Parenting is a difficult task. There are many ups and downs, some rewarding moments, and every parent has a story about “how they screwed up.” It’s also a time to learn and observe those around you, including your parents, because everyone wants to raise a happy, healthy, and intelligent child.
However, if there is one community that people all over the world look to for inspiration, it is Japan.
Japanese Parenting Style
The Japanese parenting culture is unlike any other in the world. Parents do not mollycoddle (read: spoil) their children. Instead, they encourage them to be independent quite early on.
Interesting, isn’t it? Well, writer Maryanne Murray Buechner thought so too. And she uncovered the truth behind the unique Japanese parenting culture when she spent almost six years in Tokyo.
Buechner shared some interesting parenting tips, which she picked up while she was in the land of the rising sun.
8 Japanese Parenting Rules
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In her article for TIME, Buechner wrote that she lived in Tokyo, Japan from 2007 to 2012. During these six years, she discovered some fascinating truths about Japanese parenting culture. And of course, in the process, she learnt many parenting lessons, which she believes all parents should consider emulating.
Here’s what she found.
1. Every Child Is Independent
The writer says that one of the first few things she understood was that children were encouraged to be independent. Kids would go to school unaccompanied, even if they used public transport.
“The country’s extremely low crime rate means it’s safe, and the general feeling among parents is that the community can be trusted to help look out for its own,” she writes.
2. Parents Don’t Talk About Their Kids
While most parents often share their parenting trials and tribulations with each other, Japanese parents are different. Buechner found that they only share their problems with their most trusted confidants.
Also, they consider talking about their kid’s activities as bad form. “And simply mentioning that your child plays for this soccer team or attends that academy can come off as boastful; it’s enough that he is seen in public wearing the uniform.”
However, Japanese parenting culture is competitive. “Parenting in Japan is hyper-competitive, and there’s a lot of pressure to make sure your kids get into the right schools. The prep for entrance exams is intense,” she writes.
3. Parents Practice Extreme Attachment
Buechner found that while Japanese parents loved attachment parenting, they did not publicly display affection.
“Moms typically take their babies everywhere, by sling or Baby Bjorn-like carrier, wearing them around the house, out to the shops, even cycling across town. (In a Nagano resort town, I saw a dad on skis with a baby in a pink snowsuit strapped to his back.) This physical closeness is in many ways how affection is expressed; there is no kissing or hugging,” she writes.
She adds that most parents preferred to sleep together with the mother on one side, the father on the other and the kids in the middle. And that this tradition continues well past their preschool phase.
“And you’ll see lots of moms take their small children with them for a soak in the public baths. The Japanese call it ‘skinship’— everyone’s naked in the onsen (hot springs),” she observes.
4. Parents Encourage Kids to Practice Restraint
In her six years in Tokyo, Buechner also observed that a crucial element of the Japanese parenting culture was restraint.
From quite early on, parents encourage their kids to maintain peace and harmony in the family and around them — even if it means not expressing their angst or anger.
“Wherever we were — in a restaurant or museum or food shopping hall, jam-packed pedestrian lane or popular hiking trail — I’d see Japanese kids all calm and contained while my boys jostled each other or rushed past little old ladies with canes, noisy with talk,” Buechner writes.
Japanese mums set high standards for their kids’ bento box meals, rising early to prepare an elaborate selection of healthy items that look pretty too. | Image courtesy: Pixabay
5. Meal Preparation Is Crucial for Japanese Mums
While most urban mums succumb to their busy lifestyle and pack easy-to-make meals for their kids, Japanese mums believe in meticulous meal planning. especially when it comes to their kid’s lunch boxes.
Buechner writes that even if this means getting up earlier than everybody else in the family, Japanese mums make the effort to prepare elaborate multi-item meals. They also make sure that they are colourful enough to entice kids so they eat every healthy item on the plate.
