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A judgement too far? #Haramabe #YamatoTanooka

By 09:45:00 , ,

Over the last few weeks, global media has gone crazy over 2 stories involving families. The first, the story of a young Japanese boy missing after being abandoned by his parents in bear infested woods as a punishment but who was found alive several days later. The second, the story of a 3 year old who slipped away from his family and jumped into a gorilla enclosure resulting in the death of the gorilla, Harambe. Both parents in each case are now facing potential negligence charges as the world looks on in judgement - in this post I ask is this a judgement too far?

If you ask anyone about either of the above 2 cases I'm sure they will have an opinion. I actually feel some sympathy for both families as I can appreciate how both situations could come about.

Yamato Tanooka
Let's take the story of the Japanese family, 7 year old Yamato Tanooka was punished by his parents for throwing stones at a car by being left behind in the woods. When they returned to collect him they were unable to find him.

I can understand where they were coming from, J is at that age where tantrums are part of daily life. If he can't do something and gets frustrated then he starts crying or screaming, throwing himself on the floor or arching his back in a fit of anger. Sometimes in these instances the most effective way of dealing with him is to make sure he is somewhere safe and then to walk away - into the next room or upstairs so that he is out of sight but I can still hear him. It gives me a break (particularly if I'm feeling tired or stressed), gives him a chance to let out all his frustrations, and then I feel like I'm in a better position to deal with him when I go back (normally once the screaming or crying has stopped or is reduced). Its a method I know quite a few parents use including my own mum. I remember my sister having a huge tantrum in the middle of a supermarket as a young child, throwing herself on the floor crying, screaming and beating her fists on the floor. When my mum's attempts to placate her didn't work she walked off with me, (going a few aisles's down) and then returned to my sister when she went quiet. 'Are you finished?' she asked, 'good now come on we have more shopping to get', and that was the end of that.

I also remember a health visitor giving me similar advice in J's colicky days when I was at the end of my tether - leave him in his cot to cry, go and take 5 minutes, get a drink etc. and then go back to him. So in a way what the Japanese parents did was just an extension of this - and maybe they went a little too far. However, with everything else that happened - him going missing, being feared dead, the time until he was found, and the involvement of the authorities in the search, is sufficient 'punishment' enough for their actions being a touch too extreme and I really don't think that negligence charges are necessary - this wasn't a child that was abandoned. Discipline is a sign of love and good parenting, the child wasn't abused or smacked, his parents weren't being cruel. If anything this was 'tough love', being cruel to be kind and ultimately bring up a child with good values who learns that he can't always get what he wants and what is wrong with that?

Isiah Gregg
A 3 year old boy went to the zoo in Cincinatti with his family, gave his mother the slip and somehow fell into a gorilla enclosure, resulting in the zookeepers shooting the gorilla to save the boy. It's another story which has been sensationalised by the press and everyone has an opinion which ultimately is that the gorilla should not have been killed. The finger has then been pointed at various people as to who is to blame including the zookeepers (as everyone is suddenly an expert on gorilla's and tranquilisers) and also at the parents - who surely are to blame (according to the media) for not watching the boy. 

With any story, it's very difficult to get the full picture as to what has recently happened. This woman was a mother to 4 and if she had all 4 with her I can understand how one might easily have given her the slip as she only has two hands. I struggle to hold onto J sometimes and he is our only child and this is even when I have both hands free. He is small, very quick and is also a bit of a clever clogs - he can open the safety gate and can walk up and down the stairs (given the opportunity) with no effort at all. He is also very tall and can climb up on things including the sofa, toybox, dog... to reach items out of reach (fruit is a current favourite). If I pop to the bathroom, go sort some washing, fetch a drink, sometimes I come back and find J has either broken through the safety gate and gone upstairs to the bathroom, or is leaning precariously on furniture trying to reach something he has decided he wants. 

From my reading of Isiah's story, he had been holding his mother's pocket when he let go and decided to climb into the gorilla's enclosure. Chances are if he is anything like my toddler, he acts first and thinks... well never to be honest so most likely by the time his mother realised he'd let go, it was probably too late to stop him and save him. I also think the mother's actions were brilliant, she immediately rang the emergency services and was trying to keep him calm - I don't think I would have been that calm. As for the parenting technique of holding his mother's pocket - I have seen other parents do similar things, with children holding onto pushchairs or holding a parents hand so I don't think there's anything wrong with it and it is most likely a technique she has used regularly otherwise why would she continue to use it.

For me the problem wasn't an issue of parenting, but more how did the child get into the enclosure in the first place? Surely the zoo should have had a proper system in place to stop anyone getting into the enclosure in the first place and how could a small child have gotten in so easily with such minimal effort. The parents have said that they aren't going to sue the zoo but now that they are facing possible charges of negligence and are receiving death threats and the backlash of social media, I wonder if this is still the case. They have been through a terrible time having nearly lost their son, yes a gorilla died and that's sad but the issue shouldn't be the style of parenting but how this kind of accident could happen in this day and age.  I also think the police should be interviewing the zoo and checking their policies etc. and not hounding this family who have been through an awful experience.

It'll be interesting how both cases progress going forward - but I really hope the charges get dropped and these families can resume business as normal. It would be wrong for one mistake to destroy their lives for good. I guess we'll have to see.

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