My dad was Kilimanjaro, but with warmer temperatures. He was built wide at the bottom, slender at the top and impossibly tall and solid. One of his first jobs was cutting sod, rolling the fat sheets up until they resembled massive, grass-sprinkled Cinnabons, and loading them onto a truck by himself. He was heavy, broad, imposing, eye-catching. Now that I think about it, I was raised by a Hummer.
When my brother and I messed up—stomped on the new shrubs playing Thundercats, set off the security alarm playing hide and seek, plucked my mom’s nerves until we set off the waterworks—he did The Grab: he gripped our upper arm, and squeeeeeeezed. No hitting. No smacking. No poking. No yelling. Just a firm squeeeeeeeeze, followed by a casual, confident whisper of instruction, as if his bidding was already being handled.
You’re going to clean up the mess and apologize to your mother.
We’re going to clean up the mess and apologize to our mother.
A Hummer capable of Jedi mind tricks.
That was discipline for us. Of course, somewhere the Anti Arm-Squeezing Association (savethearms.org) is working up a complaint about my father.
This old school approach is mostly extinct. In fact, many parents have taken a stand against corporal punishment by heading in the opposite direction. Instead of spankings and squeezes, kids get a 10-milligram Ritalin, followed by 1,800 milligrams of peanut M&Ms to bribe them to clean up their rooms.
Whether your discipline style is the squeeze, the spank, the bribe, the yell, the empty threat, the count to three, the timeout chair, etc., I think we can all agree that Xiao Baiyou, the self-proclaimed Wolf Father, has it terribly, horribly, impossibly wrong.
A male counterpart to Amy Chua’s Tiger Mom, the Wolf Dad is the latest parenting classification to come out of the People’s Republic of China. The Wolf Father’s approach: the judicious use of physical abuse to help your kids achieve nothing sort of success. It’s also known as “stick parenting.” (We’re talking bamboo canes, not adhesive tape.)
A recent story posted on Fareed Zakaria’s GPS outlines Xiao’s Wolf Father commandments, which he outlined in an interview with NBC.
* “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 spankings during each admonishment.”
Xiao will also tell you that every extra penny the family earned was spent on the children’s education. Flowers, birthday presents, even make-up for his wife was bypassed in favor of tutors and piano lessons. The result of his efforts: Three of his children attend prestigious Peking University. (His fourth child is still in high school.) So this is what winning the future looks like.
Here’s what Xiao doesn’t know: Our kids are the best kids ever. Seriously. They are the healthiest, smartest, worldliest, safest, savviest, longest-living kids in the history of earth. And we are the latest in parenting technology. We know more today about flu and cold symptoms, colic, diet, allergies, tummy time, teething and temper tantrums than anyone in human history. We are the best parents ever made, and like all products, the 2.0s and 3.0s yet to come will be even better than us. So with our tool belts filled with sharp, sleek, top-of-the-line gear, why would we ever go back to using blunt objects? You don’t build an iPhone using rocks and sticks. You don’t build a child using rattan canes.
Congratulations, Xiao. Your kids are successes. It’s a shame that you are such a failure. And for your ineptitude, I’m going to need you to roll up your pant legs and bear down. The only way you’re going to learn is with a few dozen welts. In this case, I don’t think a good squeeeeeeeeeeze will cut it.