SINGAPORE - Bank officer Muhammad Mahadi, 52, was crestfallen when his daughter did not do well in the Primary School Leaving Examination and entered the Normal Technical stream in secondary school.
But he never stopped encouraging her, and joined the school's parent support group to help her in her studies and her journey through school.
His daughter is now 19 and studying travel and tourism services in the Institute of Technical Education's Higher Nitec, and Mr Mahadi cannot be more proud of her.
For being steadfast in his support of his daughter, he received the Exemplary Father Award from President Halimah Yacob on Saturday (June 18) in a ceremony held by cancer charity Ain Society at the Concorde Hotel.
He was also awarded $3,000 in recognition of his efforts.
He said: "My daughter is a late bloomer. When she was in primary school, I often had to chase her to get things done but I tried to send positive vibes.
"We may be different from our children, but the most important thing is to listen to them and be a friend to them."
Speaking at the ceremony, President Halimah Yacob said the promotion of active parenting must include the support of fathers, who today are more involved in bringing up their children.
For instance, more fathers are taking paid care leave to be with their newborn children, with the take-up rate of paternity leave rising from 25 per cent in 2013 - when it was first introduced - to 55 per cent in 2019.
Fathers are now better supported by community groups as well as at the workplace, she added.
She said the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) works with community partners such as the Centre for Fathering set up in 2000 to shift societal mindsets towards more active and involved fathering.
Madam Halimah said workplaces have also become more receptive to the needs of fathers, having flexibility schemes for both parents.
She noted that for some labour-intensive jobs, employers may have concerns about fathers going on extended leave due to the challenge of finding covering arrangements.
"In such situations, employers could exercise more flexibility in fathers' utilisation of paternity leave, to minimise disruption to business operations," said Madam Halimah.
"I encourage workplaces and employers to recognise that parenting is a shared responsibility, and to be understanding and supportive of fathers' involvement in their children's lives.
"The pandemic has also shown that it is possible for employers to provide more flexibility to workers with caregiving responsibilities."
The newly minted Exemplary Father Award winner is looking forward to his daughter joining the workforce and enjoying a fulfilling career.
But rather than lay out his expectations for her, he will simply support her career choices.
He said: "I leave it up to her. I tell her, 'do what you want to do, I'll be here to support you'."