Why do Japanese Children Always Obey Their Parents?

Japanese parents care for their children devotedly. This parenting style has resulted in friendly children who respect the rules and are well-behaved.
Why do Japanese Children Always Obey Their Parents?

Written by Thady Carabaño

Last update: 11 June, 2022

Japan is a really admirable country. Among other things, Japanese children are very obedient, polite, and considerate. They learn the rules and obey them and adapt their behavior to what others expect of them. This method of raising children is quite amazing.

Japanese parents are confident that their children will learn the appropriate behavior by the example they give them. In this regard, they feel responsible for how their children turn out.

You’re probably wondering how Japanese parenting leads to children who always obey their parents. Keep reading to learn the key elements of Japanese upbringing. You’ll see that it’s very different from the Western child-rearing practices we know.

Japanese children obey and are very well-behaved

As research published by Child Development explains, Japanese families cultivate attachment, empathy, and harmony. In this Asian country, children obey and learn to behave socially like adults.

However, at home, children are totally dependent on their parents (especially on their mothers). They don’t discourage dependence. On the contrary, they actually accept and encourage it.

Some Japanese children who obey.

Japanese parents reduce young child’s individualistic tendency to do what they want through extreme closeness. That’s why most Japanese children don’t throw tantrums. (However, there are always exceptions).

Attachment in Japan

Parents, especially mothers, have a very close relationship with their children. Parents encourage this closeness and reinforce dependence. As is customary in Japan, parents dress and feed children. In addition, they practice co-sleeping until their children are 6 years old.

According to a study by Halloway (2010), the relationship between mother and child is intimate. They practically make up a unit and “share their minds” instead of being two separate and independent people. During the first three years of a child’s life, their mother takes them everywhere with her.

In Japan, mothers devote themselves to their children. It’s unlikely for a Japanese child to go to a daycare or preschool before the age of three. Formal schooling begins at this age.

Japanese child-rearing techniques

Many Japanese parents believe that their children are well-behaved due to the fact that their child-rearing is based on their philosophical beliefs: Confucianism. This child-rearing stems from the Confucian ideal of educating children with kindness. After all, this virtue generates inner peace and joy.

A Japanese mother with her child.

Based on this principle, these are some of the fundamental Japanese child-rearing components.

The power of suggestion

First of all, Japanese mothers use persuasion, suggestion, and sometimes shame to discipline. This way, they avoid direct confrontations with their young children. Naturally, this minimizes the child’s defiant or aggressive attitudes.

In addition, Japanese mothers use suggestions to tell their children what they should do. Instead of saying, “Pick up your toys!”, they say “What do you have to do with your toys now?” Thus, the child must determine the right answer and comply.

However, if the child isn’t willing to do it and pretends they didn’t hear the question or suggestion, their mother may resort to subtle mockery. Then, the child would rather obey than feel embarrassed.

The power of gestures

A Japanese child is so attached to their mother that they’re even aware of their mother’s emotions and gestures. They even know the state of harmony their mother is in. Thus, the child will do everything in their power to not disrupt that harmony.

When the mother suggests something, she also has an expression on her face that tells the child she’d be surprised if they didn’t obey.

A Japanese child playing with their mother.

However, the mother doesn’t punish the child nor scold them directly. Again, she tells the child she’s disappointed with the expression on her face. Since the child is genuinely interested in preserving harmony with their mother, they avoid confrontation and do what is expected of them.

Learn to identify Mistakes Parents Make When Their Children Disobey Them

Understanding and love: Japanese children obey

In addition, Japanese mothers have also learned to read their children’s moods. They use this skill to change their persuasion technique whenever needed. If they notice their child isn’t in the mood to comply with a request, they’ll try their best to not make the request at that moment. They’ll probably just make the request later on.

If the child refuses to pick up their toys, the mother will use polite condescension. She’ll say that the child isn’t ready or isn’t developed enough to do so, or that maybe they’re too tired or just want to keep on playing.

Many Japanese parents do whatever it takes to make their children feel loved, valued, and respected. They’re the embodiment of patience, kindness, and compassion.

This parenting style is certainly challenging for Western mothers. Would you like to try it?

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Rothbaum, F.; Pott, M.; Azuma, H.; Miyake, K.; Weisz, J. 2000. The Development of Close Relationships in Japan and the United States: Paths of Symbiotic Harmony and Generative Tension. Child Development. https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/jweisz/files/2000b.pdf
  • Holloway, Susan. (2010). Japanese Women, Parenting, and Family Life.
  • Kawano, A., Matsuda, T., & Xiao, L. (2015). Educación social en Japón. Pedagogia Social Revista Interuniversitaria. https://doi.org/10.7179/psri_2016.27.12
  • Gainey, Peter & Andressen, Curtis. (2002). The Japanese Education System: Globalisation and International Education. Japanese Studies. 22. 153-167. 10.1080/1037139022000016564.
  • Damian J. Rivers (2010) Ideologies of internationalisation and the treatment of diversity within Japanese higher education, Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 32:5, 441-454, DOI: 10.1080/1360080X.2010.511117

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.