The World-famous Parenting Style That Teaches Children How to Be Self-reliant

Parenting styles are personal and often depend on our own unique situation, but there is much we can learn from how others do it. Lately, Japanese parenting culture has been in the spotlight because it is unlike any other in the world. Parents do not mollycoddle (read: spoil) their children. Instead, they encourage them to be self-reliant from quite early on. And through their practices, we learn that the effects of parenting styles on child development can be significant – and surprising.

Japanese parents also emphasise maintaining high moral standards. So virtues like honesty, humility, honour and trustworthiness become the bedrock of their parenting culture.

It is especially interesting with permissive parenting being so popular these days.

And writer Maryanne Murray Buechner thought so too. When she spent almost six years in Tokyo, she uncovered some fascinating truths behind Japanese parenting culture.

Where parents with a permissive parenting style let children run wild and parents with an authoritarian parenting style leave kids little space to thrive, the Japanese reconcile these extremes with their authoritative way of parenting. They give their children lots of leeway to be self-reliant but hold up high expectations.

Buechner shared some interesting parenting tips, which she picked up while she was in the land of the rising sun.

Parenting Styles: 6 Ways Japanese Parenting Culture Can Help You Raise a Resilient, Self-Reliant Child

In her article for TIME, Buechner wrote that she lived in Tokyo, Japan from 2007 to 2012. During these six years, she discovered some insights into authoritative parenting and permissive parenting. And of course, in the process, she learnt many parenting lessons, which she believes all parents should consider emulating.

Here's what she found.

Lesson #1: Every Child Is Self-Reliant

The writer says that one of the first few things she understood was that children were encouraged to be self-reliant. Children would go to school unaccompanied, even if they used public transport.

"The country’s extremely low crime rate means it’s safe, and the general feeling among parents is that the community can be trusted to help look out for its own," she writes.

While this kind of parenting can be alarming to many parents, Japanese parents let their children do things on their own from a young age. It’s all part of learning crucial life skills.

Lesson #2: Parents Don’t Talk About Their Children

While most parents often share their parenting trials and tribulations with each other, Japanese parents are different. Buechner found that they only share their problems with their most trusted confidants.

Also, they consider talking about their child’s activities as bad form. "And simply mentioning that your child plays for this soccer team or attends that academy can come off as boastful; it’s enough that he is seen in public wearing the uniform."

In stark contrast, helicopter parents celebrate every accomplishment of their child as their own. Every academic award or sports trophy reflects back to them – and their children are unable to adapt to the world’s challenges without them.

However, this silence doesn’t mean that Japanese parents don’t care about their children’s success. In fact, Japanese parenting culture is competitive. "Parenting in Japan is hyper-competitive, and there’s a lot of pressure to make sure your children get into the right schools. The prep for entrance exams is intense," she writes.

Lesson #3: Parents Practice Extreme Attachment

You may have heard of the Panda Dad style of parenting – a style of parenting not unlike attachment parenting – where parents show unbounded affection to their children in the form of cuddling and constant nurture. Buechner found that while Japanese parents loved attachment parenting, they did not publicly display affection.

"Moms typically take their babies everywhere, by sling or Baby Bjorn-like carrier, wearing them around the house, out to the shops, even cycling across town. (In a Nagano resort town, I saw a dad on skis with a baby in a pink snowsuit strapped to his back.) This physical closeness is in many ways how affection is expressed; there is no kissing or hugging," she writes.

She adds that most parents preferred to sleep together with the mother on one side, father on the other and the child in the middle. And that this tradition continues well past their preschool phase.

"And you’ll see lots of moms take their small children with them for a soak in the public baths. The Japanese call it 'skinship'— everyone’s naked in the onsen (hot springs)," she observes.

Lesson #4: Parents Encourage Children to Practice Restraint

In her six years in Tokyo, Buechner also observed that a crucial element of the Japanese parenting culture was restraint.

From quite early on, parents encourage their children to maintain peace and harmony in the family and around them, this would mean the children need to learn how to adapt to their surrounding — even if it means not expressing their angst or anger. It is a perfect example of how authoritative parenting in action.

Authoritative parenting — demanding a lot from your children while nurturing them towards these goals — has been championed by psychologists such as Diana Baumrind as a better alternative to authoritarian parenting — which uses threats or force — or permissive parenting — letting your children to get away with everything.

"Wherever we were — in a restaurant or museum or food shopping hall, jam-packed pedestrian lane or popular hiking trail — I’d see Japanese children all calm and self-reliant while my boys jostled each other or rushed past little old ladies with canes, noisy with talk," Buechner writes.

Japanese mums set high standards for their kids’ bento box meals, rising early to prepare an elaborate selection of healthy items that look pretty too. (Image courtesy: Pixabay)

 

Lesson #5: Meal Preparation Is Crucial

While most urban mums succumb to their busy lifestyle and pack easy-to-make meals for their kids, Japanese mums believe in meticulous meal planning, especially when it comes to their children’s lunch boxes. After all, the right nutrition can help strengthen their immune system and will work wonders for their development.

Buechner writes that even if this means getting up earlier than everybody else in the family, Japanese mums make the effort to prepare elaborate multi-item meals. They also make sure that they are colourful enough to entice children so they eat every healthy item on the plate.

"Japanese moms set high standards for their children’s bento box meals, rising early to prepare an elaborate selection of healthy items that look pretty too — fish, vegetables, tofu, seaweed, rice balls shaped like animals or plants," she writes.

She also noted that this was a culture most schools wanted their children to adopt. "Fall short and the teacher might say something," she adds.

Lesson #6: Parents Take Nature Seriously

Because Japanese parenting culture is as much about discipline as it is about attachment, they practice the same values when it comes to nature. And that means a picnic under a cherry blossom tree is an event, but running and playing around them is strictly controlled.

Yes, you read that right!

Buechner writes, "Baby’s first hanami (cherry blossom viewing) is a photo op. Parks and gardens are exquisitely designed and painstakingly curated. And where and when children can run and play is strictly controlled."

Although Buechner is back in her hometown, she sure has taken many learnings from the Japanese parenting culture. As have we. And we hope you have too! There are many lessons we can pick up from different parenting styles to help our children grow up strong and independent.