Why the Japanese Children are So Well Behaved

Ever seen how a pre-primary class progresses in Japan or the recess time of a Japanese primary school? Even if you haven’t actually been there, there are plenty of video clips going around to show you that Japanese children are unusually well behaved and look like the parts of a well oiled machinery, not a single kid straying from whatever is in progress.


What makes Japanese kids so well behaved? (if “well behaved” is indeed the correct term).

A lot stems from the Japanese society and how it coped after the WW2. As an entire country, they had to rebuild their lives and as an offshoot of all the carnage that took place, they started laying stress on being able to live together happily and amicably. It is no wonder then, that children emulated their parents and a whole nation was built on the principals of building a social capital, where children seemed wise beyond their years and very well behaved.

Japanese discipline is more about practiced behavior than about discipline

The Japanese believe that discipline naturally follows good behavior. Here are a few typical examples of how children practice good behavior.

  • In Japan children are taught not to cross arms, point feet or stand slanting in the presence of an elder. Doing the above constitutes for rude behavior.
  • Responsibilities are thrust onto them at an early age. Buying groceries from a nearby store and bringing it back home is something that children do from as early as 4 years of age.
  • Children are expected to walk to school if the school is nearby. Older children are responsible for looking after the younger ones.

There is a popular comparison of the Japanese and the Western world which goes something like this:

“Japanese people are like passengers on a cruise ship. They know that they are stuck with the same people around them for the foreseeable future, so they are polite, and behave in ways that don’t make enemies, and keep everything on a friendly and gracious basis.”

“The rest of the world is like ferryboat passengers. They know that at the end of a short voyage they will get off and may never see each other again. So if they push ahead of others to get off first, there are no real consequences to face. It is every man for himself.”

This basic difference in attitude gets picked up by children. They want to be liked, be helpful and live within the cornerstones of propriety that their parents have set. Because that is how their parents behave and thus children don’t know any better. And this build a high social capital for the entire nation.

Social capital eventually builds economic capital and the whole nation thrives on the basis of that.