For all Daddy, அப்பா, 爸爸, Ayah out there, we now have a movement that will shake and shape the nation. An all-male movement for fathers. A group that emphasises active fathering, complementing nurturing mothers and making a life rather than just making a living.
I had the pleasure to be introduced to the founders of Better Dads Malaysia, Joshua Hong and Jason Leong. They told me they started Better Dads Malaysia to promote “fatherfullness” in our society. I was hooked by their ethos: When men do the right thing, we will act rightfully, we will be a better dad, and in turn build the community and nation the right way. That warms my heart immediately, as I am always finding ways to contribute to society. Talking to them made me realise that I have the avenue I am blessed with – my own family.
Why Better Dads Malaysia? Why not Best Dads or Greatest Dads?
Joshua and Jason are not preachers of an ideal dad, “Fathers out there are operating at their best knowledge of fathering and it is important to acknowledge it.” However, the masculinity of modern society hampers men to talk about bettering our own abilities as a father. Hence, Better Dads Malaysia was founded to provide an avenue for fathers to discuss, be supported and compare notes on fatherhood, without judgement.
What is Fatherfullness?
According to Joshua, his definition of fatherfullness is a father who plays an active role in his child’s life. He is someone who is consistent in his parenting behaviour and is concerned and aware of his child’s world. He is also always present for emotional support.
Having a father present (even if not staying together) can have a lasting positive impact on children. The opposite of it – fatherlessness or an absent father can lead to a life-long environment of conflicts and chaos as kids do not have an understanding of the role of a nurturing father.
Based on a study on 17,000 children born in the United Kingdom in 1958 who were followed up with at ages 7, 11, 16, 23 and 33, it was discovered that:
- Children with involved fathers have less emotional and behavioral difficulties in adolescence
- Teenagers who feel close to their fathers in adolescence go on to have more satisfactory adult marital relationships.
- Girls who have a strong relationship with their fathers during adolescence showed a lack of psychological distress in adult life.
In our quest to provide financially, do we also provide emotionally?
In our Asian culture, it is commonly understood for fathers to be the provider of food and shelter. We strive to excel at work, aiming for a big paycheck by the end of the month. Little do we realise that our interaction with the children and spouse might suffer because of it. While the intent to provide is great, the outcome is not necessarily aligned to the values of active fathering. In this example, it is counterproductive, as it is the easiest relatable example of fatherlessness in our society.
Better Dads Malaysia aims to create a movement and awareness of just being better. This can be achieved by looking at father duties in the office that can be adopted to the home. As an example, many men are experts in managing their stakeholders and professional calendar. We do this by locking our times for important discussions and meetings. Once the meeting gets concluded, a sense of achievement fills the air and boost our morale. I was asked to ponder this: Do we lock our time intentionally, with our spouse and children? Or are they the first to get bunk off when work calls?
I am guilty as charged.
I learn from Jason, that men are not natural nurturers, and hence, we do not naturally allocate resource and time in enabling us to be a better dad, we have to be intentional. Picture this: We can shape an organisation with brilliant ideas and powerful conversations – how about applying the same to the home, with the intent to improve the communication and needs of the family? The outcome can be very rewarding and improve the relationship between fathers and members of the household.
Hold on, are we dismissing the mothers here?
Definitely not, in fact, Better Dads Malaysia emphasises on the need to support the queen of the house. Quoting these gentlemen, “the best gift to give your children, is not just to nurture them but to love their mothers.” Better Dads Malaysia aims to enable fathers to be a role model for their home and enable their kids to be better fathers for their future generations. With that, we become a more productive and empathetic society.
Better Dads Malaysia drives its society through various channels – such as their Facebook page, and WhatsApp support groups that provide a safe space for fathers to come together. With over 80,000 Malaysians being part of active parenting groups on Facebook, many are finding comfort, emotional support and educational resources that make the parenting journey less stressful. Fathers who enrolls in Better Dads’ programmes will be in an all-father group that encourages everyone to exchange notes and understand better models of fatherfullness.
Involvement, Consistency, Awareness, Nurturance (ICAN) Workshops
Through their signature Involvement, Consistency, Awareness, Nurturance (ICAN) Workshops, it is the first point of discovery for fathers to understand where they are at and what can be done to be a better father. The ICAN workshop emphasises participants to intentionally value-add themselves in having better quality time with the family, being more responsive, being involved in the children’s playful world and understand that active fathering would nurture your child better. By addressing all this, we will see productive and loving families mushroom in every corner of society and this will unlock the betterment of our nation, Malaysia.
By Ikhwan Nazaruddin