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Essential things I’ve learned from raising kids in Japan

9 Comments

From daily park visits to an accidentally-achieved eye contact at the dining table, raising children in Japan teaches you a thing or two.

Only after we start out on the journey called parenting we do realize how unprepared we are for it. Yet, as we muddle through, along with countless mistakes, we also make great decisions, too. Things that work for some families won’t work for others, but nonetheless, as food for thought, I’d like to share what I consider to be some of the best things my husband and I have achieved through raising our daughters in Tokyo.

Discovered the joy of playing in the park

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Before my daughters entered kindergarten, going to the park was how we spent the best part of nearly every day. Our local one had a variety of play equipment: swings, slides, climbing structures, a water-play pond and a catch-ball net. We found frost needles in the soil in winter, gathered acorns in autumn, collected cicada shells in summer and gazed at cherry blossoms in spring. That park taught us a lot. It is said that park play will hone a child’s all-around physical abilities far better than specialized exercise classes will, and indeed my daughters have fared well in that regard.

One of my most inspired parenting tactics was born at that park. For a couple of days in a row, I had had trouble getting my preschooler daughter to head home. I had the bright idea of looking at the situation from her perspective. To her it looked like I was suddenly saying, “right, stop playing – we’re going home, now!” So the next day, ten minutes before leaving I held up both my hands and all my fingers and told her, “We’ll leave in ten minutes.” I kept an eye on my watch and five minutes later held up one hand and said, “We’ll leave in five minutes.” Five minutes after that we happily headed home.

Rediscovered the importance of greetings

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Photo: iStock: kokoroyuki

Since I stand out in a crowd here about a mile more than Japanese do, I one day wondered whether I was unconsciously snubbing people who remembered me, but who I couldn’t quite put my finger on. So I decided I should be liberal with my greetings. If I greeted someone I didn’t know, basic etiquette required them to answer anyway, so the plan was failsafe.

My daughters naturally grew up mimicking my approach and that tactic got us acquainted with neighbors, locals, shopkeepers, park-goers and has helped make us feel that we are part of our local community. It has also given my daughters confidence and great social skills. It is also reassuring for me to know that there are many people around town who are looking out for my girls.

Established eye contact on a daily basis

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© Savvy Tokyo

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9 Comments
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Parents should know how to raise their children in different time period.

How you raise for age 11-12 doesn't work for age 15-16.

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

The roads are narrow and there are many blind spots in Japan. On our walk to the park, I would point out the dangers to my son so that he could get a good idea of what to look for. The same on the return walk because it's a different perspective.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Three kids (very energetic boys) later, completely agree with the parks. One criteria we chose where to move (in Tokyo) was access to parks and playgrounds, and it was a good choice. Also, having a car helps, because within one hour drive, we can find various large parks, theme parks, etc.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Parents should know how to raise their children in different time period.

How you raise for age 11-12 doesn't work for age 15-16.

I might be voted down for this, but I do agree with this to a degree. Partially true in that as kids get older, they will have different expectations from their parents, teachers, and other authoritative figures. At the same time, kids develop and change, so just because a kid is behaving a certain way doesn't mean that kid will continue to be that way later on. I can site many examples from my kids and my students. Family background also plays major roles in the kid's development.

The other think to keep in mind is that parents grew up in a generation that's different from their kids, so the expectations will be different as well as discipline. When I got out of line, I got spanked. But now, if I did that to my kids, I could be arrested. Back in my day, we didn't have to worry much about politically correctness (which I really hate, but I have accept), allergies, and different forms of bullying.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Nice article. Something both of my kids said we did right raising them was my wife and I never went to the "because I said so". We would explain what and why in an age appropriate way, and it did wonders. Much like the parent with her 10 min timer at the park. God bless all good parents.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Yes playgrounds are important in Japan. Funny though how so many people say they were unprepared to be a parent. Even though I had my first in my early 20s, it all came very naturally to me, which doesn't seem all that strange given humans have been raising kids of millions of years, you really would think such behaviour would be built in.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

...it all came very naturally to me, which doesn't seem all that strange given humans have been raising kids of millions of years, you really would think such behaviour would be built in.

Alas, it isn't. For those whose upbringing was dysfunctional and/or abusive or whose cultural expectations don't allow for flexibility in response to each child, any "natural" instincts (if they exist) may have been severely damaged.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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