America has long been the refuge of, “I’m O.K., You’re O.K.” mentality, and has also long been a haven for those who believe a child’s self-esteem comes first, above all other considerations.

There’s a point too far where this gets creepy.

The stage was set, the lights went down and in a suburban Japanese primary school everyone prepared to enjoy a performance of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The only snag was that the entire cast was playing the part of Snow White.

For the audience of menacing mothers and feisty fathers, though, the sight of 25 Snow Whites, no dwarfs and no wicked witch was a triumph: a clear victory for Japan’s emerging new class of “Monster Parents.”

Sure, this happened in Japan, but the storyline here seems oddly familiar. Parents, on the quest to improve their small child’s self-esteem, will go insane, verbally abusive lengths. If their kid doesn’t get the starring role in the play, or any other special treatment the parent thinks their child deserves, then the parents will retaliate.

In a new book on the phenomenon, Yoshihiko Morotomi, of Meiji University, lists hundreds of incidents that illustrate it. There are parents who have secretly placed recording devices in their children’s classrooms, and others who have demanded that the results of sports events be changed to reflect expectations rather than the reality on the field. …

Within the category of monster parent Professor Morotomi identifies the most potent strain: the “teacher hunters”, who conspire in small groups to ensure that a particular teacher is dismissed. Occasionally, he said, this involves physically mobbing their victim at the school gates and screaming abuse until a letter of resignation is signed on the spot.

Boggles the mind. I don’t think this behavior so much improves their child’s self-esteem than terrifies the teachers.

Seems to me that, in their fury and haste, those Japanese “Monster Parents” took their eye off the prize: After all, who benefits from having a cast of 25 Snow Whites? I think a commenter from Scotland put it best.

The kid who stands up and says I’ll be the the witch — they’re going places. They will always be mavericks; the others will be just sheep. That’s what we should teach our kids.

I could very easily transpose this whole phenomenon to the soccer fields of American suburbs, and it would make realistic sense as much as it ever does. I wish it didn’t, and I wish I couldn’t.


  1. Kathryn

    Curious indeed. I’ve always thought of Japan as a more group-oriented culture than ours. Maybe this focus on self-esteem is an attempt to moderate, to develop some individualism? When things become extreme, the pendulum seems to swing back HARD. Funny how it turned into a new sort of group.

    Our culture is somewhat the reverse. We are so worried about an excess of individualism that we have all the kids doing ropes courses, and team sports have taken on the importance of a religious rite.

    Monster parents may be universal. Here’s to moderation.

  2. If it’s indeed an effort to create individuality, then 25 Snow Whites is an odd way to go about it.

    Here’s to moderation.

    I’ll drink to that.

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