'Eagle dad' forces son to run naked

Updated: 2012-02-07 22:20

By Cheng Yingqi and Cang Wei (chinadaily.com.cn)

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BEIJING / NANJING — A man calling himself "eagle dad" recently stirred up a public controversy after he uploaded a video of his 4-year-old son, whom he had forced to run naked in the snow, to the Internet.

The father He Liesheng, 44, considers himself a new Chinese parental archetype in the tradition of the so-called "tiger mom".

"When the old eagle teaches its young, it takes the young eagles to the cliff side, beats them and pushes them to teach them to use their wings, and I believe I am helping my son in this way — to force him to challenge limitations and exceed his own expectations," said He.

On a family vacation to New York during the Spring Festival holiday, He recorded the video of his son running naked in a –13 C blizzard.

After He uploaded the video to the Internet as a "New Year's gift" to his friends, the post received a flurry of hits and comments criticizing He's so-called lesson to his child.

He said on Tuesday that his son He Yide was diagnosed with cerebral palsy because he was born a premature baby, which could hinder the intellectual development of a child. To make the son as healthy as others, He drew up a training schedule and rigorously adhered to it. The training included swimming, mountain hiking and jogging but not running naked.

"The naked run on Chinese New Year's Eve just represents my good wish for the coming year," He said.

The father said he is confident in this style of education because he majored in education in university and worked as a teacher for seven years before becoming a businessman in Nanjing, Jiangsu province. And He said his son now has scored very high on an IQ test.

However, a famous writer for children disagrees. "From tiger mom to eagle dad, the parents always say they are doing the right thing for the good of their children. But in my point of view, they are just forcing the children to become successful so that they themselves could feel powerful," said Lu Qin, a columnist known as "caring sister"who works for Chinese Teenagers News.

The term"tiger mom" was first popularized by Amy Chua, a Chinese-American mother who swept both US and China with her book The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, in which she describes the strict upbringing of her two daughters.

Following Chua's example, a Hong Kong businessman Xiao Baiyou, the self-styled "wolf dad", published a similar book touting how his philosophy landed his three children at a prestigious university.

"They even advertise their theories and take pride in their abuse," Lu Qin, the columnist said. "What they are most focused on is how their children perform better than others, but they fail to see the possible harm caused by violation of the natural order of childhood growth."

"The parents do not pay attention to how some children turn rebellious due to high pressure from their parents, and some have even killed the parents or ruined their own lives. I really feel indignant at their wrongheaded theories."

However, the "wolf father" spoke in defense of himself and other tough Chinese parents.

"I support 'eagle father', because there should be different methods for early education, and he has chosen one fit for his son," said Xiao Baiyou.

"You don't know how hard it is for a parent to treat his own child so strictly, but if this is the only way, it's worth a try for every parent, including me," Xiao said.

The Chinese Pediatric Association Chairman Zhu Zonghan said there is no scientific evidence showing the benefit of "eagle dad's" naked running exercise. "This is against the natural law of growth,"Zhu said.

Xu Pengfei, a pediatric doctor with China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing, agrees with Zhu.

"There is special cold-weather training in Japan and Korea, but the training should be carried out step by step. If the father had taken the child jogging year round, the training is acceptable," Xu said.

"Moreover, the father's explanation that sports enhanced the child's intelligence lacks scientific basis. Education can only lead to a modest change in IQ."