Why don’t Japanese early childhood educators intervene in children’s physical fights? Some characteristics of the Mimamoru approach

Fuminori Nakatsubo, Hiroshima University, Japan (
Harutomo Ueda, Nagoya City University, Japan (
Misa Kayama, University of Mississippi, USA (

Background: The Mimamoru approach is a Japanese pedagogical strategy in which educators intentionally withhold an intervention to promote children’s learning through their voluntary exploration and actions to solve problems. The examination of Japanese educators’ strategies for intervening in physical fights, in contrast to those from other cultures, underscores unique characteristics of the Mimamoru approach.

Aim: This study aims to examine why Japanese educators tend not to intervene in children’s physical fights, and how they determine whether any intervention is necessary.

Method: Using methods from Tobin’s video cued multi-vocal ethnography, we conducted focus groups at nine early childhood education and care facilities (seven in Japan and two in the U.S.) with a total of 34 Japanese and 12 U.S. educators. After watching a short video clip in which a Japanese educator used the Mimamoru approach with two children involved in a physical fight, participants, including the educator in the video clip, discussed their interpretations of the educator’s responses to the two children.

Results: The qualitative analyses of Japanese and U.S. participants’ discussion suggest that educators’ non-intervention allows children to experience a feeling of guilt, solve problems by themselves, and learn interpersonal skills. Yet educators do intervene when they determine that a risk of physical harm is greater than the benefit for children to learn.

Conclusions: The Mimamoru approach maximises benefits, such as children’s acquisition of social and emotional skills necessary for their development, through the intentional use of non-intervention, while reducing potential risks by providing minimal interventions.

Implications for children: The Mimamoru approach can be used to create a context in which children have autonomy in their actions, which cultivates children’s internal motivation to learn new skills.

Implications for practitioners: Educators’ intentional non-intervention and minimal intervention facilitates children’s learning and promotes their autonomy, if educators carefully balance the benefits with any risks.

Key words: Japanese early childhood educators, U.S. early childhood educators, Mimamoru approach, children’s physical fights, qualitative methods.

This presentation relates to the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: