singapore, has passed away, it is undeniable that he leaves behind a legacy that serves as an inspiration to us all as parents.
This is evident from the things that Prime Minister (PM) Lee Hsien Loong and his siblings Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Wei Ling have said about their father during interviews with the press.
From their memories of their father, there are many lessons that we can learn from one of the greatest leaders in the world who brought Singapore from a sleepy state to the successful and prosperous city that it is today.

1. Teach your kids the value of being frugal
Being frugal helps you to be resourceful and careful with your savings . It also teaches your kids to be appreciative of everything that they have in life: a cosy home to live in, basic necessities like clothes, food and water, and a family that showers them with love.
Although it was apparent that the Lees lived a comfortable life, Mr. and Mrs. Lee made it a point to instil in their kids the importance of being frugal from young.
“We had to turn off water taps completely. If my parents found a dripping tap, we would get a ticking off. And when we left a room, we had to switch off lights and air-conditioners,” laments Dr Lee Wei Ling to The Straits Times.
Through setting basic rules like these for your kids at home, you can help develop a sense of gratitude while teaching them about the value of money.

2. Treat everyone with respect

One of the most important value to teach your kids is that everyone - regardless of their family status or background - deserves to be treated with respect and dignity.
In fact, according to daughter Lee Wei Ling, that was exactly how Mr. and Mrs. Lee brought up their kids, as they were told that they should not “behave like the PM’s children” and expect to be treated differently.
“As a result, we treated everyone - friends, labourers and Cabinet ministers - with equal respect. My father’s security officers became our friends,” she said.

3. Enjoy life’s simple pleasures

You don’t have to lavish your kids with the latest toys or expensive holidays to show your love for them. In fact, sticking to the simple things in life such as a trip to the park may be just what you need to bring a smile to their face - and they’ll be sure to remember special moments like this for years to come.
PM Lee’s fondest childhood memories include the short holidays and relaxing activities that he enjoyed with the family. He recalled that when he was five or six, his father would take him and his siblings to Tanglin Halt in the evenings to look at the trains go by.
“It’s a great thrill and outing for us, for me,” PM Lee reminisces.

4. Don’t put unnecessary pressure on your kids

As parents in Singapore, it is tempting to set the bar high when it comes to your expectations on your kids’ development and achievements. Despite your good intentions to motivate them to realise their potential, it is also important to remember that your kids should have the right to enjoy their childhood - before having to deal with complex life decisions as adults.
In a recent interview, Lee Hsien Yang, the younger son of Lee Kuan Yew, said, “I think parents who are good manage to guide their children along without making them feel constrained.”
At the same time, PM Lee and his sister, Lee Wei Ling, shared that although their father was the prime minister while growing up, they were not pressured to excel in school. “I was not the top student in the class or in the school. But as long as [I was] doing [my] best and [I was] managing well, [our parents] were okay [with that],” shared PM Lee.
5. Always believe in your kids’ dreams

How many times has your five-year-old come up to you to tell you of her dream of being a doctor one day, and an astronaut the next day? During these instances, how did you react to her fast-changing aspirations in life?
If there is one thing that we can all learn from the former Minister Mentor (MM) Lee Kuan Yew, it has to be this: When your children shows an interest in something, it is only right that you, as a parent, do all that you can to help them pursue it.
PM Lee cites himself as a perfect example of this. When he decided to learn music after picking up a recorder bought by his parents for one of his siblings, his request was met by his parents who made arrangements for him to attend classes. From learning to read music, he decided to play the clarinet in the band, and later showed a keen interest in the tuba.
You can do the same for your kids, too. Always take their dreams seriously - no matter how often they change. Who knows, this could be the start of a successful career path in the future?

6. Have respect for your elders

One of the most important Asian parenting values that is slowly dwindling in a lot of families today is the need to show respect for elders and other family members.
According to PM Lee, although he and his siblings grew up in a relaxed family setting, all three children were expected to behave well and speak properly when addressing the rest of the family. "I think those are things that they are stricter about than many parents today,” he said.
Showing respect is, indeed, a valuable rule for setting children on the right path of appropriate behaviour - especially when it comes to addressing their elders. You, too, can do this with your kids at home by setting a good example through your interactions with your own parents and in-laws. After all, kids learn by picking up cues from people whom they trust and love, such as their parents and caregivers.
7. Be present in your kids’ lives

Speaking about Lee Kuan Yew’s role as a father, PM Lee has this to say: “He was a very strict, good father. He left a lot of the looking after of the family to my mother because he was always busy with politics and his responsibilities, but when you needed him, he was there. In a crisis, he was the key person in the family.”
PM Lee also shared how his father went to great lengths to keep in touch with his children, even while they were away. “He would write to us, and my mother would write to us every week. His letter would be dictated, typed...with double or triple space. Then he would go through and correct the typed version, add stuff and maybe have another paragraph or two at the end in writing [before] sending it to me. I still have them all stored away somewhere.”
So, do take that few minutes to sit down and talk to your kids to find out how their day went. This is also a great chance for you to bond with them and to give them advice on how to cope with the challenges they are facing.
8. Inspire them with the novelty of hard work

By observing his father at work, PM Lee is inspired with Mr. Lee’s approach of hard work and the guiding principle that things could be done better. “Just watching him and the way he fought, worked and struggled with all the issues and challenges, I think that’s a great inspiration,” he shared.
One great example which PM Lee pointed out is the way that Mr. Lee worked on his Mandarin by listening to the tape, practising with a teacher and listening to the tape again while he exercised - even during weekends. According to PM Lee, his father kept up this routine even until old age, as he did not want to lose touch with the language.
You can teach your kids that hard work does indeed pays off by setting a good example. Get involved in a project together. For example, take music lessons together - and practice playing the instrument until all of you get it right and become pros at playing your favourite tune. Accomplishing this mission together brings greater satisfaction, and over time your kids will realise that hard work comes with plentiful rewards.
9. Don’t dwell on regrets

Life is never perfect, and there are bound to be times when things do not go the way we’ve planned them to be. Despite all this, it is important to teach your kids to pull themselves together and look forward - rather than dwell on the past.
Through his numerous interviews with the media, Lee Kuan Yew was not one to wrestle with the “what ifs” and “what could have beens." Befitting the personality that he often portrayed, the former MM Lee allowed no room for regrets and implied that regrets are “for wimps."
10. Sacrifices is the starting point of success

PM Lee once said that he admired the hard work and sacrifices put in by his father for the sake of the country. “He was so singularly focused on this obsession to build up Singapore, to make it safe, to make it better and to create something for Singaporeans...together with his colleagues and with the population. I think that’s quite exceptional,” said PM Lee.
His brother, Lee Hsien Yang also shared that their father “always had the best interests of the country at heart” - while at home, “it was always the interests of his children and our mother.” Through these accounts, you too can teach your children about why sacrifices need to be made for the sake of the people that we care about. At the end of the day, it is not so much about what “makes me happy” - but rather, “how can my actions help to make the lives of others better.”


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