Daily Life and Discipline

This article is a translation of "Chapter 11 - Monographs on Elementary School Children, Special Issue 2005" published by Benesse Educational Research Institute, Benesse Corporation.

Loss of values and declining awareness of values among children in Japan have become a problem. The problem, however, does not only pertain to children. Japanese society as a whole seems to be beset with a sense of anxiety due to a loss of confidence in moral judgment. Children grow up following the examples provided by adults.

This chapter introduces concrete examples of how adults teach children moral behavior, including examples of child discipline and how they scold or praise children. It concludes with a discussion on how to deal with children according to the data.

<Past issues referred in this chapter>
How to scold or praise children, vol.12-2, 1992
Child discipline, Vol.12-5, 1993
Sense of wasting, Vol.13-3, 1993
"The Experience of being Praised and Scolded", vol.18-3, 1999

1. Child Discipline

First, we will take a look at the survey (Table 11-1) on how mothers discipline their children to grasp the current circumstances of child discipline by adults.

Children do not appear to be disciplined so strictly regarding their daily habits and behavior. However, when it comes to fighting, about 40% of mothers intervene, and have their children suppress their anger or stop fighting. Although it depends on the particular situation, fighting, however, can be a valuable learning experience for a child if adults feel the same way and agree to watch over children as they dispute.

Child discipline in public is one area of concern in the survey. When their children push to get a seat on the train, 70% or more mothers do not do anything or let them keep the seat if there are no elderly people around. When a mother notices her child took a pack of gum from a supermarket by mistake, the percentage of mothers who have their children apologize is 65% or so. How should these results be interpreted?

As discipline tends to be affected by the experience of being disciplined by one's own mother, disciplining children can be considered to be behavior generated by a person's upbringing, personality, and moral values (vol.12-5; Table 7). Since not only values, but also great patience are required, disciplining children becomes difficult if it is perceived to be troublesome. Compared with mothers who do not enjoy raising children, mothers who enjoy it tend to have more confidence in their methods of discipline (vol.12-5; Table 12).

Child discipline requires patience, energy, and a commitment regarding how one wants to bring up children and what should be passed on.

2. Praising and Scolding

Next, we will take a look at the specific responses of parents to their elementary school children regarding how to teach them right and wrong. We praise or scold children to teach them right from wrong and social rules. However, praise alone is not sufficient for discipline, and inappropriate scolding can give rise to child abuse. The survey was conducted on children's experience of being praised or scolded.

Although mothers and father responded differently, when asked about the situations in which they either scolded or praised children, most situations involved family life and achievement, not social behavior (vol.18-3; Figure 1-1, 1-2, 1-3, 1-4). Today, children are rarely scolded by adults who are not family members (vol.18-3; Figure 6-1). This indicates that it is parents who need to teach their children more about how to behave appropriately in social situations.

What does the survey indicate about the relationship between parents and children? According to Table 11-2, children who believe they are loved by their parents tend to try not to be scolded next time. On the other hand, children who perceive their parents do not care about them tend to be annoyed by parental advice or lose motivation. After all, the positive effect of scolding is achieved by building a loving and trusting relationship with children in daily life.
Asked when he was the happiest when praised, a sixth-grade boy answered it was when mother said, "Wow! I am so glad. Thank you!" (vol.12-2; Table 2-7).

Both praising and scolding can be honest communication generated by affection for the child as long as parents do not behave in an overbearing manner, but with respect for the child.

Table 11-2: Impression of Being Scolded X The Degree of Feeling of Being Loved (vol.18-3; Table 5-4)

3. Sense of not Wasting

Lastly, we will discuss the feeling that one should not be wasteful, which has the force of a moral imperative among Japanese people for a long time. Disposable products were once popular, but recently the importance of valuable resources and the need for recycling are being recognized.

The survey also covered children's sense of being wasteful. Figure 11-1 shows children's replies regarding what they felt to be very or relatively wasteful. Children feel it is more wasteful to destroy almost-ripe apples fallen from trees in a typhoon or for farmers to bulldoze surplus cabbage production than to throw away leftover rice. While it is certainly important for children to be interested in or sympathize with larger events, it also seems important that they become more sensitive to wastefulness in their daily lives. It may be time for adults to reflect on our own everyday behavior.
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