Interesting piece in the Times today about competitive parents and the current trend of reading their children only the books they believe will increase their offspring’s’ “language development” and give them “a head start at school.” Ally this to the compulsory music lessons, extra private tuition, attending essential cultural events and mixing with the “right” people and it gives you some idea of the climate in which some children are being reared.
This seems to be following the trend of Tiger Mother Amy Chua, the super strict Chinese-American disciplinarian who became an overnight sensation in the U.S. this year when she wrote about her tough parenting style. But she looks like a pussycat next to her mainland Chinese equivalent, “Wolf Dad” Xiao Baiyou.
“I have more than a thousand rules: specific detailed rules about how to hold your chopsticks and your bowl, how to pick up food, how to hold a cup, how to sleep, how to cover yourself with a quilt,” Xiao says. “If you don’t follow the rules, then I must beat you.””From 3 to 12, kids are mainly animals,” he says. “Their humanity and social nature still aren’t complete. So you have to use Pavlovian methods to educate them.”
Now I am all for bringing up children in a disciplined way (and I am using the shorter OED definition of the works discipline = “to educate and train”) where you give them a positive role model and a strong set of values but I would venture to suggest that what this gentleman is doing is bordering on child abuse.
Wolf Dad Xiao Baiyou is shown in this publicity image with his four children, three of whom go to Peking University. He believes this is due to his method of beating his kids. The youngest is 16 and is hoping to study music at China’s Central Conservatory of Music.
When my daughter was growing up I tried to allow her as much freedom as possible, trusted her and allowed her to make her way in the world. She took off on a world backpacking tour at age 21 on her own and friends said to me “aren’t you worried something might happen to her?” My response was quite simple “no, because she is a sensible young woman and it is the opportunity that I never had.”
I think my daughter would say that I tried to expose her to good music (Duke Ellington, Mahler, Pink Floyd, Charlie Haden etc) but there is one thing she can never forgive me for, namely I made her sit and watch 2001, A Space Odyssey when she was 6 years old……….not the easiest of films to follow even allowing for the fact the music is sensational.
But as a parent you do the best you can……………………… and I know that one day she will really come to appreciate the greatest bit of filmmaking ever.