Banish the day, train the tyrants

Updated: 2011-05-29 08:03

By Matt Hodges (China Daily)

Twitter Facebook Myspace Yahoo! Linkedin Mixx

Banish the day, train the tyrants

From age 1 to age 13 years and 364 days, the children of the world have been pulling a fast one over their parents since 1949, when Children's Day was officially introduced. For 62 years, they have managed to persuade adults, with their huge eyes and cute scruffy haircuts, that they actually need another day off school to smash footballs against their neighbors' walls, or play World of Warcraft and eat pizza paid for by us.

Sorry kids, but it is time for this tyranny to stop. Apart from anything else, the day has already become outdated, even in China, where it has traditionally served as an occasion to engage in activities celebrating the motherland.

According to one of the Chinese guest's on today's edition of Culture Matters, on Shanghai TV station ICS, Children's Day was a big deal in the 1970s, when China was considerably poorer than it is today. Not because it meant special family time, but because it was the only day they served pork ribs in the school cafeteria. Nowadays, all kids have to do is walk next door to Kungfu or Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Instead of devoting this special day to your child, and doing all the things that you, as a responsible parent, should be doing on a regular basis - for example, making them feel special, taking them to the movies, buying them candy or maybe an iPhone 5 - I have a better idea.

Let's banish Children's Day, one of at least 20 red-letter days on the over-stacked Chinese calendar (Nov 11 could become another one, if the 'Singles Day' lobbyists succeed) and replace it with something useful: Reminding Children How Lucky They Are Day, also known as Good Luck, We Hope You Make It Day.

The day starts at 5 am with a bucket of cold water poured over their cherubic heads, as they are reminded that, once upon a time, we lived in a world without electricity and batteries. This means: no alarm call, no hot shower, no cell phone, and no playing "Angry Birds" on their laptop. It also means mastering some basic survival skills pretty sharp-ish.

Lesson No 1: Navigating your way around the house in the pre-dawn darkness (without smashing yourself to pieces) by employing the use of all five senses.

Funnily enough, breakfast today is not going to take the shape of an Egg McMuffin, or whatever delicacies the Chinese ayi usually cooks up. It is going to look more like a cow waiting to be milked, or a hen ready to fight for her life to protect the eggs she is sitting on. Ideally, it would see your 6-year-old armed with a bowie knife and sent into the wild to kill a small boar.

However, if getting to a farm, or a jungle, is not feasible, today means sitting down with your toddler and teaching them how to catch pigeons using a fearsome Black Widow catapult. Once skinned and gutted, this can be turned into a nice casserole, cooked over some sticks you have kindled using the sun's rays refracted through a piece of glass.

Do you now see how this day now has the potential to expand your child's horizons, and consciousness? It can transport them back in time, turn them into more useful members of society, teach them to respect the environment, and arm them with the tools to survive a nuclear attack if the world spirals back into the Dark Ages.

Just picture it: Little Jimmy, or Xiao Li, running around hacking at bee hives with a stick, chasing snakes into the bush, or teetering precipitously over the edge of a river bank with a crudely fashioned spear. As life-threatening accidents may occur today, it also provides a platform for you to educate them about cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or sucking out venom. For dinner, the family can track bigger prey, or hang around outside a nearby restaurant and set mouse traps.

If your child survives this rite of passage, just think how much more capable he or she will be after the sun rises tomorrow, when they are back at school, weibo-ing (micro-blogging) all their friends to meet in KFC for a few games of World of Warcraft.

Culture Matters is a cross-cultural bilingual talk show on International Channel Shanghai (ICS), airing every Sunday from 7 to 8 pm. Readers can also view the program online at

China Daily


Tapping into the future

Foreign companies are investing in China's water industry as many predict a growing profit margin.

Headhunters ride on growth
Commercial property rides wave
Learning from the past

European Edition


Cuisine central

London's Chinatown is helping diners appreciate full palate of Chinese food

Tying the knot

Danish couple's high-end macrame export business takes off in the mountains of Yunnan.

Truly a super woman

Li Yuchun first came to prominence in 2005 as the Super Girl winner, and since then has become an international star.

Memory lanes
Great expectations
A diplomat of character