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Parents creating stressed-out children

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“I’m no good, I’m no good.” We all feel that way at times. Bad day at work, bad day at home. Usually we get over it; sometimes we don’t. It’s a stressed life society imposes on us. Stress all too easily waxes into depression.

It’s the price too many adults must pay for the pursuit, fruitful or not, of success. But Aera (April 29) is raising the issue of stressed-out children. The little boy convinced he’s no good is all of three years old, sobbing out his sorrows in the arms of his daycare teacher.

“I started noticing 10-15 years ago,” says the teacher, referring to a growing number of small children coping – or failing to cope – with debilitating stress. Whose fault could it be? Society’s, for failing to properly nurture its children? The schools’, for pushing them through an ultra-competitive system that makes light of individual needs? Neither, in Aera’s view. Blame it on parents, says the magazine. Not, for the most part, on selfish or evil parents who criminally or borderline-criminally mistreat their kids, but on well-intentioned parents who try hard but simply don’t know what they’re doing.

Naturally there are social problems in the background beyond parents’ control. Local communities and their inbuilt support networks have broken down, leaving families isolated. Fewer and fewer children are being born, meaning fewer children to play with. And the education system is demanding, probably necessarily so in a complex, high-tech society. So children would be stressed to some degree in any case, the magazine hears from pediatrician and neurologist Naoko Narita. Stress up to a certain point, she says, is not only inevitable but salutary – it stimulates the mind. But beyond that point it becomes a problem – “and when it does,” says Narita, “it’s unmistakably due to the way parents approach their children.”

Their approaches tends to fall under two extremes, in her experience. Some parents try too hard, others not hard enough. Some are too attentive, others border on neglectful. Sometimes the overly lax parents are fooled by the child’s docility at home into presuming he or she is docile at school. In the case of one boy whose story Aera sketches, docility turned out to mean he was being bullied at school and was keeping it to himself. He reached junior high school, and one day there was a phone call from a female classmate’s parents: “Your son is stalking our daughter.” This brought a reflex response: “Impossible!” They didn’t even talk to the boy. If they had, they might have learned it was all too possible. The story ends with the boy’s arrest. Stress kept quiet explodes eventually.

That could never have happened in another family Aera profiles. Here the problem was the opposite. The parents watched their child like hawks – otherwise who could know what mischief would arise? They interfered at the slightest hint of a quarrel with a friend, determined to settle it immediately. They transmitted their anxieties to the child, who began suffering headaches and stomach aches every morning before school. It could have been worse, Narita says – she knows of children who cut their wrists in similar cases.

With children so delicate and parents so blundering, it’s a wonder the situation hasn’t escalated into a full-fledged crisis. It’s bad enough all the same – and yet the remedies proposed are surprisingly simple. The main one is: establish a predictable daily rhythm – breakfast at least, if not other meals, at the same time every day, for example. Kids need stability, and any symbol of it is important. That so basic a solution is being missed betrays a society with so many other preoccupations that children are getting lost in the shuffle.

© Japan Today

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

20 Comments
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An interesting, unsurprising, and worrying article. No jokes about it stressing me out...

Re. the comment about breakfast: This week's classes at high school included a description of their morning routine. Blame the text book, I know, crap question in many respects, but it turned out to be informative. A lot of kids make their own breakfast, some their own lunch too. A fair number go without breakfast. On the one hand it tells us nothing - I have never liked having breakfast, all my life. And kids making their own lunch is a useful skill, teaching them self-sufficiency. But it also might tell us that we are raising a generation composed of loners, unused to a family setting.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

poor kids... you can see similar things going on in china - the whole single child policy has led to a nation of very pushy parents and very stressed kids.

The sad thing about Japan is the "single child" policy is completely self inflicted. I suspect the next generation of Japanese are going to have a very hard time indeed.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

adopt the AMI Montessori system, and Japan won't have all the problems it does

Perhaps I'm not understanding Montessori correctly, but you disagree with the main premise of the article?

