Khor Tuck Kuan

Khor Tuck Kuan is an artist and Creative Director for local advertising agency, T&T. He and his wife Ren Liaw have a 15 year-old son, Isaac.

Free-range parenting


Khor was in the creative field when his son was born. He and his wife were also seasoned travel buffs by then, but they did not let the birth of their son stop them from doing what they loved.

“We would just bundle him in a backpack-carrier thing and carry on travelling, whether to Japan, Hong Kong or the US,” Khor says. “We did not change our lifestyle very much after becoming first-time parents.”

Choice or obligation?

Khor and his wife have made the parenthood journey quite on their own, as their parents were not based in Singapore. “We had nobody else taking care of our child for us at that time.”

Perhaps having no choice in the matter, they toured as a family right from the start and have carried on that way ever since. For instance, they have been travelling regularly to an orphanage in India from the time their son was seven or eight.

Their rugged lifestyle is evident, as Khor explained, “We also do some adventure travelling together, like climbing Mount Kinabalu and the Rinjani volcano.”

Relationship before influence

In terms of being an influence, he sees his son as being his own person.

“To relate to him, I learned to respect him a lot more,” Khor said. Building respect is Khor’s key, and to him, respect is always mutual.

“I especially respect his playtime. I recently noticed that in this particular game he needs to concentrate (intently) so much, that in the one or two hours of game time which he has, I try not to interrupt him.”

Khor learned this as he previously would come home from work and speak to Isaac while he was engrossed in his game. “He would get frustrated, and I realized that I needed to respect his play time. I also discovered that in that game, he had a responsibility as he was playing as part of a team. Therefore I try not to violate his space and the game time that he is given.”

This dad takes obvious pains to ensure that his teenage son has a clear communication channel with his dad. “When I am able to take a step back when we communicate, he feels understood somewhat.”



As a family, the Khors go fishing, and in his words, “we do messy things together – like play in the mud, because I do believe that doing these things are important.”

Some time ago, while they were on a trip to Japan, Khor observed parents there and asked them why they let their kids play in the dirt. He shared what he learned, “You have to expose to certain things when you are young; otherwise, it’s like growing in a bubble. To a certain extent, being overprotective can result in not being able to build immunity, for example.”

The family also scuba dives together, which they took up when Isaac was around 13. “We manage the risk of that by staying in the shallow reef areas,” Khor assured.

Passion for causes

Khor and his wife are sponsors to a child from an orphanage in Orissa, India. He and his wife got to know about this orphanage through their church. He explained, “We go over to contribute within our capacity, visiting every other year or so, to see the children.” He also helps the orphanage find sponsors for the little ones.

The artist does not directly “share” his passion (for charitable causes) with his son, as he firmly believes that each person has his own character and personality. “I think he observes what we do, and he can see that we are doing what we love,” Khor said.

“Our Christian beliefs mean that we have grace, and we are not trying to work for some external reason. We have the grace to do what we love to do, and in that process we happen to give to others in our small way.”

If there is one thing that Khor hopes to impart through his fatherhood, is the fact that, “we do good not because we want to feel good about ourselves, but because we are so loved, and that means we have extra to give away.”

His son’s reaction to all of the causes that they are involved in is quite low-key, even as they continue to go to Orissa every other year.

“What is important to me as a father is that I cherish every moment together. I subscribe to the belief that we have to live, as much as we can, as if each day is our last. We have to treasure each moment.”

“Not long ago, out of the blue my son requested, “Mom, massage…” I remember saying to my wife that she must treasure this. Each stage does not last very long, and I really enjoy the different stages a lot. Even the “difficult” ones are worthy.”

Philosophy for fatherhood

Khor tells his son repeatedly that whatever he does, however wrong, “You come back to daddy, daddy will forgive you.” He wants his son to know that for Isaac, the door to his dad is always open, unconditionally.

About the Author: The Dads for Life Resource Team comprises local content writers and experts, including psychologists, counsellors, educators and social service professionals, dedicated to developing useful resources for dads.

First published on 05-07-2013

Categories: Dads' Stories

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