Shaun Chen: I don’t want my girls to be just exam-smart

November 12, 2018
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    Shaun Chen clearly dotes on his two daughters, but that doesn’t mean they can get away with anything.

    His first daughter, Nellie, arrived in December 2015, five months after he married wife Celine. In July 2017, the couple welcomed their younger daughter, Neia.   

    But even when he jokingly wails in a U-Weekly interview about “working so hard”, his tone turns to love and affection as the 40-year-old confesses: “They are my greatest motivation.”   

    The actor tells us more about his discipline style and hopes for his family.

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    “Nellie is our first child, so she naturally gets more attention,” Shaun says.

    “But we are also stricter with her. We want her to be able to help reinforce to her young sister values that we have impart to her, such as manners and respect.”   

    Related: Shaun Chen wants 4 kids; baby No. 2 on the way

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    Neia, who turned one in July, is relatively obedient, but Shaun is still concerned.  “Sometimes I wished she’d react more. If she made mistakes, we can correct and guide her,” he says.

    “I’d be concerned if my kids were rude and threw tantrums all the time. I wouldn’t like it if she threw stuff or went, ‘I don’t want Mum or Dad!’ Gosh, I think parenting really ages a person.”

    Related: Shaun Chen throws 100th day celebration party for his baby girl

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    Shaun reckons he’s faring well as a dad. He earns enough to support his family of four and can be relied on to look after the kids if required.

    “When my wife went for a holiday in Thailand with her girlfriends for five days, I looked after the kids,” he says, proudly. “Well, yes, I had some help from our domestic helper!”

    Related: Shaun Chen finally reveals wife in Instagram post

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    The loving couple’s only hope for their girls is that they grow up happy and healthy.

    “Only when you are healthy can you overcome the challenges in life. Even if their grades aren’t that great, we’re cool,” he says.

    “I don’t want them to grow up to become just exam-smart. Everyone has her own strengths. It’s more important to me they are upright in character.”

    That’s why he doesn’t hold back on discipline, although he prefers if his children grow up treating him like a friend.

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    When Nellie threw a tantrum one morning because she didn’t want to go to school, Shaun decided to deal with the situation positively.

    “I went to pick her up that evening, then brought her to the playground because I wanted to reward her for eventually doing the right thing and going to school. I didn’t want her to feel miserable.”      

    Related: Yao Wenlong: I want to be friends with my kids

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    He adds: “Kids these days are very different from us. I learnt to brush my teeth only when I was six years old. But Nellie, who’s only three, has developed the habit of brushing her teeth before bedtime.

    “I grew up in the kampung and my parents didn’t take any special effort to nurture any of our talents. They allowed us to pursue our own passions so long as we didn’t harm anyone, take drugs, steal, smoke… My sibling and I grew up alright.”

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    Unlike some actors, who can get obsessed with staying lean and fit, Shaun prefers a balanced approach.

    He used to hit the gym for a workout or play badminton three times a week. Now, he considers it a luxury if he goes once a week.

    “My wife and I have time to ourselves only after 10pm, when the girls have gone to bed. On some days, I wake up at 5am to jog, hit the gym at 6am, and get home by 8am. Then I send Nellie to school,” he tells U-Weekly.

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    Shaun was born in Pertang, Negeri Sembilan in Malaysia. He left to work in Kuala Lumpur after completing secondary school and arrived in Singapore in 2000.

    Celine, a former beautician, is from Alor Setar, also in Malaysia; they met in Penang, where Shaun was filming The Journey: Our Homeland.

    Nellie and Neia were both born in Alor Setar, but the family now lives in Singapore.

    Related: Andie Chen, Kate Pang leave Mediacorp to focus on Youtube channel Kandie Family


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    For the past two years, home has been a rented apartment in Tiong Bahru. The four-roomer sets him back by $2,700 every month, which is a financial burden, so Shaun plans to apply for permanent residence for his family to allow them to settle here and pursue their studies.

    When permanent residence is approved, he plans to buy a house in Singapore. But the 25 per cent down payment, as well as the higher taxes and interest for permanent residents, means he will need to work very hard to save money.

    “I’m a PR but my wife is not. So, I can only buy an apartment. If it costs $1 million, I have to cough up at least 33 per cent in cash.”

    Related: Singapore billionaire Peter Lim’s daughter celebrates baby’s 99th day; baby’s father revealed

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    Shaun comes from a big family – he is one of seven children – but he laughs when U-Weekly asks him if he hopes to follow suit.

    “Impossible… It’s considered incredible to have four kids these days,” Shaun says.

    “Maybe three, but I need to discuss this with my wife. It’s already tiring having to raise two kids, so we’ll see how it goes when Neia turns three.”

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    Shaun holds traditional values when it comes to marriage and family, and being at the height of his career didn’t stop him from remarrying.

    It certainly didn’t seem to hurt his success in 2015 because he won the Best Male Actor and Top 10 Most Popular Male Artistes titles at the Star Awards.

    “Many people now choose to not get married or not have kids. But I don’t want to grow old without having any family,” shares Shaun, who was previously married to former host-actress Michelle Chia from 2009 to 2011.

    “While I cannot expect my kids to definitely care for me until the end, as long as I know I have fulfilled my responsibility it’s fine.”

    A version of this article first appeared in U-Weekly; translated by Young Parents

    (Photos: U-Weekly and Instagram/Shaun Chen)

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