(Photo credit: Yuying Deng, BL's wife)
Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.
My name is Bernard Leong. I work in the technology space, and drive business development on artificial intelligence and machine learning across Southeast Asia for a technology company and a connector for start-ups in the region. My past life includes being an academic, a podcast host, an angel investor (and recently restarted the activity) and an ex-startup founder.
How old are your kid(s)?
I have three kids, with the eldest daughter, Eleanor coming to 9 years old at the end of the year, the middle child or my son, Evan is coming to 4 years old and my youngest daughter, Estella will be 2 years old by August this year.
Who is the primary caregiver in the household, and what are you and your partner’s parenting philosophy?
There is no primary caregiver, as my wife and I are both working and we rely on assistance from our helpers and in-laws. Both my wife and I have a peculiar parenting philosophy. We believe that our kids need to acquire the mindset rather than the skills:
the growth mindset to learn something as fast as possible by yourself
the ability to be independent and
the capability to think critically.
We have sent our three kids to pure Montessori schools (for their pre-school and there are only 3-4) in Singapore that allows the nurturing of these features. From then on, it is up to them to figure out where they want to be and what they want to do.
What's your favourite moment in the day with your kid(s)?
My wife and I set aside our evening time (7-9 pm) for the kids, and we spent the time with them from playing with toys for example, Picasso tiles, Lego, Chess, Katamino or other toys in the living room which is their designated play area.
How do you keep yourself sane?
Just go with the flow and adjust gradually to the reality as there are days when they can be difficult from getting sick to kicking a fuss.
Best tech tip on parenting. This can be apps / hardware / gear you use, and how you use them.
Expose them to online learning early, and I have exposed my eldest daughter to Khan Academy and scratch programming at the age of 5, and for the COVID-19 pandemic, she did not have major issues adjusting to the home based learning. She goes onto Khan Academy whenever she needs help in understanding arithmetic or Udemy for scratch programming.
Most helpful advice you've received as a parent.
“Do not expect them to be like you. They are different and have to figure out how they are going to live in their own futures.” As the years go by, I find that these words of wisdom reduce my expectations on them.
What lessons do you not want your kid(s) to learn?
Not able to cope with pressure or stress and succumb to drugs or other stimulants.
Not to do anything criminal or unethical.
Not to be addicted to anything unhealthy.
What was the best lesson you learned from your child?
The best lesson is that you see how they learn and reflect it back on you. That in turn, provides you a perspective to understand things better.
I will provide an anecdote. My eldest daughter was always in the study where I did my calls with customers during the COVID-19 pandemic. So, she often hears how I pitch to my customers and do demos on AI technologies. Last year, she went for an AI for kids class and was exposed to similar AI tools from a competitor. I asked her what she had learned. She started explaining to me how the AI tools from my competitor work and used my sales pitch back on me.
It taught me two things: how fast kids learn and how they can adapt quickly. Their inquisitive nature encourages me to adopt a child-like mindset to learn new things and be flexible when things change or are not working out.
What is your proudest dad moment?
I don’t have a proudest dad moment. I have acquired beautiful moments from my children equally when they shared what they have achieved in the process. For example, I am proud of my eldest daughter being able to brave through two major surgery operations when she was one, built her own lego toys, completed her pre-school, programming simple applications with scratch and recently making me a plastic phone stand during her 3D printing class. For my son, putting the chess pieces in the right place on the board by himself and learning to read his first book and moving around on the balance bike, and for my youngest daughter, able to walk when she was 10 months old and reciting the alphabet and counting numbers from 1 to 10 at 1.5 years old.
If you could ask anyone, dead or alive, for their best parenting tip, who and what would that be?
Estee Lauder and her husband, and how she brought up her son Leonard Lauder to run and grow the company into a multi-billion business. When I read Leonard Lauder’s book “The Company I Keep”, I pick up different threads of parenting tips on how they bring him up with the right set of skills to be able to take over and grow the business to the next stage. If there is another person I want to ask, it will be JD Rockefeller, who has been known to be an inspirational and influential father to his kids.
How do you manage technology exposure for your child/children?
I am from the school of thought that my children should have maximum exposure to technology but with constraints so that they are not addicted to the devices. It’s best to let them learn technology early but guide them to navigate against the dark side rather than blocking them. I started coding young without constraints and hence I chose the same path for my kids. One thing my wife has insisted on, is not to let our kids watch any video using a tablet or phone during our meals, which I agree is a sound and fair move in addressing addiction.
What hobbies do you and your children share?
We play chess, lego, snap circuits, Picasso tiles and read children's books.
Finally, your best dad joke!
I actually don’t have one.