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Extreme parenting: 'Eagle Dad' trains son, 5, to be world's youngest pilot

Sep. 6, 2013 at 10:36 AM ET

Video: A 5-year-old boy piloted an ultralight aircraft in China, the latest demonstration of his father’s tough parenting style, which also included learning to sail and a failed attempt to climb Mount Fuji together. His father, known as “Eagle Dad,” has defended his practice of giving the child tough challenges.

For most 5-year-olds, September brings the first day of kindergarten — not the first time they've glided into record books.

But Duo Duo of China did just that when he successfully piloted an ultralight aircraft almost a thousand feet above the outskirts of Beijing, in a bid to become the world's youngest solo pilot. 

The idea was not his own: The stunt was conceived by Duo Duo's father, He Liesheng, who has had his son participate in several extreme activities, from a near-naked exercise session in single-digit temperatures to an unsuccessful climb of Mount Fuji, from which both child and father needed to be rescued. 

The intense nature of the stunts calls into question whether He's methods are just an example of pushy parenting — or child abuse. A YouTube video of Duo Duo's pants-less jog through snow has received nearly 2 million views, with many commenters voicing their outrage and calling the father "heartless."

He Liesheng views his parenting tactics differently. 

"A child can only really exercise their body and will power under harsh conditions, it's up to the parents to decide what kind of person they become," he told NBC News correspondent Angus Walker.

Duo Duo has simpler demands. "Daddy, I want to play," he said. 

According to He, next up for father and son is a hike through Tibet.

Just in time for back to school, the folks behind Awkward Family Photos are back with a new gallery of goofiness. If it’s awkward, you’ll find it in Awkward School Pictures.