The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

Home > Opinion > Culture and Education


Culture and Education

A Viewpoint toward Overcoming Bullying: Cultivating the Personal Relationship Based on Self-Control

Hitoshi Mashiyama
Professor, Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Waseda University

What is the problem in children's bullying?

Incidents of bullying by children have become a serious social problem again. We want to eradicate such tragedies that drive bullied children to death as soon as possible. In the incident in Otsu City that has come into question recently, fatuous recognition of and delayed response to bullying among students were revealed on the side of the school, and it was pointed out that the school and the board of education tended to cover up unfavorable facts. The incident has even developed into an unusual situation that the police raided the field of school education to prove the causal relationship between the junior high school student suicide and bullying. In 1995, the mass media covered another bullying and suicide incident of a junior high school student in Nishio City, Aichi Prefecture, more extensively than the current one. The then Ministry of Education set up the Emergency Council on Countermeasures Against Bullying Problem immediately after the incident and published a thick report entitled On Comprehensive Measures Related to the Bullying Problem [Ijime mondai ni kansuru sogoteki na torikumi ni tsuite] in 1996. While a survey by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology suggests that the frequency of bullying was decreasing since then, from 150,000 in 1985 to 78,000 in 2011, the problem of children's bullying has not been resolved at all. In fact, bullying seems to be sinking deep inside the world of children, hidden from the sight of adults more than ever.

It is certain that the problem of bullying is primarily caused by the children who bully, and the major factors include the upbringing of those children, the educational system of the school, and the deteriorated educational capacity of the community. But these factors are insufficient in identifying the problem. The problem of bullying is related to the fact that self-control-(1) discipline tempered with moderation in personal exchanges, and (2) the ability to resolve issues by themselves with autonomy-has not been cultivated in personal relationships among children. The lack of self-control in the culture of children escalates bullying into a cruel act that hurts human rights. We can never accept such bullying acts that deny human rights. The true problem is, however, that the ability to prevent the infringement of human rights has not been developed among children, including not only the children directly involved in bullying, but also kids surrounding them who are aware of it, and who see.

Learn self-control through exchange with different ages and generations

The root of the problem is that families, schools, and communities lost the educational ability to foster self-control for preventing bullying. This means that just by blaming and exercising control over children who bully other kids would not solve anything, and it would be impossible to eliminate bullying if we face it with the attitude of nipping bullying in the bud.

Mutual bullying tends to occur inevitably in the society of children, because children are not naturally equipped to be sociable or to build personal relationships, and stronger kids may subordinate, suppress, or use violence with weaker ones in daily life and at play, regardless of the times. Indeed, such relations are more likely to occur when kids compete with or make a challenge to each other more often during play. Factors for strengthening a fellow relationship among children include (1) taking a common action; (2) having a common enemy; and (3) keeping a common secret. These factors also overlap with the causes of accelerated bullying targeting a particular child.

It is essential to learn and master self-control to overcome bad relationships through the experience of quarrels and discord in daily life and play among fellow children. They learn how to build and elaborate a personal relationship-self governance and autonomy-through mutual development in a group consisting of various generations and ages. With sibling relationships weakening today, it is difficult to foster the self-control to overcome bullying within the personal relationship among children through parental home training alone. In addition, daily life guidance by teachers in schools has limitations because it is based on a group of the same age. We must pay attention, therefore, particularly to the educational ability of the community that is relatively distinguished from the educational power of families and schools. The educational ability of the community-which is an ability that has been inherited amid exchange with different ages and generations, and which can be regarded as a hotchpotch of educational ability or power of customary childcare held by amateur groups-is indispensable to the development of children.

Inheriting and restoring the culture of community childcare

In the past, traditional childcare in the local community had the culture of local childcare that has the power to lead children to a healthy personal relationship while restraining the excessive bullying, cruel actions, and vicious behavior of children. First, there was the power of customs watching and raising local children by all the adults in that community. Because it is difficult for children's parents to care for them alone, foster parents were created, such as those who gave them a name or picked up children abandoned by their parents to keep a close eye on naughty children. Second, local young people near children's life caught children's voice quickly to exert influence on personal relationship building. Third, the community had guardian angels, who discovered children's mischief and advised them not to do it, though they are not getting much attention these days. This was where the power to bring discipline into relationships among children and in their inner worlds-which were invisible from both parents and schoolteachers.

As the human relationship is said to be facing the crisis of the indifferent society-where people are disconnected from each other-with the ties between residents growing weaker and weaker due to the collapse of the community, restoring the culture of local childcare is an extremely difficult challenge. Various efforts are being made, however, in such a difficult circumstance. For example, the education board of Hiroshima City deployed a mentor system for connecting one elderly person to one local child by leveraging elderly power. The Hamanaka area of Tsuruoka City, Yamagata Prefecture, is taking measures for inheriting the custom of keyaki-kyodai, or contracted brothers. An NPO is making efforts to assign young people as play leaders or play workers to create playgrounds or children's organizations. There is also a movement toward rediscovering spiritual power for childcare held by jizo-bon, namahage, and other traditional folk events. We should pay attention to cultivating power of self-control in the mind of children to overcome bullying by connecting experience of personal relationship building and learning of children's rights (Convention on the Rights of the Child).

Hitoshi Mashiyama
Professor, Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Waseda University

[Brief Biography]
Born in Tochigi Prefecture in 1948. Graduated from Faculty of Letters, Tokyo University of Education. Withdrew from the doctoral program, Graduate School of Humanities, Tokyo Metropolitan University, after completing the required course work. Became a Lecturer, Nihon Fukushi University in 1982, and an Assistant Professor and Professor at the same institution before assuming the current position as a Professor, Faculty of Letters, Waseda University in 2001. A board member of the Japanese Research Association of After School Care. The chief editor for the White Paper on Japanese Children [Kodomo hakusho] edited by the Association for Protecting Children in Japan. Specializes in Social Pedagogy and Social Welfare Studies.

[Major Publications]
Children's Studies and Social Education [Kodomo kenkyu to shakai kyoiku], Aoki Shoten, 1989.
Local Networks in the New Age of Childcare [Kosodate shin-jidai no chiiki nettowaku], Otsuki Shoten, 1992.
The View of Children for Education and Welfare [Kyoiku to fukushi no tameno kodomokan], Minerva Shobo, 1997.
'Animacion' Fosters Children [Animashion ga kodomo o sodateru], Junposha, 2000.
Philosophy of Childcare Support [Kosodate shien no firosofia], Jichitai Kenkyusha, 2009.