Our FFL Contributor, Tan Chin Hock, shares 5 lessons he learnt during his Army days and how it helped him in his family of 8 and a father to his 3 children.

When people ask me where I live, I always tell them that I stay in a market. I literally feels like I am in one especially when the 8 living beings in my household start to want their voices to be heard. There are days when I am physical and mentally drained and there are days when I am on top of the world.

I count on the 5 lessons learnt during my Army days which have served me very well as a parent so far. Parents, while I learned these lessons in my greens, please be assured that it does not matter whether you ever served a day in the uniform. I hope these lessons could serve as an inspiration to better ourselves for the sake of our children and loved ones and provide some pointers to ride out some of our toughest parenting days. 

1. It Could Be Worse

We were lost and stranded in the thick jungle in an overseas training area. The situation was made worse when we could not establish communication with our commanders. When we finally made our way back to the base camp 2 days past our objective, our spirits were down and we were fatigued, starved and anguished at our poor performance. While hastily preparing for our remedial mission, the commander told us that there were 2 more teams stranded in the jungle. My heart sank and I prayed for our comrades' safe arrival which they did so, only after 4 days later. During my Army days, I would have gone through numerous training and exercises that are required of a Commando. The above example is one of the instances where I missed the mark and had to go through extra training sessions. My motivation to be part of the Commando family spurred me on and I would go on to meet all the requirements in spite of the highs and lows during the 10-month training.

Unlike running a marathon where there is a finishing line, parenting is an endless race. We face challenges in our daily lives. Some of these challenges include: how to effectively discipline a misbehaving child, how to develop our children to their fullest potential and how to juggle our commitments such that we will have more time for our family etc. We win some and fail some. There will be days when we are overwhelmed, feeling guilty at not being able to provide more for our children or not reacting in the best interest for them. It is normal to experience both positive and negative emotions. The key is we must pick ourselves up, get over the negative ones quickly and keep moving forward for our children. To avoid a long stay in the negative territory, we should remind ourselves that any difficult situation we are facing now could actually be worse. We are not alone and there are families which encounter greater difficulties and yet manage to overcome them. We must stay positive and continue to fight on for the sake of our loved ones.

2. “Taking Small Actions Daily to Improve Ourselves”

One of the requirements is to clock 9 min 14 secs for the 2.4 km run as part of a Commando's Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT). When I started out as a trainee, I was about 1.5 minute behind the golden mark, a gap that most trainers would think that was difficult to bridge. I did not give up just because others did not think I could make it. Beside regular training, I spent numerous precious weekends on intensive interval training. At my first IPPT, I managed to clock 9 mins for the run, a feat that I never thought attainable when I first started out. With a never-give-up attitude and a desire to improve mentality, I managed to clear all the high stake tests such as weapons assembly, 5 km standard obstacle course run, parachute jump drills etc.

As parents, there are many areas that we can work on and improve further.  For those of you who lose your cool faster than you could say "It is all right", you may want to consider practising anger management techniques that are suggested here, those who wish to be more organised in order to spend more time with the family could consider the tips here and those who like to know the key values that you should start teaching your children, I hope this page would set you thinking. I would suggest doing a reflection on our strengths and weaknesses, devise a plan and start with small daily actions to improve ourselves. I would not advise to aim for perfection; instead incremental little effort that will make us better and engaged parents with each passing day. We are all capable of bettering ourselves. It is a matter of finding the drive to do so. My motivation is thinking what my children would write for their essay topic "My Papa". When they are all grown up, it will be their eulogy for me when I leave the world. I believe you could find your motivation in something.

There are no shortcuts besides hard training to achieve the 9 mins and 14 secs golden mark. However, there is one technique advised by our trainers that supposedly would help us get the job done. For instance, one has to go through 6 turns in order to complete the 2.4 km circuit. The technique was to set personalised timing that needed to be achieved at each turn. By doing so, I set myself up for a manageable pace throughout the first 2 km and would then leave the all-out effort for the last 400 metres. Throughout my Army days and my entire reservist training cycles, I had relied on this technique to consistently achieve the golden standard for the run.

Join interest groups, seek advices from parents whom are in a similar situation as you are now, google your keywords and sieve through trust worthy and reliable sources of information to keep abreast of the issues that are close to your heart. I trust we can learn something from the experiences of others who have been there and done that. Keep an open mind and do not stop exploring your options.

4. “Expect the Unexpected”

The commanders could pull off a well tactical plan in the ops room but when we were out in the field, any variable could disrupt the well-planned operation especially those beyond our control. For instance, additional enemy reinforcement could lead to a change of course, different point of infiltration, change of strike time etc. The way to deal with it when on the ground is to prep ourselves mentally of potential changes, adapt to the situation and make the best out of it.

To deal with unexpected events, contingency plans are very important in my parenting world. I have been conditioned to plan for contingencies when the stakes are high. It means for family outings that last longer than half a day, umbrellas - in case it rains, full water bottles - in case water gets scarce, colouring books - in case the children gets cranky and need something to fill them in, can be found in our bags. Although they take up additional spaces and weigh more, they have had come in handy on many occasions. In some situations, we even had to switch venues.  

When I expect the unexpected, there is a lesser probability of myself over-reacting  (a response that can be both stressful and detrimental for our children) when things do not go according to plan. I trust having this mindset would go a long way in ensuring a harmonious and trusting relationship with your children.

5. “Honouring their grandparents ”

My grandfather was elated to find out about my enlistment into the Commando unit back in 1999. He seemed to understand that it is a physically demanding vocation despite his limited knowledge of it. My grandfather was active when he was young. He used to be good in ball games and represented the basketball team in his schools. He took on laborious work before he retired in his 60s. Even at old age, he still exercised regularly. As far as I could recall, he had two 5 kg dumbbells at each side of his bed and every morning, he would wake up and go about his day only after lifting them for umpteen times.

I remember as a child, I would slip into his room and secretly sipped his tonic wine while he was watching TV, listened attentive while he was conducting Chinese spelling tests and reading my storybooks on his lap while he was in the rocking chair and many others.

He passed away during the final year of my National Service in 2001 but it always seem like yesterday when I recall our interactions. I can never forget his generosity, kindness and gentleness towards my siblings and me.

Parting Words

If there is anything to be learnt from reading this article, I hope that we can always have the grandparents and parents in our hearts. They are the ones who have had painstakingly raised us to become what we are today. Consider allowing more time for our children to interact with their aged grandparents, if possible. Let the grandparents relieve those parenting moments. From my experience, the elderly would have a lot to share and learn with their grandchildren and vice versa.

Be a role model, honour and spend more time with their grandparents while they are still around. Remember our children are watching closely at how we treat them. Treat their grandparents well and I am confident it will be reciprocated by our children during our twilight years.

Republished with permission.

Learn more about Our FFL Contributor Tan Chin Hock:

Tan Chin Hock is a bit of an adrenaline junkie - a former commando, no less! He is dedicated to empowering and advocating for strong families. With his passion for self-care and healthy living, he leads by example and encourages others to prioritize their family relationships. Through his social enterprise, he aims to inspire and uplift the less resourced communities through photography. Join Chin Hock as he combines his unique experiences and unwavering commitment to promote the importance of strong families and making a positive impact in today's world.

Read more of Tan Chin Hock's articles here.

Social Media Links:



Media & Awards