Ouch! 痛い!

My mum used to swear by Dr Spock – no, not that Dr Spock, silly, the one who wrote Baby And Child Care, which Wikipedia tells me was the second best-selling book behind the Bible for over fifty years. I’m not sure what Spock would have thought of this, though, which I found in a Japanese child care manual that Mrs M borrowed from a friend of hers.
You can probably guess what it’s about from the illustration, but anyway, here’s a translation of the text:

Social skills
Obeying rules
Learning the fundamentals for living in a community

As your child grows older and starts to build friendships, many situations will arise that require patience and self-control. At times like this, if your child cannot restrain their emotions and follow rules, they will not be able to have peace of mind while living within the community at large. At this point in our child’s development, let’s teach them to be aware of and to obey the rules. We teach this using the ‘carrot and stick’ method.

Firstly, decide what is prohibited at home (the rules), and let your child know what they ‘must not do’. At times like this, let’s warn them in a scary voice, ‘If you don’t follow the rules, I’ll smack your bottom!’ This is the ‘stick’. So if they don’t obey the rules, without going easy on them, you will smack their bottom with the palm of your hand. In your child’s mind, the feeling of ‘Ouch!’ becomes associated with what they ‘must not do’, and little by little, they will come to realise that they ‘can get by without doing that’, and that this is what ‘self-control’ means. At the same time, if our child obeys the rules, let’s stroke their hair, give them a hug and shower them with praise. By showing them that ‘If I don’t do that, I will feel good’, the child independently learns to exhibit self-control. During this time, let’s teach our child the importance of obeying the rules in order to build better human relations.

In the illustration, the mother is saying, ‘Oy, you!’ and the caption reads, Let’s vary our expressions: when scolding our child, let’s put on an angry face, and when praising our child, let’s put on a kind face.

As far as I know, you wouldn’t be able to get away with publishing something like this in the UK, although both there and in Japan, there seems to be a kind of double-standard at work, in the sense that while corporal punishment is banned within the school system, a significant minority of people still smack their children at home (and not just smacking: when her son is naughty, the friend who lent us this book raps her child on the top of his head with the extended knuckle of her middle finger – something that Mrs M’s father did to her when she was a child),

There is one interesting difference between the two societies that’s worth mentioning, though: the straight man (tsukkomi) in a comedy double act often smacks his fall guy (boké) in the head for saying or doing something particularly stupid, and this is echoed in the behaviour of both Japanese adults and their children, so that smacking someone in the head is seen as amusing or playful rather than violent, and therefore socially acceptable.

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