Are we missing something in this common struggle of parents called discipline? Children are fascinating but growing them right takes work, lots of hard labor and tough love.
Yes, they are adorable creatures, but they can get headstrong and unpredictable.
As you might have figured by now, they come into the world without an instruction manual. We can either let them grow by default or mold them into the right direction.
It’s about time that we ask our super-parent selves if we are doing things right. Child-rearing traditions may greatly vary from country to country and from town to town, but one culture seems to excel when it comes to effective discipline.
It is none other than the Japanese people that have mastered the game of independence and self-control.
What is it about Japanese parenting that makes it stand out from the rest? What are the key takeaways that we may learn from them?
It Takes A Community To Raise A Child
Japanese children are tended by the mother but are grown by the whole community.
In Western culture, children are raised by their parents but in Japan, children are cultured collectively. While their Western counterparts are accustomed to driving their kids daily, Japanese parents let kids as young as five to wander and travel to school using public transportation.
Elsewhere, children are trained not to trust or talk to strangers. In Japan, a lost child is usually instructed by his parents to ask nearby elderly for directions. With Japan’s low crime rate and safe neighborhood, parents entrust the child to the community, starting in the morning when her child exits the door.
Our Western culture has a collective paranoia about letting children go about without an adult companion. It is not the case with Japanese, as they are keen to let small kids explore and have it their way.
What can be learned with how the Japanese community cares for its children?
1/ Complete autonomy but assisted by every adult
Japanese children are encouraged by elders, teachers and community citizens to utilize public transportation unassisted.
With Japan’s growing number of population, driving private cars can sometimes mean too much traffic congestion. It is only in Japan that you can meet small kids walking together and taking the bus and trains without their carers or parents.
Everybody, from the sidewalk vendor to the police at the roadside, even the bus driver looks out for these kids. It is amazing how much these adults care whether these small kids are boarding the right bus and stopping at the correct locations.
Children who are lost will be readily assisted by a nearby elder, even going as far as letting the driver know that the kid must be assisted while onboard.
This is something that we can emulate as a community if we wish to have our children travel independently.
This is a community effort to look out for the kids, and everybody is doing their share.
Only when our villages are as safe and citizens as caring as the Japanese will we allow our children to leave home alone.
Seeing our current crime rates and safety concerns now, it is not likely happening in the near future.
2/ Fostering a hierarchy culture where every elderly is deemed trusty
Japanese children are thought by their parents to respect each and every elder, regardless of their social status. They are also taught to bow and show reverence, before asking for help.
Adults are mostly perceived by small children as respectable and trustworthy. In return, these elders reciprocate the child’s trust, through assisting the child.
Through a mutual sense of respect, the community became an extended family for these little kids. Nowhere else can you experience a sense of security amidst the huge crowd as in Japan.
Utilizing The Japanese Approach To Discipline
For the Japanese, a child’s pride is number one. Children are not reprimanded and scolded openly.
For a child throwing tantrums, discipline rarely happens in the marketplace or at the supermarket aisle. It can only be done at home, behind closed doors.
These kids are rarely being yelled upon. The parent’s disappointment, anger, and lessons are delivered face-to-face through quite firm tones and sharp words.
Shame is also a reverse motivator for these kids, as you can rarely see a school age child making a fuss at public places. These are understandable since for Japanese and other Asian cultures, pride is paramount.
Condemn behavior, not the one doing the behavior. Let the kid know that you absolutely hate what he had done, that his actions are despicable. But let him retain his self-respect by reminding him afterwards that he is loved and cherished nevertheless.
Latino or Western parents can easily lose their cool and employ threats outright, but for their Japanese counterpart, patience is enduring. They set a border, a very wide allowance, to allow the little child to be and do as he wishes.
Part of the reason for this patience is the Japanese’ understanding that the child is just undergoing a phase. A given set of behavior is expected of children at a certain age, and this unruliness will also pass.
Allow your child to be; do not tame that exuberance. Stick to a single schedule for the whole day, and let your child follow it on his own accord. Put him back in the right direction as he might feel lazy, this is natural for a kid.
Patience is all about letting him grow and explore, and giving encouragements on the side.
# Show affection
There is a proven formula for showing the right dose of affection. When given too much the wrong way, affection will make the kids feel like kings. The Japanese parents practice silent affection and diligent attention.
Skinship is practiced to make the child feel safe, but limits are set to allow him to respect his mother.
Co-sleeping is common and children are being guided by his mother through every waking hour. But when it comes to discipline and taming rowdy behavior, the mother is firm and does as she says.
Rather than giving the kid a “time out” or “grounding”, the little child is thrown out of the house. The kid will immediately feel the threat of being alone and bare, without his mother’s care.
Being cast away is akin to feeling abandoned. The child will then frantically knock on the door, shouting promises that he will now be a good boy.
# Praise the right way
When it comes to Japanese parenting, there is no such thing as a baby genius. Children are praised and acknowledged for their efforts, not for their ability.
Children and their parents take pride in small school accomplishments, not because the child is deemed smart, but because the kid worked hard.
This is comforting for a child to perceive that he can also achieve just as well as others if he studied just as diligently.
Show kids how to do a thing, and then let him do it on his own, in his unique way. Do not coax or push him, just keep a watchful eye. Express confidence in your child, not because he is born with good genes, but because he is somebody dependable.
The Japanese are the epitome of civility and good graces. This is something rooted in their culture. They have this seeming boundless supply of courtesy which is connected with their natural penchant to acknowledge social hierarchy.
Japanese kids are not the exception as they are trained early on to be respectful of elders.
Asian parents might be shocked to find some Western kids addressing their parents and older siblings by their first names. It might be due to the West’s ego-centeredness, wherein everything revolves around the individual.
What might seem a little rude for us is an absolute no-no in Japanese culture. Back to our previous example, small children are accustomed to showing the deepest civility with people they have met off the streets.
A trait commonly shared with the East is “others before self”. We might not go as far as require our kids to be selfless, but we can start by making them respect everyone. This is done through proper behavior and a cooperative attitude.
The Bottom Line
Raising kids right is all about compromise and diligence. In this fast paced world with a thousand online friends and unknown next door neighbors, we might be tempted to let society grow our child.
What you might have perceived as the right thing might not be what is best after all.
It takes patience and lots of invested time, to be able to mold a child right. It takes years to grow a child well; it is pure sweat, blood, and tears. But once it is done right, you’ll have an adult to cherish and be proud of, for a lifetime.