The main one is: establish a predictable daily rhythm – breakfast at least, if not other meals, at the same time every day, for example. Kids need stability, and any symbol of it is important.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Some [parents] are too attentive, others border on neglectful.

I very often see the Tiger Mom (and sometimes Tiger Dad) parenting in Japan vacillate between both extremes: they are excessively attentive when pressuring their offspring to forgo most healthy childhood activities in favor of an endless stream of overly-structured 'constructive' pursuits, and extremely neglectful in terms of bonding with the child and showing him/her love, warmth and empathy.

This sort of parenting coupled with an overwhelming emphasis on competition by elementary schools on up, cram schools and parents, whereby children are ranked and pitted them against one another on the basis of everything — height, athletic ability, test scores, etc. — means that many of Japan's youth grow up without experiencing healthy relationships with others.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Senato, good post.

I see "Tiger moms" who stress out their kids but very rarely do THEY take any part in helping the kid. Push them into piano, eikaiwa, juku but yet, the moms never sit down and help their kids with thew work they have from school, juku, eikaiwa... They seem to think it is the teacher's job to teach and the kids job to study. The moms also need to help and give input, even if they don't or can't do whatever it is, trying to help would make a huge difference.

I feel sorry for these kids. All this pressure and no childhood when the population is dropping and they'll ALL get into uni. What's the point of it all??

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I see "Tiger moms" who stress out their kids but very rarely do THEY take any part in helping the kid. Push them into piano, eikaiwa, juku but yet, the moms never sit down and help their kids with thew work they have from school, juku, eikaiwa... They seem to think it is the teacher's job to teach and the kids job to study.

Absolutely. Nail on head. I work with mothers and kids who are Japanese, Chinese and Korean. Without wishing to generalise, the Japanese mothers are "hands-off" to the point of being downright lazy. The other mothers take a keen interest in their children's education (yes, sometimes to the point of being annoying, but never to the point of disprespecting the teachers) and they do whatever it takes to get their kids to sit up and pay attention. Oh, and quite a few of them hold down jobs as well!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

No surprise here.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Last january I visited Japan first time in my life, to meet and travel back home with my daughter who had spent an exchange year in a japanese high school.We met a japanese lady (who collected money for a charity) in the street and my daughter who spoke good japanese told me, that she said that I must be a nice lady.I asked why? The lady said that I smiled to my daughter and I looked so proud of her, compared to the asian tiger moms.Those words exactly. Whose dreams and expectations we parents try to achive, ours or our kids? We parents of course have to do our job to support our chidren and give advice.But to develope to a mature and healthy individual child needs also care and love, in addition of this hard and goal-oriented world. Dont cut their wings before they even could fly.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

My son is headed off to college in the US in June; I'll miss the hell out of him, but there's always Skype. Importantly, he will miss ME, too - this is quite different from the majority of his classmates who have already started college in Japan and have made the transition smoothly because they never really talked with their parents to begin with. (Some of my son's friends hate their parents with a silent, seething fury.)

One of the only arguments I had with my wife regarding child raising was over the concept of 反抗期 and its associated idea here that whatever comes out of the mouth of an adolescent can only be attributed to something close to insanity - or, worse, irrelevance.

It isn't so difficult, ladies and gentlemen. We only go through this once: Have kids; teach them; learn from them; become friends; most importantly, enjoy this short time that you have together. Do so and you'll have the rest of your life to remember and laugh about it together; neglect it and there is no going back. It is not rocket science.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

The moral here? Spend time, not money.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Nice, Laguna.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

its a wonder the situation hasnt escalated into a full-fledged crisis.

With the amount of bullying and number teenage suicides, I'd argue that it has.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Yes, sadly many parents still feel that success in life is getting a job in a large corporation, and to do so depends on the brand name of the schools you go to...... so they push their children into these brand schools,without any consideration of the child's talents and wishes.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Many parents haven't recognized that it is the small innovative companies that will keep Japan competitive in the international community in the future -- and they need a different set of skills--than simply being "managers".

