I WAS exploring a new mall with my (almost grown) daughter and found that the lift buttons for the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh floors had all been pressed.
As the door opened on the fourth floor, I looked at the family of four sharing the lift with us - parents with two young children. No one moved. The same thing happened at the fifth and sixth floors. We all got out on the seventh.
As a mother of a teenager who often apologised for her naughty behaviour as a kid, my first thought was that these parents should have said they were sorry for letting their kids use the lift as a toy.
But, no, there was no apology. Perhaps I expect too much of today's parents. Once outside the lift, my daughter said: "I know I was very naughty when I was young, but if I ever did anything like that, you'd have killed me!"
I am not a perfect mum and I do not think there is such a thing. But as much as my kid might have screamed her lungs out at home, outside the home, I always did my best to instil a sense of respect for others while in public. She could at least be my problem, and not be one to strangers or society.
THE BLINKERS OF PARENTHOOD
I wrote about the mall incident on Facebook. Most of my friends jokingly said they wished they had been in that lift, because they would have told the parents off. There was general enthusiasm about "disciplining" the negligent grown-ups.
One friend insisted that I must say something to the parents in situations like that, if only to educate them. "It's part of your responsibility to the community," she said.
Someone else in the thread introduced us to a Facebook page called Look Khun Mai Dai Narak Samrub Took Khon ("Not everyone will find your kids cute"), which compiles examples of spoilt brats and other bad behaviour. My experience would have made a mild addition to the commentary.
If you have visited one of the expatriates' online chat rooms in Thailand, you would know there is a lot of criticism from foreigners about the way Thai parents raise their children. They cannot understand why Thais think everything their kids do is okay, if not actually cute, and as a result never discipline them. The "Not everyone will find your kids cute" page must strike a chord with these foreigners and its Thai followers.
Interestingly, the page was reported as "inappropriate" and Facebook shut it down. The administrators behind the page have since set up a fresh one, but its brief absence only served to underscore the fact that, in addition to parents who fail to instil good behaviour in their children, we have parents trying to rebuff any form of criticism.
My cousin, a mother of two, once shared with me a truth about motherhood: "No one will ever say her kid is stupid." As simple as it is, it strikes me as quite philosophical.
Whatever kids do nowadays outside the home, no matter how offensive, their parents would prefer to view it as evidence of youthful intelligence. A Facebook page exposes the ugly side of child-rearing and is condemned as being hateful towards children!
But the gist of the page, created by parents, is to target the parents who simply do not see themselves or their children as causing any problems. It is these adults who need an education. The page is intended as a wake-up call for them.
Letting kids run around in a restaurant, press all the lift buttons, jump queue and climb all over things in public places goes beyond encouraging naughtiness. If the little ones do not learn the basic rules while they are still young, how can they be expected to respect society's laws when they grow up?
A NEVER-ENDING TASK
Do not get me wrong - I would never want to see "robot kids" and I certainly do not expect youngsters to be timid and quiet all the time. But they should know what they should not do in certain places. Maybe it is time we gave all kids - and their parents - a simple lesson in human rights. The rights we have in society come with responsibilities.
Perhaps you can teach your child to behave better with this simple sentence: "My dear, you can swing your arms around at the playground as much as you like, but you have to make sure you don't accidentally hit anyone."
The best thing to tell them is that, while they have the right to enjoy themselves, other kids have the same right.
Believe me, parenting is not a piece of cake, and it is a never-ending task. My daughter is in university now and I am still struggling with the responsibility. We still have verbal "catfights" when we disagree on something.
But, as long as I still have the chance to guide her in terms of appropriate behaviour, I am not giving up. At least I did succeed in teaching her not to jump queue or play with lift buttons.
My advice to all mummies and daddies out there is not to give up - otherwise, Thailand will turn into a breeding farm for spoilt brats.
THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK