Undisciplined Children on a Singapore Bus

On Friday afternoon I was on the bus, heading to the MRT station so I could meet my wife for dinner. I was on a single story bus in the standing area, leaning against the padded rest.

(For those of you not familiar with Singapore buses, I found the photo at left on Jom Naik Bas!, which seems to be a blog dedicated to reviewing modes of transportation, mostly in the Malaysia/Singapore area.)

So, anyway, I was standing there, leaning against that rest and chatting with my wife via SMS. There were two kids playing around in front of me (towards the rear of the bus). I wasn’t paying much attention to them, but after a brief stop, when the bus lurched back into motion, the kids stumbled. Like I said, they were goofing off, being noisy, and they weren’t holding onto anything. So, one of the kids stumbles and stomps down on my foot. I was only wearing slippers (flip-flops), and the boy had rubber shoes on, so it hurt. I wasn’t that upset about it because it was an accident, so I stood there, looking at the kid, waiting.

What was I waiting for? Can you guess? Well, apparently the boy didn’t know or care, because instead of doing what was proper, he glanced at me briefly and then went back to playing. His mother, who was sitting to my right and saw the whole thing, didn’t bother to speak up either.

Why did I have to be the boy’s parent for a few minutes on the bus that day? Why did I have to teach him a lesson his mother should have already taught him, and should have scolded him for forgetting?

I closed the cover on my iPhone and put it in my pocket and then I leaned towards the boy and said, loudly enough for his failure of a mother to hear as well, “You know, the polite thing to do when you step on someone’s foot is to apologize.

The kid looked at me as if he were shocked. Is it so uncommon a thing to ask people to be polite to each other? No reaction from the mother. Perhaps she doesn’t care about what her child learns? I bet she would have reacted if I had simply reached out and smacked the boy in the back of the head. That probably would have made headlines here. I can see it now: “Ang moh asshole abuses boy on bus for stomping his foot and not saying sorry.”

Anyhow, the boy looked at me, all shocked, and said, “Oh, sorry.” Then returned to playing with his friend. I was satisfied at the time, but later I would remember that honorifics are used in this country. I don’t exactly think of myself as an “uncle“, though I’ve been referred to that way before by kids that are about 10, but a “Sorry, sir” or a “Sorry, uncle” would have sounded much more convincing to me.

The kid is probably already spoiled if he’s that indifferent to other people’s space, or to the fact that he caused injury to another person. I blame his parents, and I blame society. This is where it starts. The kid doing something wrong and the parent not correcting them, or no one correcting them. This leads to a self-centered “me me me” attitude that produces kids who think they walk on water, foreigners are trash, and anyone who does an “un-glam” job is a failure.

There will be a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth when that bubble bursts.

11 thoughts on “Undisciplined Children on a Singapore Bus”

  1. I generally don't like to correct other people's kids. It feels wrong to me, but in this case, and any other case when myself or my wife is involved I'll step in to offer some education on proper social graces. I've noticed that people around here don't seem to think much of other people around them as long as they're in a comfort zone, but when another person with the same mentality runs them down, they freak out.As for Japan, those guys really do have a high standards. I applaud that woman's efforts.


  2. Its a modern asian phenom, same goes for asian-americans as well. Let the kids run wild, kill someone and then act like nothing had happened. I usually say let em grow up, do whatever they like in adult life, and watch em crash and burn later. Ok, one exception, the Japanese. Saw a Japanese kid take a dive in a crowded pool once, his mom dragged him out, two tight slaps (I love the backhand!) across the face, guess that's why they have THE greatest culture and social standards this side of the Pacific! ๐Ÿ™‚


  3. @Jerine: I think I would've said something to the woman. Something like that would've driven me nuts.Weird how screwed up some people's sense of self-importance is…The way you describe her she sounds like she thought she was royalty on the bus.


