My Take

Hong Kong tiger mum’s theory about January-born children isn’t as odd as it seems

Being born early in the year doesn’t make the child smarter, but a few extra months of maturity could make a difference in a top school

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 June, 2016, 11:06pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 June, 2016, 12:12am

Like most parents, I have heard that exposing your unborn child to classical music may enhance his or her future intelligence. Mozart, apparently, has the greatest desired effect. I sometimes wonder what impact playing highly atonal Cantonese opera might have on the fetus. Would that have the same effect or be considered child abuse?

I have not heard, though, that to make your child a winner, you have to start planning “from the moment of ejaculation”. But that’s the view of someone called Irene from Tuen Mun, an ultra tiger mum featured in a controversial programme on parenting that aired on TVB this week.

The TV station drew flak for the segment, which has been dismissed by child psychologists and children’s welfare experts. For one thing, how could she know which ejaculation led to conception? That could lead to many wasted planning efforts. The Communications Authority has even received several complaints about the programme, and poor Irene has become a figure of ridicule on some internet forums.

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What she really means is that you should try to time your child’s birth so that it will fall in January. That is actually a common belief among many tiger parents in Hong Kong. The idea is that children born early in the year have an advantage over others, especially in highly competitive “elite” schools: being born in January makes your child the oldest within the same birth year, which gives him or her a head start.

That’s nonsense, said several child experts and psychologists quoted by some newspapers. Being born in January doesn’t make you smarter.

Yes, but we are talking about two different things here. Irene didn’t mean a January birthday makes you smarter. It all has to do with the admission calendars of most kindergartens in Hong Kong.

You may have a whole class of three-year-olds, but those who are older may well be more mature and composed than those who have just turned three. So they really can have an edge in a highly competitive school.

Of course, it’s crazy to try to condition your sex life to give your child an advantage that is really a long shot. But there is nothing wrong in TVB showing such views. Irene may be extreme, but there are plenty like her.