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Video of Chinese toddler sobbing in snow sparks outrage over parenting

9:44 AM, Feb 10, 2012   |    comments
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Beijing (CNN) -- A video of a toddler crying while running in the snow nearly naked has sparked a firestorm in China, but the boy's father says the exercise was meant to strengthen his son.

"It's tough for me, too, when he cried out for my comfort," father He Liesheng said. "But I believe in 'no pain, no gain.' Like an eagle, I push my child to the limit so he can learn how to fly."

The father shot and posted the online video clip showing his 4-year-old son running down a snow-covered street, wearing only shoes and underpants.

In the footage, the boy -- nicknamed Duoduo -- chases his father, sobs and begs to be picked up.

"Daddy, Daddy please hold me," Duoduo cries in the video, which was filmed while the family was in Flushing, New York on vacation.

The father, who lives in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing, said he calls himself "Eagle Dad" for his tough parenting skills.

He told CNN in a phone interview that the snow run is part of a training regimen of intensive physical and mental activities designed to strengthen his son, who was born premature and has suffered from health problems.

"I consulted my doctor friends to ensure what we do is scientific and that it won't harm my son's body," he said.

The video has been viewed by tens of thousands of people online. In China, it has reignited debate about how far parents should push their children to attain success.

Chinese parenting techniques have come under scrutiny after author Amy Chua's book, "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother," sparked heated discussion worldwide about the benefits of tough parenting.

"Some compare me to the 'Tiger Mom,' but we are different," He told CNN. "Unlike her, I always respect my son's will."

He said he plans to publish a book on his "eagle-style" training soon.

But his parenting method might have trouble finding followers.

On Weibo, China's version of Twitter, many users said the approach was tantamount to child abuse.

"I can't agree with this educational style," a user going by the name of Dangpoluobaoyushangfengweibao posted. "It's so cruel."

Others suggested government officials should step in.

"Why don't we have a law against this abnormal behavior?" a user going by the name of Xinhongbaobei wrote. "Before long, there will be all sorts of lion dads and snake moms who feel justified abusing their children."

The boy's father told CNN he doesn't care about the criticism.

"I've always felt Chinese parents spoil their only child too much," he said. "We don't expose them to nature enough and they get weaker and less competitive compared to foreign children."

In the video, both parents can be heard off camera instructing Duoduo to lie down in the snow.

He said he and his wife always ensure their son is happy, and that Duoduo's health has improved because of his unique training regimen.

"My wife strongly opposed my idea in the beginning, but I kept persuading her about the benefits of my method," He said. "She told me she's beyond caring now."

CNN's Shao Tian contributed to this report.

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