Parenting styles: What can Malaysian parents learn from the Japanese?

Parenting styles: What can Malaysian parents learn from the Japanese?

Japanese parenting culture is famously based on high moral standards and discipline. But there is more to it. Read on to know more…

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 independent 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.

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

Parenting Styles: 8 Things We Can Learn from Japanese Parenting Culture

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.

1. Every Child Is Independent

The writer says that one of the first few things she understood was that children were encouraged to be independent. Kids 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.

2. Parents Don’t Talk About Their Kids

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 kid’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.”

However, Japanese parenting culture is competitive. “Parenting in Japan is hyper-competitive, and there’s a lot of pressure to make sure your kids get into the right schools. The prep for entrance exams is intense,” she writes.

3. Parents Practice Extreme Attachment  

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 kids 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.

4. Parents Encourage Kids 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 kids to maintain peace and harmony in the family and around them — even if it means not expressing their angst or anger. It is a perfect example of how authoritative parenting can be more effective than authoritarian parenting.

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

parenting styles

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

5. Meal Preparation Is Crucial for Japanese Mums  

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 kid’s lunch boxes.

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 kids so they eat every healthy item on the plate.

“Japanese moms set high standards for their kids’ 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 kids to adopt. “Fall short and the teacher might say something,” she adds.

6. No Such Thing as ‘Appropriate for Kids’

While most countries have an “adults only” certification or disclaimers to movies, sexual imagery or violence is not considered unwatchable by Japanese parents.

“Nobody at the Tokyo cinema seemed fazed when a trailer for a film like Resident Evil played right before a showing of Toy Story 3. Realistic-looking play guns are still sold in toy stores. There’s sexual imagery in manga comics,” she writes.

The reason is simple.

“The cute and cuddly stuff — the cartoony culture of kawaii that is everywhere — helps balance things out,” Buechner explains.

7. 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.”

8. Fairy Tales Are No Joke

During her many years in the land of the rising sun, Buechner also learnt that the Japanese like to share their legends and myths through interesting and colourful tales.

“It’s common in Japan to share stories and characters from Japanese legend and to mark their festival days. There are many throughout the year, like the Tengu Matsuri honouring a long-nosed goblin, and Setsubun, a day to cast out Oni the ogre by throwing fistfuls of dried soybeans,” she writes.

It is also common to project the protectors as the ugliest, a form of tough love, the writer observes.

Although Buechner is back to 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.

To learn more about how to raise resilient children, visit






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