Left in the Woods as Punishment?
By Kym Moore | June 8, 2016

When you were a kid, did your parents ever threaten to leave you on the side of the road as punishment? Backseat bickering is enough to drive any parent to distraction. However, in Japan two parents did order their kid out of the car for some bad behaviour, in a densely wooded area. Six days later, thankfully seven year old Yamato Tanooka was found alive and well, by a solider checking on a military hut that Yamato had sought shelter in.

During the six days he was gone, Yamato faced heavy rain, bears, and temperatures dropping to seven degrees overnight. So many resources went into locating him. It’s a miracle that he was found alive. I’m sure his parents are deeply relieved.  Heck, I have lost a kid for five minutes and I can’t imagine carrying that sick hopeless gut punch feeling for six whole days.

Discipline options

Now is a time to reflect on discipline and what choices we as parents can make. Obviously Japan is a different culture to here in New Zealand. However, discipline is a hot topic. Kids all over the world need to know what acceptable behaviour looks like. So it stands to reason that all kids need to have appropriate discipline in their lives. 

Outsiders tend to feel like today’s parents don’t discipline at all. We all know what we shouldn’t be doing, I‘m sure. There are many stories yet of children who have received unwarranted levels of violence in the name of discipline too. 

But what can you do? Well, time out is our household go-to. My kids know that I will find a spot for them to sit and think in, anywhere we are. My phone has a timer and I’m not afraid to sit them down in a store, on the footpath, or wherever we happen to need to do it. They get an appropriate amount of time, dependent on age. However, if it’s public it might be a little shorter. We then talk through what happened. I get an apology and they get a hug.

The next go to for us is consequences. We usually use this for accidental behaviours, rather than deliberate behaviours. So, if they have an accident but they are old enough to know where the toilet is and what to do with it; then the consequence of that action is that they need to clean the floor, and wash their clothes. 

Reward charts haven’t worked too well for us, as we all forget about them.  Another thing we tried was an empty vase with some rules:

  • One toy would be placed in the jar for every bad behaviour we wanted stamped out
  • One toy would be given back at the end of every good behaviour day
  • If the vase was ever empty, then a prize would be awarded

This would have worked great, except that our daughter realised that if the vase was empty there was no way to earn a prize. So she would earn the prize and follow the next three days with just the worst of her behaviour to refill the vase. We moved away from that discipline tool pretty quickly after that. 

Distraction can work well for kids under two years. So if you don’t want them playing with the TV or a remote, then move them away to something else fun. For older kids, talking through the issue can work well, as long as everyone is calm.

As for Yamato Tanooka's parents, hopefully this experience has clearly illustrated what not to do when it comes to appropriate punishment. While it sounds like they will avoid police charges for child neglect or abuse, let's hope that their very public ordeal helps other children avoid being disciplined that way.



This blog was written by Kym Moore. Kym loves to write when she isn't working, hanging out with her two awesome daughters, or spending time with her awesome husband after bedtime.
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