The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:
I’m a female part-time worker in my 50s. I’m frustrated by the criticism I receive from my younger sister, who is in her late 40s, about the way I’m raising my children.
My eldest son passed the entrance examination to enter a private junior high school. My second son, a fourth-grade elementary school student, is studying at a cram school in preparation for entrance exams.
My sister says things like: “Why don’t you give them more freedom?” and “Your way of raising children is a kind of child abuse,” “I feel sorry for them because you don’t let them have game consoles or smartphones.”
My sister’s child is a fifth-grade elementary school student. She lets her child watch television and play video games freely and eat lots of sweets.
Her child’s grades don’t appear to be very good. When I pointed this out, she nonchalantly replied, “My kid is different from your children, developing one’s own self-esteem is part of growing up, so she’ll be fine.”
My husband said she’s just jealous because of how well we’re raising our children and that I shouldn’t take any notice of her. But I always rise to the bait and argue back without intending to. How can I calmly deal with her?
F, Saitama Prefecture
Dear Ms. F:
Child-raising methods differ from home to home and nowadays there are a wide variety of beliefs and opinions on the matter. It is impossible to say conclusively what the best way to raise a child is. Some parents think they need to raise their children in a strict environment so that their kids can avoid experiencing hardship in the future. While other parents, like your sister, want to let their children off the leash so they can nurture their own self-esteem. Both opinions are understandable.
Perhaps you react to your sister’s taunts because you feel some regret about not giving your children more freedom. There is an idea that children choose their parents when they are born. No matter how you raise your children, as long as you cherish them, they will be OK.
I also went to cram school in my childhood. I hated not having time to play but it didn’t affect my self-esteem.
As long as you’re not forcing your children to study against their will, I think your current way of raising children is fine. Please encourage your children to study while listening to what they have to say and checking their well-being. If you do so, it won’t matter what your sister has to say.
Masahiro Yamada, professor