“I Want To Be Friends With My Kids”

Who does actor Yao Wenlong worry more about: His 12-year-old son or three-year-old daughter? Find out also why he didn’t send them to school in Singapore.

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Yao Wenlong may not be a superstar, but he is no doubt a household name in Singapore and Malaysia.

In this interview with U-Weekly, the 47-year-old actor gives a rare glimpse into his family life and chats about his wife Ziqing, 36; son Jianyu, 12; and daughter, Luohui, three.

How would you describe yourself as a father?

I am a father who loves his children; I wonder if I spoil them sometimes. My family is my priority.

Since the age of 18, I’ve always looked forward to having my own family. When I was in my 20s, I wanted to get married, but I didn’t meet the right person. I finally got married at 36 – that’s considered late.

At different ages, there are different things to learn. I’m learning to be a good father. I’d like to teach my kids well, so they don’t have to take the longer route to achieve the same goals. I often go online to seek parenting advice from my friends.

Do you spend a lot of time with your kids?

I try to, so I enjoy going home after work. For example, I started working out so I could keep up with my daughter. When I run after her these days, I no longer end up panting (laughs).

What were your parents like?

My father is strict; my mother is kind. I used to fear my father; if my grades or behaviour were bad, I’d be scolded or beaten.

I want to be a different kind of father. I want to be a friend to my kids; we can go swimming, jogging, shopping and play sports together. If my daughter isn’t home, I get to spend alone-time with my son.

If she’s home, everyone has to watch over her, and we become so busy. She is so daring; she can wander over to a stranger’s table and sit with him.

There’s a considerable age gap between your son and your daughter. Was she an “accident”?

Yes, they are nine years apart but she wasn’t an “accident”. We always wanted another child but allowed nature to take its course, and nothing happened. Just when we were about to give up, my wife became pregnant!

Who’s the Tiger Dad/ Mum in your family?

Depends on the situation. If my kid lied or swore, I’d be very angry. But my wife is usually the disciplinarian.

Your son is entering adolescence soon. What do you worry about most?

I’m more concerned about whom he befriends because they can influence him. He must be able to think independently and not blindly follow others.

This was why I transferred him from a private to an international school. His life revolves around studies and basketball now, so friends are important. I want him to learn to handle bad company, rather than stop him from making friends.

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Do you worry about him becoming rebellious?

He listens to me, so I know he won’t get very rebellious. I have never hit him, maybe only once, when I gave him five strokes of the cane. I think there are other ways to discipline kids. Children are not born naughty. They must be taught.

As for my daughter, she is like an angel when she is obedient; like a devil when her temper comes on. I’m more worried about her because she doesn’t yield to coercion. She’s likely to be very good or very bad.

If I don’t teach her well from young, I think there will be problems as she grows older; she could be easily led astray and become rebellious.

Is there any difference between how you teach your son and daughter?

Yes, because their personalities are different. My son is very quiet, but he likes to hang out. I always remind him to stay safe, and if he is provoked, he must know how to deal with it.

My daughter is still young, so I focus on imparting moral values. If she’s unhappy, she tends to bully her brother. Since he’s way older, he gives in to her.

Daughters are described as a father’s lover in his past life. Do you give in to your daughter?

If she is obedient, I do (laughs). But I won’t stick to her because she doesn’t like it. She needs personal space. And she has endless energy.

What are your plans for your children’s education?

My kids go to an international school near my home in Johor. My son is in Primary 6 and my daughter started in May.

What we like about the school is the ideology. Its approach to education is based on equality for students of all social classes and communities.

Moreover, if a child’s academic standard is Primary 5, he doesn’t get forced to progress to Primary 6. I enrolled my daughter here because I feel it will help mould her attitude and character; she will learn to become independent and know how fold her own blanket and feed herself, for example.

Do you have high hopes of your kids?

I don’t expect their grades to be at the top, but I also hope they don’t do too badly. It’s most important to learn how to get along with others. If possible, I wish they’d study a bit more.

I can live in a smaller house, drive a smaller car, but I don’t want to stint on education. In Primary 5, my son asked for an all- English education. Due to the fees, I had him homeschooled. In that one year, he improved a lot.

So, when he reached Primary 6, I decided to place him in an international school. If he wants to go to Kuala Lumpur, Singapore or other countries for further studies, we will try our best to provide.

I don’t want to control or plan everything for him. I will only advise him. Only when one is willing, one performs a task better.

My daughter? All we know now is she loves eating, drinking and playing!

Why didn’t you send your kids to Singapore to study?

I prefer to let them “play”. I want them to enjoy their childhood. For more than 20 years, I’ve been shuttling between Singapore and Malaysia for work, and seen so many students doing the same thing for school.

My wife and I weren’t highly educated, so why do we want to pile such high expectations on our kids? It’s most important to do their part as a student.

Has your profession as an actor influenced their growing up?

I don’t feel so. I don’t want my son to be bothered by my job. When my son began primary school, I rarely went to school. Some parents and teachers asked to take photographs; I didn’t want him to become troubled by it.

So, my wife collected the report book every year. My son’s current school makes me feel like a regular parent, not an artiste. The school doesn’t give him special attention just because I’m a public figure.

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