Tough Love: A Singapore mother’s tribute to Lee Kuan Yew

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How many times have you played the bad guy to be a good parent? Read this mum's heartfelt tribute to the late father of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew.

tribute to lee kuan yew

The tough father of Singapore has left us.

Just like any third-generation Singaporean, I have never experienced the times of hardship, only reaped the benefits. I may not be able to ever fully understand the challenges faced by Lee Kuan Yew during the trying 60s and 70s. But if there was one thing that struck me as I sat in during history lessons in secondary school, it was about how tough the man was.

Mr. Lee was not without his critics, as he had had to make some tough, unpopular decisions in his time. His "Stop at Two" population policy of the 60s and 70s did not go down too well with Singaporeans then, and was even condemned by foreign nations. Still, Mr. Lee trudged on – and his perseverance resulted in the end of overcrowding and poverty, clearing the path to economic prosperity.

I am sure it was not easy for Mr. Lee to have made the kind of decisions he made. It takes guts to go against the grain.

I know, as I have had to play the "bad guy" more than once as a mum.

Facing Up to the Critics

When my boys were toddlers, I made the decision not to allow my tiny tots to watch Justice League, Ben10, Spiderman and the like. I was convinced (and still am) that watching cartoons that promoted violence as a means to an end would have a detrimental effect on young, developing minds.

The tough part was not as much about making the decision as it was about sticking to it.

My decision turned out to be a rather unfavourable one to my son’s caregivers. I had to bear the occasional snide remarks and even mocking looks by my parents and in-laws. They just could not see how watching Spiderman battle the Green Goblin on top of a building would scar my little boys.

Okay, I admit. At times, I did feel a little silly, wondering if I was indeed making a big deal over nothing; it was even getting tiresome, trying to explain my actions.

But I persisted in being the "bad guy" – simply because I was convinced that I was doing the right thing.

A few months ago, my 10-year-old son and I witnessed a violent outburst by a young boy, whom we knew to have enjoyed a free rein in watching "violent" cartoons as a toddler. My son then said something that made me feel vindicated: “Mum, I’m glad you were firm with me when I was younger. That could have been me.”

I knew then that I had done the right thing, for him.

Tough Parenting

I have never subscribed to the molly-coddling of children, as that would only make them pampered (read: spoilt) kids and weak-spirited, attention-seeking adults. I am dead-sure I don’t want my kids to end up that way.

That is not to say that I wield a cane in the house and spank them each time they fall. No, I don’t. I just don’t indulge in them excessively.

So when they fall, I ask them to pick themselves up again (and not rush over to cuddle them and ask a dozen times if they are all right). I may have been judged by other parents who believe otherwise, as I may be, at this instant, by some of you.

I have asked myself if I am being lesser of a mother by doing this. Where is my motherly love? Actually, it is right there, only that it is tough love.

What would others think of me? Like Mr. Lee, that is not going to bother me. The stakes are just too high. Anyway, popular decisions are not always the right ones. I know I am doing it right.

As Mr. Lee once said, “I did what I thought was right, given the circumstances, given my knowledge at the time, given the pressures on me at the time. That’s finished, done. I move forward.”

Being the "Bad Guy" for the Greater Good

It takes a lot of conviction and determination but it is important to be the "bad guy" for the greater good, be it for the nation or the family.

So, mums, if you are tough with your child for a bigger purpose, don’t feel guilty about it. You don’t have to pander to the likes and dislikes of the crowd. Be gutsy and rise above the criticisms and self-doubt.

You are doing it right.

No man, and no parent, is perfect, but greatness has to be admired and extolled. As a father of the nation, Mr. Lee, you have done the best for your children, giving them your life. Rest well, sir, as I pledge to be a great parent, too, and continue to make tough decisions for the greater good of my children.

How did the late Mr. Lee influence your parenting style? If you liked this tribute to Lee Kuan Yew, share your thoughts, as well as your messages of sympathy to Mr. Lee's family, in our Comment Box below.

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