Ikuji - Childbearing practises in Japan
Mother and her daughter
The Japanese word Ikuji means childbearing. It is surprising to realize the difference of child growing practices between Japan and western countries. Japan has many beautiful stories about the mothers and fathers and romantic family life. Japanese mothers are in general in very high reputation abroad, people naturally imagine them as very good and caring mothers, as the fathers are seen strong workers. On the other hand, the belief that Japanese parents are very severe and easily punish their children is also popular in west.
Japanese usually teach their children by showing example, rather than by verbal explanation. For example, if mother teaches her children how to make origami, she would do and repeat the process until the child picks it up. Western mother might simply try to explain by words.
Once I saw a mother and child on the street in suburbs in Tokyo. The child was pulling a cat's tail. The mother calmly said to the child "think how the cat feels. The cat must feel pain.". Western mother might scold the child instead or say "you are not supposed to do that". Japanese parents tend to appeal to child's emotions in more deeper way.
Nonetheless, during the war, the living conditions were hard in Japan. Children had to work with the parents in order to help the family to survive. That time the situation was all different. There was no time for kind words. The fathers were overseas fighting the war, the mothers had to ensure that there was enough food. In general, children were not in position to disagree with their parents. Instead they imitated their parents behaviour and silently did as they were told.
If the child refuses to eat the food, the mother might say to the child "Why don't you try a little?". If the child still refuses to eat the mother might eat the food and smile and say "look out delicious it is". In general parents and children don't have verbal conversation so much, but the emotions are being changed in sublime way, often body language.
In West parents and children analyze together the topic of discussion by verbal expression. In Japan, the children are expected to accept the topic without a debate. If parents scold their child and the child looks up their parents face, they might say "How do you dare to look to my face". The child is expected to turn his head down. In West, the mother might slap he child and say "Why don't you look at my eyes when I'm talking to you". The child is expected to stand straight and have eye contact.
In Japan, mother has the key role in parenthood. The husband is usually working long hours and comes late back home. During the absence of the office warrior, the mother has been doing household chores, taking care of the children, helped them in their homework and prepared the dinner. During all this time, mother is in the vicinity of children.
The father might take the family out for shopping or movies in weekends (if he is not obsessed about golf). Sometimes it happens that entire week passes so that children cannot meet their father. Although this is the stereotypical case in crowded cities like Tokyo, it is not the only model, especially if the father is not a white collar worker, he might have more time for his family. Not all men in Japan are office workers.
But a change is taking place. The new generation of children is quickly adapting the model from the west, and often this progress gets out of hand. That's why we often hear older generation complaining about the children's behavour. Often youngsters are told to be lazy or careless, or freeters. The current working people are worried if anyone is going to pay their pension money, when the youngsters don't have enough ambition, but choose to do arubaito work in convenience stores. You kind of get the sense that between the lines the children are saying "we've got enough". In Japanese schools children have taught to accept the teacher's word as it is, and when they get home, the same situation is there. It seems the modern generation of children cannot accept this system anymore.
I don't think there is a "Western way" for raising children as many families have different core values. Many parents like beat their children, while others verbally reprimand theirs.
The Japanese model for child rearing is better, but not for this generation of children who are overly obsessed with Western ideals, which encourage rebellion.