He Liesheng, a Chinese father who owns a bed linens company in Nanjing, is being lauded in China as an exemplary “eagle dad” and soundly criticized around the world for having his 4-year-old son, Ho Yide, run and do push-ups in the snow wearing only his underpants in New York’s Central Park in January. He posted a video of Yide, who can be seen running while crying as his mother encourages him.
According to the New York Daily News, He and his wife and son were in New York city on January 23 to celebrate Chinese New Year. On that day, there were two inches of snow on the ground and the temperature was 34 degrees.
He has defended his actions, saying that having Yide (who was wearing shoes) exercise wearing barely anything would help him develop a “masculine temperament” as the boy was born with water on his brain. He also has Yide do Kung Fu, dance, cycle and mountain climb; says he has thrown the little boy into freezing water to “toughen him up”; has him eat “cold ice cream on cold winter days to train his stomach to get used to the cold.” As a result, He claims, Yide “rarely has a cold or fever.”
A number of people on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, have called for the parents’ arrest after seeing the video of Yide looking less than thrilled about performing calisthenics in cold conditions (and in a foreign country). Others in China are praising He and calling him an “eagle dad,” as eagles are said to push their young out of their nests so they learn how to fly. He himself has told CNN that he could care less about the criticism because Chinese parents “spoil” their children too much with the result that “they get weaker and less competitive compared to foreign children.”
He’s treatment of his son (and a child with disabilities) is quite in keeping with that of Chinese “parenting expert” Xiao Baiyou aka Wolf Dad who bragged about beating his son and three daughters in a book whose original title was Beat Them into Peking University. It also recalls the aspersion cast on law school professor Amy Chua for writing about treating her two daughters with equal severity (and cruelty) in order to get them to be highly skilled musicians and successful students and not be softened by growing up in our over-permissive American culture. Indeed, at one point in Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, she puts one of her daughters outside in the cold and snow when the child is fed up with practicing. Chua boasts about her “strictness” in the book and not allowing her daughters to go to sleepovers or watch television.
Needless to say, I am outraged at how He treats his son. His views about parenting, and those of “Wolf Dad” Xiao and “Tiger Mother” Chua, are reflective of their own individual beliefs about parenting and education and should not be taken as what Chinese people, and Chinese American people for that matter, think about raising children. He’s, Xiao’s and Chua’s views should be seen as evidence of how some parents will do anything, to the point of subjecting children to physical harm and abuse, to make them “succeed.” This is a highly disturbing point of view that suggests that these individuals need to readjust their priorities about what’s important in raising a child.
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