Chinese businessman He Liesheng is putting Tiger Moms to shame by taking ‘pushy parenting’ to whole new levels. ‘Eagle Dad’, as he calls himself, has only one philosophy when it comes to raising his son: “We think that not having adventures in life is the most dangerous thing.”
Well, adventures don’t sound all that bad, but wait till you hear what he’s put his son through so far. At age four, He Yide was made to jog in the snow, while wearing only underpants. It was supposed to be a character building exercise, and the video clip that Liesheng shared online showed the boy crying while running in New York’s subzero temperatures. It earned him the name ‘Running Naked Boy’ on Chinese social media.
A year later, Yide was taught to fly a plane and he made a 35-minute flight above Beijing Wildlife Park in an ultralight aircraft, breaking the Guinness Record for the world’s youngest pilot.
Now, the father-son duo are in the news again, for embarking a 20-day, 1,800-mile hike across Lop Nur, a largely dried up salt lake in China, where temperatures regularly drop below freezing point.
They were accompanied by three other families with four children chosen by Liesheng himself. The goal was to teach the children strength training, lessons on searching for water and food, navigating by reading the stars at night, and sleeping in pits dug into the ground. In preparation for the journey, Liesheng hired five guides and carried instant food, sand-proof glasses and 100 different types of medicine.
As it turned out, the group had to travel most of the way by car because the salt flats were covered in crystals that could cut one’s feet. Five cars equipped with GPS systems and medical supplies helped the group get across, but Yide still managed to complete a 62-mile trek on foot.
“We needed to find dry wood to light a fire every night,” Yide explained. “I learned that wolves are afraid of light, fire and the smell of gunpowder. We successfully scared away three wolves by using our flashlights. We also visited the monument of Peng Jiamu and left bottled water for people in need.”
Given the fact that many professional explorers have died trying to cross deserts, Liesheng’s efforts with his son do seem extreme and unnecessary. But the dad said he has his own reasons for being so hard on the little boy. Apparently, the kid was born premature and had spent a couple of months in an incubator after he was born. Doctors had warned that he might suffer physical defects later in life.
Determined to give his son a fighting chance, Liesheng developed a tough training program for him that included all sorts of strenuous activities – like swimming lessons just 10 days after the kid left the incubator. At six months old, he was given eight hours of lessons a day. He practiced mountain climbing at two years, along with five miles of jogging every day. Yide is also registered for kung fu and kickboxing classes. Somehow, he still has time for his two favorite activities: skateboarding and riding a bike.
Liesheng explained that he wasn’t doing anything unnatural, and that harsh parenting is actually a part of nature. “When the baby eagle is old enough, the mother eagle would harshly push its baby down the cliff,” he said. “When the baby eagle is plummeting, a survival instinct would make it flap its wings vigorously. Through this, the baby eagle acquires its basic survival skill – flying.”
Liesheng’s own family is divided about his parenting approach. “The men of the family support his method, while the older generation and women disagree with it,” he said. “From my point of view, traditional education focuses too much on textbook knowledge and fails to cultivate a child’s personality and ability to overcome challenges. I don’t agree with the education of most parents. They are too protective and caring, which makes their kids lazy and with no pioneering spirit.”
He did admit that safety is a top concern no matter what he plans with Yide. “We would never create an adventure at the cost of my son’s life,” he insisted. Even the shocking snow jogging challenge was done only with the boy’s consent, Liesheng says. “He agreed to go out in the snow naked or else it wouldn’t be possible for me to take his clothes off.”
“Yide is now in very good health,” Liesheng proudly declared. “I also give him cold ice cream on cold winter days to train his stomach to get used to the cold. Besides the two months in the hospital when he was born, he never visited a hospital again.” Well, that sure is a great achievement, but a few people might argue that it came at a heavy cost. What do you think?