Courtesy of Xiao Baiyou
Xiao Baiyou, the self-proclaimed "Wolf Daddy" with his four children.
BEIJING – Just as the “Tiger Mom” controversy started simmering down in China, the “Wolf Daddy,” a self-proclaimed expert on strict parenting, is sparking a new round of fervent discussion on child-raising methodologies among anxious Chinese parents.
The “Wolf Daddy” is actually Xiao Baiyou, a 47-year-old Chinese businessman who deals in real estate and luxury goods. This past June, he published a book on parenting that featured an eye-catching photo on the cover of a graduation cap with a wooden ruler underneath, a device commonly used by old-time Chinese teachers and parents to spank their children when they misbehaved.
The message was clear and straightforward: Children need to be disciplined, ruthlessly. His favored method is the rattan cane, which his own mother used on him.
Reasons for spanking vary from sneaking visits with friends to lying to diminishing academic achievement. In the book, Xiao recounts a time when Xiao Jun, his eldest daughter, could not complete a new song on her piano. Her calf was spanked 10 times while others watched, including her mom, who applied medicine on her bloody bruises afterwards.
Xiao lays out his spanking instructions in the book:
Before the kids go to junior high school, spank them every time they make mistakes, but greatly reduce the frequency after junior high since the children form their own personalities by that age;
The spanking tool is confined to the rattan cane only, which causes minor bruises;
Only hands and calves are spanked, other body parts are spared;
Mistakes are pointed out every time before the whack so children know why they are punished;
Sisters and brothers must watch when one of them is smacked so they learn;
The punished one has to count the number of spanking during each admonishment;
The punished one cannot try to avoid the punishment, otherwise he/she gets more.
Unlike many of his fellow citizens who are only allowed to have one child, Xiao has four children. Two of them were born in Hong Kong and two in the U.S., following a new trend in which middle-class Chinese citizens have children overseas to avoid the one-child family planning policy. Xiao originally had hoped for six children, but stopped at four when his company tumbled into financial problems.
“I persist on my own belief that has never changed: I use the oldest, the most traditional methods to educate my children,” writes Xiao in his 200-plus-page book.
Xiao’s list of banned activities is no shorter than those of the “Tiger Mom,” Amy Chua:
No TV, except a limited amount of news and cartoons (teen soap opera dramas are absolutely prohibited);
No unmonitored Internet surfing;
No Coca-Cola (but tea is allowed);
No opening the refrigerator (so no unscheduled snacks);
No air-conditioning, to train the spirit of tenacity (ouch, summer in Guangzhou is brutally humid and hot);
No visiting friends unless a written application is filled out, providing information on the friend’s academic grades and their parents’ names and phone numbers;
No pocket money at all;
And written self-criticism when mistakes are made.
Social life is severely controlled by the Wolf Father. Traveling is strictly monitored in case “bad influences” affect the kids’ academic grades. Once, when Xiao Baiyou sensed his son’s classmates were “bad boys” and the school didn’t respond to his request to separate them, Xiao made a quick decision to move and forbad his son to contact any of his former classmates. Dating is utterly out of the question, but Xiao told NBC News in a recent phone interview that he told his kids once they were enrolled at Peking University to “go find your true love now!”
Extra curriculum activities are considered frivolous. Xiao forced his son to give up basketball because it was taking up too much time.
Xiao got widespread attention after he registered with China’s Twitter-like micro blogging site Weibo under the name of “China Wolf Father” three months ago.
The Weibo account, with its short introduction, says “one scolding every day sends your children to Peking University,” one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in China, and it quickly attracted over 2,400 followers. His book is called, “Therefore, Peking University Brothers and Sisters,” and it has sold over 20,000 copies. If you search “Wolf Daddy” on China’s local search engine Baidu, you get over 1 million results.
But the attention he’s gotten doesn’t mean every Chinese parent believes his is the best parenting approach. In a recent online chat with chinanews.com, many readers left disapproving or even angry comments. One reader called “og_wfny” said, “you are building your vanity on your children’s pain.”
Shi Shusi, an editor at a national newspaper “Worker’s Daily,” commented: “Wolf daddy can only train wolf cubs. This story has nothing to do with human beings.”
Xiao argues that all those critical voices are from the people who either do not have parenting experience or do not truly understand him. He’s extremely proud of his three children who got into Peking University, but denies that was his ultimate goal (the fourth is still in high school).
“This is only a goal during their study times, a finishing point of their high school, but a beginning to new life. Their ultimate goal is to bring glory to my family, and I believe they will achieve that goal by being decent, capable, healthy and honest people,” Xiao told NBC News.
Without a doubt, Xiao’s four children are impressive: the son is a chess pro and loves Chinese ink painting, the eldest daughter is good at writing and plays piano, the second daughter is a calligraphy master and the third daughter is a professional guzheng (a traditional 21-stringed musical instrument) player.
NBC News tried to interview Xiao’s children but was told they do not wish to be disturbed while they are focusing on their college studies.
Xiao Yao, the son, said in the book that he believes he and his sisters have “much stronger self-control” than other children thanks to their father’s strict parenting.
But the boy also wrote about his self-pity in another article included in the book: “Although daddy’s parenting gave us many traits other children don’t have, there are regrets in my childhood. I remember one summer some relatives came to visit and we children jumped and laughed on the bed, I was so happy. This only happened once in my childhood and it will never happen again. That was the only moment I thought childhood could actually be worry-free! I wish I had a few more such moments!”
When asked if he ever has any regrets in his parenting, Xiao Baiyou said “no” without any hesitation. But he said he regrets not buying his wife a ring or flowers after they got married. He says his wife, who he calls “the queen” in the family, never used make-up after she married Xiao, since every penny was spent on their children’s education, like expensive piano classes.
Xiao does has one question that he wishes could reach the president of the United States: “Dear Mr. Obama, I’m really curious to know, were you spanked when you were a child?”