Video of 'Eagle Dad' forcing tearful Chinese boy to run in snow sparks uproar
Published 09/02/2012 | 09:52
A HOME video showing a four-year-old Chinese boy being forced by his parents to run almost naked through the snow in bitterly cold New York has sparked an online uproar.
In the video, the little boy runs towards his father, who is filming him, in thick snow with only his shoes and underpants on, at times crying bitterly and pleading with his dad to take him in his arms.
On several occasions, both parents tell their son to lie down in the snow, which he does eventually when his mother presses him.
The film was posted online by the boy's father, who comes from the eastern city of Nanjing, and has been viewed by tens of thousands of people on various video-sharing websites including YouTube.
The father was trying to train his son to be strong, his personal assistant told AFP.
But the footage has sparked debate about the tough parenting style for which China became known after Amy Chua's controversial book "Tiger Mother".
"I don't agree with this... We should give children a happy childhood, those terrible parents say they do this for their child's own good, but I think their purpose is just to be able to brag in the future," one netizen said.
"I really don't support this, poor kid, does the kid's mother let the father do whatever he wants to do?" another person said on Sina's popular weibo microblogging service - the Chinese Twitter.
The father, surnamed He, has been given the nickname of "Eagle Dad" in reference to Chua, who sparked controversy when she wrote a book extolling the benefits of tough parenting.
His personal assistant, surnamed Xin, told AFP He was on holiday with his family in New York during the Lunar New Year holiday last month, and decided to see in the Year of the Dragon with this unusual method.
"The child agreed and before the run, he did half an hour of slow running to warm up," she said by phone.
"This child has received all sorts of forms of training since he was small. When he was one, he started swimming in water that was 21C."
Xin said that the boy was born prematurely with several health problems including water in the brain that prompted doctors to say he may have cerebral palsy.
"But now he has no problems," she said, attributing this to He's intense education method.
Chinese parenting methods have come under the spotlight recently, with many of the country's children forced to study harder than their Western counterparts, often at the expense of sports and other leisure activities.
In her controversial book "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother", Chinese American Chua, a Yale University law professor, tells how she and her husband elected to raise their two daughters the "Chinese" way.
That meant heavy pressure for top school marks, no sleep-overs or watching television, and mandatory piano or violin study.
In one incident, she made one of her daughters stand out in the cold for falling short on piano practice, while in another she tells guests at a dinner party how she once called her daughter "garbage" - shocking the room.
An excerpt from the book was published in the Wall Street Journal last year, sparking vicious criticism and, Chua says, death threats via email.
Most of the responses to He's parenting methods were critical, although some posts said teaching one's child about the cold and fortitude was a good thing.
"But if this method becomes a feature of everyday life, then the child's life learning process is just cruel," one person said.
Another blogger said: "His father is cruel, but what he did is for the boy's good. He won't be like today's children who are only able to play with cell phones and computers."
Xin said He had disregarded the flood of online criticism.
"He says he doesn't care what others say... that the fact that the child lived showed that he has tenacious vitality," she said.