By Horace Lu
China Hush points us to a man named Xiao Baiyou (萧百佑) who has recently been making waves across China as a “Wolf Father” who imposes strict restrictions on his children and will beat them if they fail to meet his standards. Although controversial and violent, his parenting method appears to be very successful — at least outwardly. Three of his four children have been admitted into Peking University, arguably China’s most prestigious university. Many parents have sent their own children to Xiao so that he could teach them during the winter and summer vacations.
Beating children is not that simple. My experience tells me it is not easy to do it scientifically and artistically. How to do it scientifically? I think there must be clear home rules and punishment measures. The kids have to know what is right, what is wrong, or whether they are repeating the same mistakes, where is the wrong part, how many whips to it, and no resistance during when receiving the punishment. And when the punishment’s over, they have to express their resolution to be good next time. [Translation by China Hush]
All children have three natures: animality, humanity, and sociality. Before the age of 12, the animality in children plays a more important role therefore only corporal punishment can teach them what‘s right and what’s wrong.
“…I mainly adopt ‘beating’ in their upbringing before 12 years old, after that their humanity is basically in form, I won’t beat them anymore and instead adopt lecturing.”
The definition of success?
Chinese people consider it a great honor to have a child admitted into Peking University. However, Chinese media seem to have a negative attitude towards the Wolf Father’s parenting.
An editorial on Beijing News wonders whether being admitted by Peking University is really something worthwhile to show-off:
Two of them have Hong Kong IDs, and the other has acquired American citizenship. They got their Chinese education in China but took part in the College Entrance Examination in oversea identities. Anyone with the basic knowledge about education knows that their being admitted into Peking University in this way is of little value compared to other ordinary mainland students.
China Youth Daily questions whether it is enough to prove one’s success just with an offer from a famous university:
Does having a child admitted by Peking University mean successful education? If so, it will be a tragedy of our education. Even from the narrowest bettermentics perspective, many PKU graduates are at the lowest level of society, and some even have become criminals. How to account for all these?
The Ministry of Education minced no words with an outright condemnation of Xiao’s parenting methods in a statement posted on its website:
This despotism requires children‘s absolute obedience to parents. It will only lead to slavishness. It will not forge any creativity because there is no humanity in his [Xiao’s] heart.
Just another case of savvy marketing?
Doubts have also surfaced whether this is all a publicity campaign for Xiao’s new book Therefore, Peking University Siblings and his private school.
China Youth Daily says everything might just be to “label him and publicize him so that he could meet market demands.” The article says the plots about beating and punishment might have been exaggerated by Xiao.
Such an opinion is shared by many, including the People‘s Daily, in which an article recalls the case of “Tiger Mom” Amy Chua. The article says many Chinese parents bought her book which was of “little value of education” and were appalled after Amy admitted that her children’s success was more of a matter of their own efforts.
What the surveys say
Nevertheless, Xiao appears to be somewhat popular. A survey has shown that nearly 60% of the students are willing to be taught by such a “wolf father” as long as they can be admitted into Peking University. Around 30 children have been sent to Xiao’s private school by their parents for the wolf-like training during vacations.
Another survey reveals that over 80% of the interviewees admit that they have seen at least one “wolf father”, with more than 25% saying they know “many” similar cases around them. As for whether such a parenting will do any good, nearly 25% believe it is OK to beat children as long as they can succeed.
Xinhua Daily Telegraph, a daily newspaper run by the official Xinhua News Agency, says, “as long as our education is still test-oriented, any method that is good for higher scores and better management will not be totally abandoned.”