Everyone’s heard of the Chinese “tiger mom”—tough, overbearing women who subject their children to study schedules so rigorous and regimented that a military officer might blush. The idea is to nurture—or cram—prodigious skill and talent into their offspring before unleashing them on college entrance exams and well-paying jobs.
The most impressive “tiger mom” yet isn’t a woman, however.
Meet He Liesheng—former president of a bedding company, resident of the coastal city of Nanjing, and a man the mainland Chinese press are calling “eagle dad.”
When other kids are just learning to play and read from ages four to six, “eagle dad” He pushed his son He Yide to accomplish impressive, and even brutal, athletic and intellectual feats, according to The Paper, a Shanghai-based online news website.
At age four, He Yide was made to run on a snow-packed New York City sidewalk in sub-zero temperatures (8.6 Fahrenheit)—and wearing only a pair of yellow underpants, according to a video of the incident. At age five, He Yide won a national level abacus competition and flew a glider. At age six, He Yide completed a 3.4 mile marathon in Nanjing.
Now age 8 and spotting a bowl-cut, He Yide is set to brave his toughest challenge yet—being homeschooled by his father.
According to a May 25 Yangtse Evening Post report, He Liesheng had withdrawn his son from a college-run, public elementary school about a month ago because he felt that He Yide’s learning was being stifled. Although the elementary school had marked He Yide as a gifted student and allowed him to take sixth grade lessons, he was still required to return to the second grade in the afternoons.
He Liesheng’s self-devised study regimen maximizes all available hours between 5:30 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. from Sundays to Fridays.
Mornings are crammed with art, math, music, finance and business, and language lessons, and even 35 minutes of “military training.” Afternoons are for outdoor activities, social work on weekends, extra English lessons, as well as mastering the use of phone apps, 3-D printing, and robotics. Evenings are reserved for self-reflection and “height training”—He Yide must make 100 vertical jumps, 300 skips of the skipping rope, 50 stretching exercises, and hang from a horizontal bar for 60 seconds.
He Yide appears to enjoy an hour and a half long lunch break, but that seems to be because he needs to cook his own meals—the boy can make simple dishes like fried rice and noodle soup—and do his own laundry.
Kids in China get a two-month long summer break and a one-month spring break, but He Yide gets only 10 days of summer and a week of spring for vacation.
Five other kids are currently “enrolled” along with He Yide in his father’s punishing homeschooling system. He Liesheng hopes to have his son ready for the national college entrance exam by age 13.
Chinese internet users on the popular Chinese microblogging service Sina Weibo expressed pity for He Yide and criticized his father.
“I feel like the child is a lab rat,” wrote “Circle Without An Edge.”
One Chinese netizen thought that the case was representative of a greater problem with education in China.
“Cold Alone LY” wrote: “The greatest failure education in China is the attempt to groom all-rounders while ignoring the differing caliber of individuals.”
Another user simply said: “Send the dad to a psychiatrist.”