Kids gone wild
Scenes of misbehaving children - and we are talking about those who look perfectly normal - can rankle us.
How often have we said "that child really needs to be disciplined" or clucked disapprovingly at another?
It is no surprise that the video of a pair of boys, left to their own devices at the toy section of a department store, went viral after it was shared among Lego enthusiasts on Facebook two Saturdays ago.
The New Paper's report on Wednesday has also drawn plenty of comments, many of which were directed at the boys and their parents.
Some were sympathetic and wondered if either child suffered from medical conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or autism.
Some heartlanders share that concern.
Madam Zeng Xinxin, 50, a fruit seller, says: "Maybe they are not normal and they don't really mean to destroy the items."
But, if the children have special needs, shouldn't there be an adult with them, asks Mr Nicky Khoo.
The 40-year-old waiter says: "Whatever the reasons, children are children. The parents should take responsibility for their own kids."
Child behavioural therapist Hellen Wong points out that if the child has special needs, parents need to be more aware and prevent the occurrence of unpleasant incidents.
She says: "I see children with various conditions and family backgrounds, and most times, parents allow their children to 'assume control'.
"Most times, parents don't even realise it themselves."
Dr Wong cites some of the most common reasons young children misbehave:
- Testing the boundaries: They want to see if the adult would enforce rules.
- Different expectations: Do you enforce rules only at home and not when outside?
- Bored or unwell: Kids are kids- you can't expect them to enjoy shopping or eating as much as we do.
- Attention: Depending on the kind of attention or reaction, they could think that the best way to get the adults' attention is to misbehave.
Dr Wong adds: "As much as I hate to say this, I always tell parents, 'Blame yourselves first, before anyone blames your child.'"
Psychologist Richard Lim, who shares Dr Wong's views, says: "I don't feel it is so much a case of physical punishment that will definitely be the end-all-cure-all solution.
"But no child should be allowed to get away thinking that what he/she did was perfectly fine.
"I feel what makes it worse is when the caregiver decides to dismiss the bad behaviour or tell a stranger off when it is brought to his attention, especially in front of the child.
"It's as good as condoning the bad behaviour."
He also cautions that "strangers" who want to complain should be mindful of their approach.
"Let's be more considerate towards the caregivers' feelings. They may already be upset or embarrassed, and by being mean or nasty, we could sometimes force the caregivers to react in the wrong manner, just to protect their own face."
I am grateful that my children have not given me cause for grief in public with bad behaviour. But that does not mean they are angels at home.
It's about setting ground rules and letting them know what is expected of them when they are out with us.
That includes being fully aware of the consequences if the rules are broken.
Of course, that also means dealing with it as stipulated when it happens.
If you keep your word, trust me, they will behave.
She spared the rod and spoiled her child
Madam Candice Liow blames herself for her son's bad behaviour.
The seven-year-old frequently interrupts our interview, complaining he is bored.
When he is asked to go to the playground with their domestic helper, he refuses. At one point, he snatches my notebook and throws it on the ground.
I ask if her son suffers from any special needs condition such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or autism, and Madam Liow gives a wry laugh.
"If that was the case, then I'd feel better, less embarrassed and less helpless," she says.
When her older child misbehaved a couple of years ago, the marketing manager, 45, thought the girl could not accept the parents' divorce.
But after several counselling sessions, Madam Liow was told: "You have been too strict with your daughter. She feels you don't love her."
She says: "I was advised to change tack - shower her with love, explain why she shouldn't do this and that, affirm every action (right or wrong) with assurances that I love her."
She then applied that method with her son, only to see it backfire.
She once dozed off while on an MRT ride when the passenger seated beside her gave her a nudge.
"I saw my son trying to swing from one handrail to another. My maid was holding him up," she says.
"Other passengers expressed their disgust. I felt all eyes on me.
"I asked my maid to pull my son away, but he started to scream in objection."
Madam Liow says she felt so ashamed and angry that "I got up, grabbed my son and walked out at the next station".
"I was so afraid of making eye contact with anyone. We hopped into a cab and for the first time in my son's life, I thrashed him."
That was two years ago.
She says: "Since that incident, when we get into the MRT, he sits quietly beside me."
But, she concedes, there are "still many areas" in which her son lacks discipline. "I am doing what I can."
Children (and parents) misbehaving in public
Not only are people in the service industry witnesses to children's tantrums, they are also often the ones who have to clean up afterwards.
They share their experiences with The New Paper on Sunday.
"A girl (about four or five years old) did not like the flavour of the ice cream that her mother had chosen. She scooped the ice-cream with her right hand and smeared it all over the empty sofa seat next to her.
All her mother said was, 'Oh you are so naughty. The uncle (referring to me) will have a lot of cleaning up to do'."
- Mr Ramesh Sundram, 49, manager in a family restaurant
"A child's mother had gone into a fitting room and he was left with his maid outside. When he couldn't see his mother, he started to scream and could not be appeased.
The next thing I knew, he upturned his milk bottle and dripped the milk onto the gondola of bras.
When I rushed over to stop him, he screamed louder.
Then his mother came out of the fitting room and screamed at me."
- Miss Felicia Ng, 20, sales promoter for a leading lingerie brand
"The mother was trying out shoes, the father was seated, glued to his phone. The pair of brother and sister decided to play 'throw and catch' with the shoes on display.
When a colleague tried to stop them, the mother apologised but the father said, 'What's the big deal? Don't buy from here', and walked off."
- Mr Goh Teng Kin, 43, sales assistant in a department store
"The child was with a group of adults. She was bored because the adults were chatting among themselves.
She turned the French fries and ketchup into a paintbrush and paint, and doodled on the table."
- Madam Ang Hwee Hwee, 55, part-time employee in a fast-food chain
"He tore off the plastic wrap of a book and bookmarked the pages with dog's ears.
I asked him if an adult was with him and he started to bawl. An elderly woman walked up and began to scold me for making the boy cry.
When I showed her the book, she pulled out $50 and said, 'Nah, I pay for the book. So shut up.'"
- Mr Adrian Soh, 41, shop assistant in a bookstore
"A pair of brothers decided to test-drive the remote control car. Not only did they rip off the packaging of the car, they also opened a pack of batteries.
By the time my colleague saw the damage, it was too late as they had left the store."
- Ms Lynette Mulchand, 49, manager in a toy shop
"The damage in this case wasn't ours to bear, but three boys were running amok during a wedding dinner.
They were playing with the dry ice (for the march-in), the flower petals on the red carpet and so on.
At the second march-in, for some reason, they decided to run up to the stage while everyone was watching the couple - and the champagne glasses came crashing down.
"I can't even describe the chaotic scene that followed."
- Mr Quek Zhihao, 48, banquet manager in a hotel
"The escalators are a favourite, especially among boys. Once, I saw a boy try to balance himself on a moving handrail of the escalator going up.
I approached him to tell him to stop, and he spat at me before running away.
I didn't give chase but told myself that I'd ignore him the next time he did that. If he fell and hurt himself, he'd only have himself to blame."
- Mr M. Subramaniam, 60, security guard in a shopping mall