Japanese children are known to be one of the most independent and well-mannered in the world. It’s possibly every parents dream to have kids who are able to take care of themselves. In Japan, that dream is a normal occurrence.
Japanese parents seem to have found the secret formula to raising their kids well. Here are 5 traits we can learn from them!
1. Stories and fairytales in Japan are not as simple as Little Red Riding Hood
Legends and myths are deeply embedded in the Japanese culture. To them, these stories are more than just simple fairytales. There are many festivals in Japan that honour the characters from these stories.
One of the festivals, Tanabata (The Star Festival , is based on an ancient legend on star-crossed lovers Hikoboshi and Orihime who were banished to opposite sides of the Milky Way.
According to the legend, they are allowed to cross the Milky Way to see each other once a year on Tanabata.
Through flashing colours, dances and fireworks, the festival celebrates love in beautiful fashion. People will write wishes on small pieces of coloured paper called tanzaku and hang them on bamboo trees, which become beautiful wish trees. On the following day, the decorated trees are floated on the river or in the ocean and burned as an offering.
Through these stories and festivals, family, appreciation, love and celebration are taught. There are tonnes of stories similar this that we can share with our kids that may connect with them on a deeper level.
2. The “Lunchbox” culture: A box full of love
What do you do at 5am in the morning?
While most of us are still busy dreaming about space exploration or being the next Bill Gates on our beds, many Japanese moms are already up preparing lunch boxes for their beloved kids!
In Japan, they call a lunch box a “bento” . This small lunch box has 2 to 3 different compartments comprising of different dishes.
If you have been to a Japanese restaurant, you will notice that these bentos take a lot of effort to make. Most of them are beautifully decorated to help stimulate the kid’s appetite.
In terms of convenience, sumptuous bentos can be found in any convenience store. So why do Japanese moms go through the trouble?
Apparently, lunchboxes are used to express love and care. Some moms would even go to the length of delivering the lunchboxes to their kids in school in the event they had forgotten to bring the bentos.
How do you show love to your kids? If you need ideas, try making a lunchbox!
3. Every child is taught to be independent.
When I was 4 years old, my mother taught me addition and subtraction. There was a huge emphasis on learning ahead of my peers so that I would be more successful in school.
In Japan, teaching kids how to be independent is the priority. How to clean up after yourself, how to sweep the floor, take public transportation, talk to elders politely and even how to handle money.
If you travel to Japan, you would notice kids as young as 6 years old boarding the train by themselves. Of course, being one of the safest countries in the world helps. Even so, would you allow your kid to take the train at such a young age?
4. The importance of empathy
Would you dare leave your laptop unattended to in a Starbucks cafe? Definitely not me.
But things are different in Japan. Bicycles are left unlocked, cars are parked on roadsides with their engines on, and you may even find stores with dogs manning the cash registers!
This is only possible because Japanese are taught to consider how one’s own action may impact others, an important value in Japan: to maintain group harmony. This is the core of Japanese Culture and Japanese Parenting.
Japanese mothers are known to provide feedback to their children on how their actions may affected another person’s feelings.
This might be different to the style of parenting we are used to, which revolves around demanding compliance from our children (through the use of verbal commands and punishment).
5. Children are disciplined in private.
You are on a casual stroll in public, looking for a place to eat when you witness a kid throwing a tantrum, along with the parent’s shouting to quieten him. This scene is common in most of Asia, but not in Japan.
Kids will be taken to a corner where there is no one around to be disciplined. You will also see parents kneeling down to talk to their kids. This stems from the cultural values of empathy and group harmony.
Parents respect their kid’s privacy and choose not to embarrass them in public.
As the wise Chinese proverb goes, do not air your dirty laundry in the public. You should not be surprised that kids have the ability to understand the feeling of shame and guilty at a very tender age. Let’s learn from proven parenting tips!