Stars come out and show it takes two to raise a child

Updated: 2013-10-26 01:08

By ZHANG YUE (China Daily)

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When Yu Jian went home to Anhui province on annual leave last year, the 28-year-old expected a big welcome from his 14-month-old daughter.

"But she kept throwing my shoes out of the bedroom and cried when I was alone with her," he said.

Yu was shocked, but his wife told him, "You have not been with her long enough and she might think you are a stranger".

After his daughter was born in May 2011, Yu only spent some weekends and public holidays with her — each encounter being no longer than four days.

He was working for a State-owned steel company in Shanghai, but his wife and daughter remained in Hefei, their hometown. The family decided to live apart because Yu was earning a good salary in Shanghai.

Shocked by his daughter's reaction during his annual-leave visit, Yu decided to quit his job and return home to be with her.

Father and daughter now get along quite well, but she still sometimes defies him, for example when they are alone together.

"She seldom behaves like that when her mother is here," Yu said with a sigh.

The situation Yu finds himself in is being mirrored in a new reality show, Dad! Where Are We Going?, being shown on Hunan Satellite TV. The program invites young celebrity fathers and their children to spend a few days in rural Beijing.

Placed in a totally different environment, with food they are not used to, some of the children have rebelled and demanded their own toys.

The program has arguably become the most popular weekend reality show in China, with video footage of the first two episodes receiving more than 10 million hits on by Friday.

Five celebrities have joined the show, including Taiwan singer and actor Jimmy Lin and Tian Liang, a diving champion at the 2004 Olympics.

The way in which celebrity fathers get along with their children and how they deal with them when they are disobedient has attracted widespread attention, triggering discussion on the father's role in child education.

In China, family friction can arise because men are expected to shoulder more responsibility to support their families financially.

Huang Wei, a 29-year-old father and business owner in Beijing, said his 2-year-old daughter has become used to staying with her mother, as he is often on business trips.

Huang's wife has stayed at home since their daughter was born in November 2011.

"I've never taken my child on a trip alone," Huang said. "There are too many things about her that I cannot take good care of during a day trip."

Some fathers who have had little or no involvement in their children's education over the years have been left to rue the situation.

Chen Jianzhong, 46, said he feels regret at leaving home and working in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, when his daughter was 6. He returned home to live with her when she was 16.

"I've watched Dad! Where Are We Going? It's quite interesting and I think some fathers obviously haven't spent enough time with their kids, just as I did in the past," he said.

He said he feels that his daughter, who is now 17, doesn't share many of her thoughts with him, more often than not choosing to speak to her mother.

Fathers' role in their children's education is not just a problem in China.

In Britain, the Daily Mail reported in June that a study in the UK found that about 1 million children are growing up without a father or an adult male guardian.

Chen Mo, a professor in child psychology at East China Normal University, praised the TV program for featuring the idea of children living only with their fathers for a short period.

He said: "It takes both parents to raise a child. Children have different psychological needs at different ages and this needs to be considered by both parents.

"Fathers need to give up some social activities and spend more time with their children."