“Japanese moms set high standards for their kids’ bento box meals, rising early to prepare an elaborate selection of healthy items that look pretty too — fish, vegetables, tofu, seaweed, rice balls shaped like animals or plants,” she writes.
She also noted that this was a culture most schools wanted their kids to adopt. “Fall short and the teacher might say something,” she adds.
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While most countries have an “adults only” certification or disclaimers to movies, sexual imagery or violence is not considered unwatchable by Japanese parents.
“Nobody at the Tokyo cinema seemed fazed when a trailer for a film like Resident Evil played right before a showing of Toy Story 3. Realistic-looking play guns are still sold in toy stores. There’s sexual imagery in manga comics,” she writes.
The reason is simple.
“The cute and cuddly stuff — the cartoony culture of kawaii that is everywhere — helps balance things out,” Buechner explains.
7. Parents Take Nature Seriously
Because Japanese parenting culture is as much about discipline as it is about attachment, they practice the same values when it comes to nature. And that means a picnic under a cherry blossom tree is an event, but running and playing around them is strictly controlled.
Yes, you read that right!
Buechner writes, “Baby’s first hanami (cherry blossom viewing) is a photo op. Parks and gardens are exquisitely designed and painstakingly curated. And where and when children can run and play is strictly controlled.”
8. Fairy Tales Are No Joke
During her many years in the land of the rising sun, Buechner also learnt that the Japanese like to share their legends and myths through interesting and colourful tales.
“It’s common in Japan to share stories and characters from Japanese legend and to mark their festival days. There are many throughout the year, like the Tengu Matsuri honouring a long-nosed goblin, and Setsubun, a day to cast out Oni the ogre by throwing fistfuls of dried soybeans,” she writes.
It is also common to project the protectors as the ugliest, a form of tough love, the writer observes.
Although Buechner is back in her home town, she sure has taken many learnings from the Japanese parenting culture. As have we. And we hope you have too!
Are Japanese Parents Strict?
Because Japan is often perceived as a strict culture, many foreigners suspect strict rules and enforcement at home by Japanese parents.
Japanese parents also emphasise the importance of upholding high moral standards. As a result, virtues such as honesty, humility, honour, and trustworthiness become the foundation of their parenting culture.
It’s especially intriguing given the current popularity of permissive parenting.
Japanese Parenting Culture
Japanese children, regardless of age, have a distinct demeanour that distinguishes them. In fact, it is almost unheard of to see a Japanese child cry in public! There is also a significant difference between how Japanese parents their children and how people in other countries do it.
They also emphasise maintaining high moral standards. So virtues like honesty, humility, honour and trustworthiness become the bedrock of their parenting culture.
Here are five things that Japanese parents do differently when it comes to raising their children:
1. Japanese children are raised equally
Children are taught about equality from the beginning, and it is not uncommon to see royal and princely children attend the same school or participate in the same activities as other children.
Children in Japanese philosophy are taught to value servitude and to put aside personal interests when they are in their prime years. In this way, they learn important values like community and equality in their early years.
2. The mother-child bond is strong and well-regarded
Family is an important part of Japanese culture, and it is also an important part of parenting a child. While the mother-child relationship is protective, it plays out differently in Japan.
When a child is young, there is a lot of emphasis placed on maternal upbringing, and studies have shown that children who grow up with a positive attitude have a lower risk of developing problematic disorders later in life.
As a general rule, Japanese parents, particularly mothers, are advised to spend as much time as possible with their children and are also provided with government subsidies to do so. Children are not sent to kindergarten before the age of three.
3. Parents pay attention to their children’s emotions
It is just as important to pay attention to children’s mental and emotional states as it is to their physical characteristics. Japanese parents are well aware of this.
While they are known to have a warm and encouraging attitude when caring for children, the idea of disciplining or rebuking children when they do something wrong exists in a parallel universe. Positivity is always encouraged, and children are taught to understand and process the emotions of both animate and inanimate objects so that they can coexist in society.
