The Japanese way of disciplining children

By Kate Lewis

One of the great misconceptions I had upon moving to Japan was that its children were perfectly self-disciplined from birth. I pictured tiny automatons, listening to their parents with respect, quietly following all the rules with innate obedience and precision.

From our early trips on the trains, this certainly seemed to be the case. Children younger than my two-year-old son sat in silence and stillness on the plush train seats, whereas my child treated the captive audience of the car as his own private performance arena: dancing, jumping, doling out charming smiles to the indulgent passengers who (thankfully) never truly seemed to mind his antics. While I whispered urgent reprimands, the Japanese mothers seemed to radiate calm serenity, their children seated beside them in well-behaved glory.

My son wasn’t behaving badly, exactly. There was simply an obvious cultural difference in how he was expected to behave and what his Japanese peers were taught. I began to wonder: how exactly are Japanese families disciplining their children? How are they eliciting such perfect behavior in the first place?

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Let the children be children

0 ( +11 / -11 )

Yet when I asked how people in Japan handled the ‘evil age,’ she just smiled mysteriously and moved on.

Meaning she didn't know, because odds are, if she has children, the local day care dealt with it and the rest of the time they just ignored it. Which is one way of "handling" it!

Cripes, this woman has NEVER been to a supermarket in Okinawa!

4 ( +8 / -4 )

In the remaining text, the writer mentions "ma no nisei," but it should be "ma no nisai" (魔の2歳). Sounds about right, the age of two YO being really challenging for the parent.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Which Japan was this article written about, certainly not the one I live in.

13 ( +17 / -4 )

This lady thinks that Japanese kidz are born well behaved? The reason why Japanese kidz behave the way they do is the same reasons why the adults do the same. It's been engrained in them since infancy. In Japan you see moms hushing their 3 month old baby, telling them to be quiet on the train and that they are gunna be nice polite till they get to the car. Perhaps it was her first time abroad anywhere?

3 ( +7 / -4 )

Which Japan was this article written about, certainly not the one I live in.

I second that.

0 ( +6 / -6 )

Like every country it depends on the parents. Vast differences. Some great Japanese parents, some horrible parents.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

I began to wonder: how exactly are Japanese families disciplining their children? How are they eliciting such perfect behavior in the first place?

Depends on what you consider to be "perfect" behavior. If men thought that women should be docile and quiet there would be a feminist uproar.

One size fits all is not a recipe for perfection. If everybody is thinking the same then nobody is thinking at all.

Later on in life it is possible to assume that these perfectly well-behaved children could be your worst lackluster date ever. Anything that happens perfectly has no tension at all.

As Eminem once said "Be proud to be out of your mind and out of control". If children never BE children you can expect much bigger problems later on. They're kids. They're supposed to run, play, make some noise, and be rambunctious.

Japanese society that applauds perfectly quiet well behaved children are the first people that complain about them making some noise in the park.

Let them be naughty, let them play, and you should never, and I mean never compare your children to Japanese children. All children are beautiful. Their unique identity is what makes YOUR children special.

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

While I applaud the writer for taking time out of her day to write this, I must reject her ideas entirely. These ideas are based on a stereotype, not of reality. And I can attest that there is no such thing here as "punish the behavior, not the child." Japanese parents do little too control their children outside of saying "Dame" and "Yamenasai". I have so often seen kids behaving horribly in public while the mother's good in a circle and laughed until something bad happened and they had to be involved to sort out who should apologize to who. That is about it. Japanese kids spend way too much time at school and cram schools as their parents depend too much on these facilities to teach their kids proper behavior and everything else they are supposed to learn. Utterly ridiculous. I don't know what Japan you were in, but it sure is not the one I have been in for the past 25 years.

18 ( +21 / -3 )

actually from what i've seen, japanese parents DON'T discipline their kids. i've rarely seen one say anything to their kid who is misbehaving. they either ignore the bad behavior or placate the child. the only place kids in japan learn discipline is at daycare.

that being said, i think the majority of kids in japan are naturally well behaved. i'm a big believer in genetics, and i think lots of kids are passive, like their parents. the apple never falls far from the tree.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

No you don,t see the parents discipline their children. They drive out into the wood for no one to see and abandon them for the yukai.

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

Oh dear. I'm not sure where this woman lives but I have lived in a few places here and the answer is "Japanese parents don't usually discipline their kids." I've sat through tantrums in cafes/izakaya and restaurants, have stepped around howling kids in groceries stores, sat and listened to screaming on the train and have told off kids in the park for being aggressive towards my dogs while parents (okay, moms) sit and do nothing. Like with everything else, teachers seem to be the ones who have the power and do the discipline. Of course, not all moms. I have one friend who will certainly tell of her four year old and I have witnessed what this write describes but mostly I have seen parents ignore dangerous and bad behaviour.

It should also be mentioned that I've seen kids smacked, dragged and screamed at to scary levels in public. Kids get sent out on the balcony or locked out of their houses in the cold for hours as punishment. Just like in every country, good kids/bad kids and good parents/bad parents.

7 ( +11 / -4 )

Kids are/do what their parents are/do. They are good/bad parents in every society although I have to admit I do think J parents seem to pay more attention to 'us', the others, than many (most?) of their Western counterparts.

