Missing 7-Year-Old Boy Left In Forest As Punishment Found Alive: Too Harsh Or Good Parenting?

A 7-year-old boy who was abandoned at the edge of the forest in Hokkaido, Japan, as punishment for being naughty actually went missing, but he has been found alive after almost a week of being lost and alone. The world is a scary place and parents must do their job to discipline and raise children to behave, but when does the line of punishment and discipline become too extreme?


Memes fly across social media about spoiled kids who turn into entitled adults, and people complain (and judge) that the kids didn’t get enough discipline when they were younger. One of the jobs of parents is to be disciplinarians and set boundaries. Many parents learn as they go, and they find out that kids learn lessons not only by what parents say, but also by what they do.

Enter this 7-year-old boy, Yamato Tanooka, who had apparently been throwing stones at people and passing cars earlier in the day. During a family drive through the woods, his parents told him to get out of the car and “stand by the roadside,” ABC reported, as punishment for his earlier behavior. But when they went back “a little while later” to retrieve him, he was nowhere to be found.


The parent search went on for about a half and hour before the family contacted police and then it turned into a “massive manhunt involving hundreds of police, firefighters and Self-Defense Forces (SDF) personnel.” Police used a helicopter, and firefighters rode horses, scouring the woods looking for the 7-year-old.

The dense forest was full of tall growth, and was known to be filled with brown bears. Hopes were fading that the 7-year-old, dressed only in jeans and a T-shirt, BBC reported, could withstand that many days on his own with no food or water, and nighttime temperatures getting down into the 50s.

Fast forward six days and the 7-year-old was found accidentally, not even by a member of the search party, but by a member of the SDF troops preparing for training. The 7-year-old Tanooka was hungry and a little dehydrated, with a few scratches, but he was safe. The boy told rescuers he walked the mountain until he came to the hut on the base. He was able to access a water tap on the outside of the building.


Facts vs. Opinion

It’s no surprise that the father has been skewered by social media since last week and the first reports of him leaving his 7-year-old boy alone as he did. He said they only drove about 500 meters away and then turned around. That’s about one-third of a mile, but how many parents would think of teaching their child a lesson in the same manner?

Additionally, the parents lied at first, saying the boy had gotten lost while the family was out walking looking for wild vegetables. The father later admitted they lied because “they were ashamed at what they had done.” Some have wondered if he was ashamed at what he did, or at the fact that it turned into such a fiasco and now the whole world knew what he’d done.

Although he did apologize to the public, those who participated in the search, and to his son, and he seemed genuinely sorry at having gone so far, some wondered if he would have been as apologetic, or thought he had gone too far if this had not become such a public, social topic. Perhaps there is another option besides leaving a 7-year-old at the edge of a bear-filled forest as a means of punishment or discipline?

[Photo by Brent Stirton/Getty Images]