Being the eldest son in the family, Sukanto Tanoto had to take care of his younger sliblings even at a very young age himself. They grew up in a rough environment, Belawan, where there were many bullies, especially the older children who would always try to beat up Sukanto Tanoto and his siblings. Back in Belawan, the resident population was extremely diverse, but people tended to stick to their own groups. The Chinese community was divided into Hokkien, Teochew, Khek, Hainanese and so on. Unfortunately, Sukanto’s family was in the minority, as there were only three or four Henghua families in town. This was one of the main reasons why children from the majority clan would always bully Sukanto and his siblings. The tough environment in Belawan has taught Sukanto Tanoto many lessons and shaped his character from an early age. He learned to be alert at all times and, after some time, everyone in the neighbourhood knew him as the boy with a strong fighting spirit and survival instinct.
While the adults were busy working, the siblings would stay at home and practically did everything together. They would play, sleep and even finish up school work together. Their home was simple, spartan, with few decorations. They stayed in a rented ruko which had two storeys: a living space upstairs and a shop downstairs. During the day, it got very warm upstairs, because the concrete roof covering the house would absorb a lot of heat, causing the temperature to rise. There was also not much ventilation to allow in soothing wind to cool the place. If you were in the shop, you could hear the creaky wooden floorboards when someone was upstairs walking. And truth to be told, with so many boys in the house, it was almost impossible to contain the noise produced. The house was always noisy from morning to night. However, thankfully after a few years, a small room was built in the backyard for the five boys. It was also in this backyard that the siblings grew closer, slept together and did school work together.