How They Do It: An Overview of Child Rearing around the World
In her paper, Infusing Culture into Parenting Issues, Dr. Ritts quotes Kojimo, 1986: “In Japanese culture, Shinto beliefs traditionally regarded children under seven as ‘belonging to the gods.’ In order to keep the gods happy, children were indulged and treated with leniency so that they did not decide to return to the gods.” She adds that Japanese toddlers are encouraged to be sensitive and responsive to the needs of others and to conform to social expectations.
Judy Coker, an American teacher on Sabbatical at Kyoto International School in Kyoto, concurs. “Children are definitely revered,” she says. “They are smiled at, fussed over, and indulged by everyone.” As far as kids being treated leniently, she adds, “To the Western eye, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between being ‘very spoiled’ and ‘treated gently!’ It often looks to us as though the young children simply run the show, and mothers dash after them trying to keep up.”
However, Coker’s experience does not bear out the idea that toddlers are more sensitive to the needs of others. “Again, to my Western eye, they seem to be just as egocentric as Western toddlers and expect the world to revolve around them…and, here it seems to! Every bump is fussed over and given a bandage, every whimper is addressed and consoled. Conforming to social standards seems to take place once the child enters school.”
In Japan, mothers are often responsible for disciplining the children, rarely displaying anger, but placing emphasis on explaining the consequences of children’s actions as a reason for self-restraining. Grandmothers also play a dominant role in child-rearing. As in Chinese culture, discipline becomes stricter when the child reaches the “age of understanding.”
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