4. They do not believe in public adoration or praise
While every parent enjoys giving their children praise or talking about their good qualities in public, it is unusual to see a Japanese parent do the same. Children are taught to be self-sufficient and disciplined without relying on rewards or words of encouragement.
5. They make eating a pleasurable experience
A Japanese parenting technique that even adults want to adopt? Children’s bento boxes! Japanese school lunches are famous all over the world, and for good reason. It is one method for getting kids to eat healthier without making food boring.
According to a survey, Japanese children are among the healthiest in the world. From having the kids help in the kitchen to moderating food portions and packing them in a fun way, Japanese parents strive to make eating an enjoyable experience for their children rather than a chore.
Japanese vs Western Parenting
Beyond parenting styles, Japanese and Western parenting differ in a variety of ways. Outside of parenting, each culture’s differences naturally influence how children are raised in each culture.
1.One example is how naked bodies are perceived. Being naked in front of children is normal in Japan, whether at home, in public baths/showers, or in hot springs. However, once past infancy, nakedness is regarded as a private matter in Western cultures.
2. Families in Japan typically sleep together – either in the same bed or in the same room – until their children reach the age of adolescence. While some parents choose this approach when their children are young (co-sleeping), the majority of Western families do not.
3. Japanese parents are not big on public displays of affection, whereas Western parents are more likely to give their children hugs and kisses. The same is true for praising children in conversation…you will hear more discussion (including both praise and complaints) from Western parents. Japanese parents do not discuss their children with strangers in public, but will share information about them with close friends and family members.
4. Japanese parents regard their culture and ancestors’ experiences as guides for parenting. Rather than consulting the most recent parenting books and media sources, most Japanese parents will seek advice from elders or look to what has been done historically.
5. Parents in Japan expect respect and obedience from their children. They rely on the intimate relationships between mother and child rather than enforcing discipline.
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Children in Japan are raised to share their mother’s mindset, so while a Western parent may impose consequences or disciplinary action, a Japanese mother may simply express her disappointment to her child. This appears to have an equally strong effect because the child was nurtured so closely with his or her mother.
Japanese Parenting vs American
Both Japanese and American parents teach their children independence, but in different ways. Japanese parents, for example, will allow and encourage their children to do things independently at a young age, such as walk to school, run errands, or go to the movies.
In contrast, American parents would not feel comfortable encouraging that level of independence in activities outside the home without parental supervision. In America, most geographic areas lack the same sense of community, and safety is a concern due to higher crime rates.
However, American parents teach their children to think for themselves and frequently consider their children’s opinions when making decisions. Rather than encouraging their children to think independently, Japanese parents raise their children to value obedience and sharing their mothers’ mindset when making decisions (and many decisions are made on the child’s behalf).
Education and overall success are goals for both Japanese and American parents, though Japanese parents are more strict in enforcing academic study habits than Americans. American parents are more lenient about academic outcomes, focusing on ability rather than dedicated effort, and Japanese children are more academically successful overall.
Japanese Parenting Books
Parenting, The Japanese Way – Book Therapy
Japanese babies sleep peacefully. Japanese children are among the most self-sufficient and healthy in the world. They also live longer. What is it about the Japanese parenting style that produces such outcomes?
This short examines Japanese parenting techniques that result in remarkable character traits later in life. A fascinating read with reassuring insights into child-rearing.
Japanese Parents Teach Children To Be Independent
Image source: netabooks.vn
Japanese parents teach their children to be independent by author Sugahara Yuko is one of the most popular books for teaching children life skills among Japanese parents.
Sugahara, the author, is a mother with decades of experience advising tens of thousands of Japanese parents on life skills training and human literacy for children. The book is based on true stories that the author heard while counselling parents, so it has a lot of practical value.
Parenting Without Borders: Surprising Lessons Parents Around the World Can Teach Us
A primer on the best parenting strategies in the world, complete with eye-opening research on the surprising disadvantages lurking in the average American childhood.
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