1 ( +1 / -0 )

A number of mothers told me their kids are "delinquent" and refusing to go to school and asked me to talk to their children. I surprised the parents when I agreed their teenagers shouldn't go to the standard school system.....many many young people today are bored and really too smart [ie creative] for the current school system.

There is a very good alternative school system in Japan that allows children to study by correspondence and then follow their interests--and this school system is growing rapidly. Right now a formerly stressed out young lady I know is quickly doing her high school assignments through correspondence but helping out on a farm and , get this, teaching her former classmates English and what sustainability means--- and she is only 17. She already has encouraged others to follow their interests........ I'm hoping she will become the Prime Minister someday............

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Re; "My son is headed off to college in the US in June; I'll miss the hell out of him, but there's always Skype. Importantly, he will miss ME, too - this is quite different from the majority of his classmates who have already started college in Japan and have made the transition smoothly because they never really talked with their parents to begin with. (Some of my son's friends hate their parents with a silent, seething fury.)"

---> I moved to a different city for university, and following that I moved to Japan where I've lived for over 3 years now. So for the last 8 years or so I haven't lived with my parents. My dad lives in another country altogether, so I see him very rarely, I grew up with my mother. In those 8 years me and my mom have Skyped maybe...10 times, usually on her or my birthdays, and email only when we need something but usually not just to "chit-chat". I've never really missed my mom, and I never had a problem with the transition from living with mom to living on my own. That doesn't mean I don't love my mother nor that I hate her. When we are together for longer than 2 weeks we argue over stupid things, so I think it's better for us to live apart, but I love my mother more than air conditioning in Kyushu's summer.

Growing up my mom was mostly a single mom so she was usually busy with work. I come home after school and am on my own for a few hours until mom comes back from work. She took me out to eat a lot because she was too tired to cook, and because I never got in trouble at school she never really got involved in any part of my school life except to check my report cards to make sure I was passing my classes and I wasn't causing problems.

It's a little insulting that you imply a son/daughter who doesn't "miss" their parents somehow hold negative feelings towards them. My mother prepared me for a life on my own, she prepared me well. There's no reason for me to miss her, because even though I don't live in her house anymore, I have my own, I can't eat her cooking, but I can get other food, I don't have her waking me up in the morning, but I have an alarm clock. I love my mother precisely because she prepared me to live without having to depend on her, and I know she's well, healthy, and happy in her life today too to know that I am capable of that. When she comes to visit, I'm happy to see her of course, but when she leaves I don't feel grief that she's leaving.

(And I don't miss friends either, really. Not with today's technology to keep in contact so easily with people you really do want to keep in contact with.)

1 ( +2 / -1 )

People forget that parents are a child's first teacher.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Bombay, while I have a very similar background to you, you DO get this background is NOT the norm here, right? Mothers here do pretty much everything in their power to raise kids who don't want to leave home because they need to be needed. Your mom did a great job, many here raise their kids to be useless as adults who can't live without their mommy. Even though many dislike their mommy.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

The massive amount of generalization in these threads is hilarious...granted, the articles themselves are full of anecdotal evidence, which might explain all the knee-jerk reactioneers in the forums.

Parents are just trying to prepare kids to fit into the system, lest they get chewed up and spit out for deviating from the norm. Certainly, it could be said that they should encourage their children to follow passions, be unique and encourage creativity, but culture is a phenomenally strong force, most notably in Japan.

There's a lot that I feel is wrong about the amount of social control there is in Japan, but then again, that's obvious - as a non-Japanese person, I am inherently unable to grasp or accept certain aspects of the culture that seem completely obvious to a Japanese person. But, despite my biases in regards to the downsides, it also has its upsides, much like individualistic societies of the west have their pros and cons. The blame game based on the personal experiences of a statistically minimal few isn't how you evaluate problems and formulate solutions - it's by determining cause and effect without any doubt ( aka the scientific method) and then moving to adjust from there, assuming that changes are desired in the first place. How do you change a society to best solve its problems without introducing even more detrimental ones, or destroying anything positive about the parenting culturing the first place?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

No child should be made to feel as if they are not good enough.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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