I’ve always been curious about how the Japanese bring up their kids, especially after an incident when I got to observe how a Japanese boy behaved during playtime with his peer of another nationality. His actions surprised me.
You can imagine my joy when I chanced upon this book during a visit to the National Library. I wasn’t looking out for parenting materials but more of cookbook (what’s new?) but this caught my eye. After flipping through a few pages, I knew I had to borrow it.
The author, Christine Gross-Loh, is born in the United States to South Korean parents. Her own family spent several years in Japan and from then on, she started taking an interest in looking at how parenting differs in various countries and how other cultures, apart from the US, foster resilience, creativity, independence and academic excellence in children.
I am just at the beginning pages of the book and I’m already intrigued. Perhaps, I’m just uninformed but it is interesting to learn that most Japanese parents she met felt it was important to get kids accustomed to less from the start. It is better for their characters, their imagination, their resourcefulness and their future lives not to experience immediate or excessive material gratification. It isn’t tasteful to spend money to accumulate lots of possessions for the child, many parents believe and having less enables the kids to appreciate what they do have. So, the few toys that the kids have are well played and cherished.
Another point which confirms what I saw in the kid from that past incident is that the Japanese sees scarcity and sharing as one crucial key to cooperation and relationship building. The kid I met shared his toys willingly but his peer didn’t want to share! Poor him. He went to his mother but was immediately pacified when she talked to him. No tantrums whatsoever.
Another interesting information about them. At restaurants, Japanese children didn’t seen dependent on toys to distract them as they waited for their meals. They are accustomed to less being more and could occupy themselves with a mere piece of paper – folding it, drawing it, etc. A toy could be played for hours as they thought of variations on how to play with it.
In summary for that chapter on ‘Why are we drowning in stuff?’, she mentioned that every child needs things within reason, but not every want is a need. Saying no is the hardest part of being a parent but it’s our job as parents to set those boundaries so we can teach kids how to set them for themselves. If we say yes too often, we’re depriving our kids: of knowing how to be satisfied with less; of freedom from unmanageable clutter; of the satisfaction of working toward and saving up for something they really want.
So this is just the iceberg and I have gone on to the chapter on ‘How parents around the world teach their kids to eat.’ Interesting read, I must say and I cannot decide if I should just continue to borrow the book or to purchase it.
There is much to reflect on because as new parents, I felt it is important that we think of the values that we want to impart to our children and with that, teach them through our actions in our daily activities. It can be difficult, I feel, in our society where consumerism rules but as da man told me, “We just have to explain to her as she grows up, why we do things differently from others.”
While I continue reading this book, I leave you with a quick-fix healthy meal – a Japanese one.
Chicken and onion (scallion) buckwheat noodle soup (for 1 portion)
Bring a pot of water to boil and add the buckwheat noodles. Cook according to the directions on the package. Drain very well and place it in a bowl.
Slice chicken fillet at a steep angle to make wide slices. Sprinkle the salt on the slices and leave for 15 minutes.
Put the salted chicken and water in a medium saucepan and bring to simmer. Add 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1/2 tsp sugar, silken tofu and scallions and simmer until the scallions are soft.
Ladle the soup mixture over the noodles and garnish with shredded seaweed and crushed chili pepper.
That’s it. No measurement. Just estimate. =)