Howl of the 'Wolf Dad'

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The list of rules in Xiao Baiyou's house is endless: No Coca Cola while surfing the Internet, no air conditioner even in the summer, no pocket money, and definitely no socializing or extra curricular activities.

Xiao Baiyou, 47, recently published a book about his fathering technique, which involves beating his children with a rattan cane when they break his rules. The businessman has drawn criticism. Wang Jing / China Daily

Xiao Baiyou, 47, recently published a book about his fathering technique, which involves beating his children with a rattan cane when they break his rules. The businessman has drawn criticism.[Photo/ China Daily]

His four children are not even allowed to open his refrigerator without getting permission.

The punishment for rule-breaking is more often than not a whack with a rattan cane.

"A father is like a general, and there are rules to abide by and punishment to shoulder if they are broken," said the 47-year-old. "Nowadays Chinese parents are too soft; they have abandoned the traditional Chinese way of good parenting."

Xiao, who was nicknamed "Wolf Dad" in a recently published memoir, even credits his stern parenting style for the fact that three of his offspring now attend Peking University, one of China's most prestigious educational institutions.

According to Xiao's philosophy, children under 18 are like animals and cannot distinguishing right from wrong.

"Only through brutal means can they be taught," he said when China Daily caught up with him at one of his Beijing homes this week.

He said his eldest son, Xiao Yao, 21, received most of the canings that were dished out - and each time his three sisters were told to stand and watch.

"The eldest should take the lead," he added in his usual booming voice.Xiao Baiyou grew up in Guangzhou, capital of South China's Guangdong province, and studied finance at Ji'nan University. He later went on to build his wealth through real-estate investments and luxury goods.

He recalls being whipped thousands of times as a child by his mother - and says he is grateful for it.

"Only when you are beaten frequently as a child can you learn discipline and etiquette," he said. "Bearing the pains helps strengthen your mind, build up your character and develop a strong will."

The businessman added that he plans to pass on his tradition to all of his offspring, and has set an ambitious target of having more than 12 grandsons with postdoctoral degrees.

"As the only male in the Xiao family line, I feel obliged to cultivate a whole family of masters," he said. "To beat the kids when they violate the rules is a good method."

Since releasing his memoir, which is entitled So, Brothers and Sisters of Peking University, Xiao has come under intense fire from parenting experts, some of whom called him a "ferocious and savage" father.

"Calling corporal punishment the 'essence of a traditional Chinese education' is simply twisting the truth," said Zhu Qiang, an associate professor at Nanjing Normal University, to China Daily.

In response to the criticism, Xiao simply said that history will prove him right.

Although he said he has stopped beating the children now at college, he insisted he will still interfere in their life, especially when it comes to studies and marriage.

His three eldest children, aged from 15 to 21, were not even allowed to make friends until they went to college.

"There's no reason for them to make friends, let alone go on dates," Xiao said. "Friends are there to help and be made use of; this is something you cannot understand before you go to university."He also warned that he will turn away any child or grandchild who turns out to be homosexual, as he fears it will "ruin the reputation of the family".

Not just experts have been divided by Xiao's parenting style. Many members of the public have also weighed into the debate to offer praise or criticism.

Liu Shibin, a 48-year-old taxi driver in Tianjin, said he believes the "wolf dad way" is too extreme.

"You spend a quarter of your life as a child, which is a lot," said Liu, who has a teenage daughter. "As a parent I hope my child will have happy memories of childhood."

Xiao, however, dismisses the idea that his children are not happy, adding that the word "wolf" describes his character perfectly.

"Wolves look ferocious and brutal, yet they have great wisdom and are exceptionally tender to their cubs," he said. "It's just like me: My brutality is all out of love."

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