Most Japanese families tend to give serious care and attention when bringing up their children. They are looked after well, but also taught to be independent from a young age. There is stress on most children to become well-educated and well-mannered, with high emphasis placed on study and teamwork. I will discuss a few things here which interest me about the expectations of children in Japan.
We can first start off with something seemingly random: shoes. If you know enough about Japanese culture you will know that taking off one’s indoor shoes (and sometimes changing into special indoor shoes) is a common practice, so as not to dirty the floor of the home/building. Putting on one’s shoes by one’s self is considered an important part of development, and mothers will spend a long time with their child in the genkan, encouraging that child to put on their shoes on their own. It takes much repetition, and it is enforced not only in the home but at all grades of schooling, where children must take off their shoes and put them away into a shoe cubby before entering. This behavior is taught before the child even turns 2 years old. This was very different from my family where my mother tied my and my sister’s shoe laces for us until we were 5 or 6.
Since Japan is a very safe country, you will often see young children commuting by bus or train without any parental supervision. Elementary school is usually when this independant commuting begins, but parents may give their children small “errands” to run, like delivering something to a nearby place or buying something from a store. Japan even has its own television show, called ”Hajimete no Otsukai”, or “First Errand”, in which cameras follow children as young as 3 years old as they go outside by themselves and attempt to accomplish a task given to them by their parents.
As children grow up, more and more expectations of independence are placed on them. Parents will usually do the chores around the house such as the laundry and meal preparation, but school-age students are expected to study on their own, or attend cram school if they are struggling. There is a common ethic that one cleans up after themself, but I have noticed that boys don’t get reprimanded for leaving a mess of toys sprawled around a room the same way girls do.
Children are expected to get good grades at school and study hard. Dating is usually not openly discussed or accepted by parents until their child has entered university. Parents expect their children to one day get a good job, move out of the house, get married, and have children, so that the process can be repeated all over again. It’s not that much different from families in other developed countries in that respect, but it sure is a good reflection of the Japanese ideal of independence and self-care.