  4. @MKL: Well, with a behavior like this I would have to say that society is partially the problem too. Like any trend, this indifference towards respecting other people is reinforced by similar actions from other people around them. I've seen this quite a few times, so it's not an isolated event. I'm reminded of when I saw a 12 year old boy run from the playground towards the road, dropping his pants on the way and running and pissing at the same time, without a care that he was splashing piss everywhere, or that he was in view of a busy road. Well, you get the point.What starts as a few isolated incidents turns into a trend that's reinforced over and over as more people do it. Then, when it becomes a widespread problem, it becomes society's problem, and when there's no concerted effort to squash it, then it becomes society's failure.Think of all the asshole kids you've read and heard about in Singapore. Do you think those are products of proper upbringing? Think of the articles you've read about young Singaporeans wanting to hog sidewalks, or run people off the sidewalk on their bikes. Though, the bike problem isn't just limited to the younger ones.It's spreading. People don't much give a damn about each other here, even to the point that if they clip you with their bike they keep going as if nothing happened.I still blame society.


  5. @MKL: I wouldn't say I was generalizing, except in that poor parenting leads to poor spirited people. And, that is more often than not true.There are things people do in other countries that I don't agree with, but respecting another person is something that should be universal, at least in so much that if you hurt them inadvertently you apologize for it.@Rowena: As do I. As do I.@rinaz: Interesting that you should use that word. Complacency I mean. In the Army they always told us that “complacency kills”. Somehow I think a widespread awareness campaign needs to be thrown together by the government for any progress to be made. The sad part is that… a widespread campaign would have to be thrown together for any progress to be made. Why does it have to come to this? Shouldn't these be things that people are taught by their parents? Singapore is primarily Chinese, and from what I learned in school, China used to have one of the most complex social structures in the world. Guess all of that changed?I wonder if this is simply indicative of a larger problem where parents don't want to take responsibility for raising their kids. They want to send them to school, put them in front of the TV, and then put them into the bed, and do what they want to in the meantime? Maybe teaching proper parenting to expecting parents is a good way to approach this?


  6. Talking about bus, children and mother… I was on the bus yesterday. There's a mother who put her baby right next to the window seat. and the baby kept pushig the STOP button. The bus driver had to stop every single stop. The mom didn't apologize, she didnt even prevent her baby from doing. I find it really annoying. When she get down from the bus, she took such a long time to collect her stuff and get down the bus. She didnt even say Thank You to the bus driver. Super annoying. Sometimes I feel, people who has low moral value shouldnt be parent


  7. Well, you are right. You made good points. It's starts with singe incidents. But again, it's hard for me to comprehend how big of a problem this really is. I haven't stayed long time in Singapore, so you surely have a better sense of this. We'll leave it at this ๐Ÿ™‚


  8. @Tales, no, I didn't mean that. I meant when you said 'I blame society'. I'd just blame the parent here. Because I experienced both, instances like yours and also instances where the parent apologized or scolded the kid. I'm just saying it's hard to figure out where exactly Singaporean society is now… I always feel it's torn between those who are perfectly well mannered, international and respectful and those who are weird, rude and hateful. I still think those are the minority. But they're possibly on the rise, especially when good people around are silent. Sometimes someone from the group could say something in your defence, but in Singapore you'll hardly see this phenomenon. Maybe you'd have a different perception on Singapore, if you lived in a condo, worked as a manager, drove a Mercedes and migle with people with a higher pay grade. Singapore is just very diverse. Maybe same as living in New York or in the landside of Utah is a whole different experience. Maybe that's an extreme example, but you get my point, buddy ๐Ÿ˜‰


  9. We need more people to speak up about complacency. I'm sad to say that there are just too many people in Singapore who just would not do anything even if they see a wrong doing. Even if there is just one or two people among perhaps maybe hundreds, I'm still hopeful, even if it is a daunting and perhaps doubtful to have society change ๐Ÿ˜›


  10. I'm not a fan of generalizing from a single incident and the way you wrote it, seems that way. Although I know you've seen a lot of these instances, so I know your points make sense, maybe some other readers may get the wromg impression. Anyway, just my 2cents. It's not the kids fault, as you said. It's the parent's, who seems like she doesn't care. She should know better. There may be another explanation, many Singaporeans are shy, intimidated to talk to foreigners, or maybe just don't like foreigners. But you also have those who would start over-appologizing on behalf of the kid. You were in a tricky situation, but I think you made the best of it. You have to accept that people in a different country will sometimes conduct themselves in a way you won't like it. You need to have a thick skin.


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