Many western parents of unruly children couldn't care less about others, what they think/feel having to listen to screaming kids running around. Their family is their world and vice versa. Imo these parents sense of entitlement carries over to their children, hence the many situations where both parents/kids carry on as if nothing really matters/ as if there was no one else around. Cant stand it.

If you cant handle a screaming child in public then avoid public places when you and your kid(s) will likely disrupt everyone's dinner/movie/flight etc.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

"One of the great misconceptions I had upon moving to Japan was that its children were perfectly self-disciplined from birth. "

An astonishing statement. Can't imagine how or why an adult would have such an idea.

14 ( +14 / -0 )

Children younger than my two-year-old son sat in silence and stillness

I don't think I've seen that once in all the 6 years I've been in this country, so I guess like everything else in every country on Earth, every person is different

8 ( +10 / -2 )

While reading the article, the thought running through my head was 'oh the posters here are going to hate this one'. And sure enough, we have a whole thread of hater comments.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

What I've seen done in my area (and I hate this particular way of dealing with kids) is when a kid doesn't behave at home, the parents stick the kid on the balcony of their apartment, lock the doors, and let them cry/shout/kick outside for however long the parents feel is necessary. It reeks and I have always wondered if it may be contributing to some kids jumping to their death when committing suicide...

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I guess they never road the Denentoshi line. That line is full of misbehaving little boys in shorts wearing Elmer Fudd Hats and little girls that will jump in front of the line to get a seat and knock over old ladies to do so.

Many mothers here never let it go and keep on harping and harping and harping. I intervene and tell them to hug the kid. It fixes things fast.

Kids want to be loved. Best cure for bad behavior.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Which children? they wont even bear a child!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

As others have mentioned, which "parallel universe" Japan is this in? Did the ‘author’ slip through a hole in the spacetime continuum? It is absolutely case-by-case, but to suggest all are perfectly sat still in silence is coloring your glasses far too rosy.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

Not all kids here are well behaved, just how not all kids in our own countries are badly behaved.

But i noticed it ALOT more when i went overseas. Screaming on the train, being loud and running all over the place. Of course you do see that here too, but it is not like it was when i was catching trains in my own country.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

RecklessMAR. 23, 2017 - 10:05AM JST saw a guy in the park with his 8 or so year old son the other night trying to teach the kid to ride the bike. the bike was obviously too heavy and the kid was laying there and crying. the dad was sternly telling him to get up while using his iphone constantly. I taught my son to ride in one go on grass pushing him and enjoying it. of course not all JP dads are like that, but it was uncomfortable to watch.

C'mon dude, there are no crappy parents back in ? Hey, at least the dad was THERE in the park with his kid...

2 ( +3 / -1 )

If you check the original story, you will find that the author has been in Japan for all of one year. No doubt still seeing things through sakura colored glasses. In my 15 plus years here, I've noticed that parenting consists usually of mothers saying things like "yamenasai" or "(insert name here)-kun" in a tired, nasal voice. Fathers? Generally not on the scene. That is IMHO a big part of the problem, especially later in life. Lots of boys haven't had enough male influence in their lives, and it really shows in JHS and HS.

That, and the lack of consequences for misbehavior. Scolding and yelling seem to be the weapons of choice for parents. Schools operate the same way- lots of rules, but very few punishments.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I think those who disagree with the author are being overly sensitive and are assuming that the author is saying that the Japanese are better parents. This is not what the original article is saying. I read the article twice and clearly the author is speaking from observation. Regardless of where they were in the country or how long, this was their experience, which makes it limited by default. Factor that there are people who have been where you’ve been, the same amount of time or longer and saw differently than you. This doesn’t mean you are wrong but that you had different experiences with different people. This why I find that people who have in Japan for many years say opposite things. The author isn’t pushing stereotypes, the author acknowledges that they saw a children tantrum and watched how the parents handled the issue. So, the author acknowledges that the children weren’t perfect, as they have heard in their life.

Also, in many case some parents don’t scold a child who is having a tantrum. Some parents ignore the child and let them tire themselves out. This has worked for them, since chances are he child wanted something and couldn’t get their way. Letting them cry shows them that they can’t have what they want because they cry. Some parents don’t like this method.

Based on what I read, there are things that Americans can learn from them in how we handle kids at times. It should be assumed that there questionable parents in any country. But if you factor them out, focus on the majority of the parents behaviour, while still limited, you will come to your own conclusion as to how the parents are. From this authors persepctive, they saw more well behaved kids, and parents who had success with their approach. Other people’s experiences will of course vary, but from what I’ve observed and heard, the Japanese cultures is generally known for being socially organised. This is something that Americans can learn from them. At times Americans are too individualistic, we need to be balanced out. Just as the Japanese could learn from us to balance out and let be people be individuals at times. Overall, it was a nice article, and I think people are assuming that the author is saying more than what they were saying, likely just emotions. But logically, the story makes sense and I didn’t take it to be more than what was said. I didn’t see anything that said that all Japanese kids are well behaved or all Japanese parents are good. I respect the fact the author acknowledges the imperfections that they saw. Now, if others have seen differently, write an article with your experiences. Just keep in mind that experience is limited and varies.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I find this article interesting.

Because the Japanese mother's that are here in my town for 4-5 year terms because of jobs ask me how or it my children are so well behaved because theirs are out of control.

But if that is customary that teachers are left and allowed major discipline roles in Japan they will not find that here in the USA.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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