Social Behaviours

While waiting in a queue at the Cold Storage, I noticed a little six year old in front of me pushing away in the line, attempting to get to out of a mundane routine which is all part of coming out grocery shopping. His mother reprimanded him gently but firmly enough for him to understand what she meant. She said quite clearly:

"We are Singaporeans we don’t push whilst in a queue".

I was amused that she reminded him of his nationality as well!  I guess mum was attempting to instill a ‘sense of pride’ in him.  We do need mums who do this regularly whilst out on a social outing with their children, as social behaviours are taught and modelled when we take buses and trains, eat at restaurants, visit banks, use taxis, meet friends at their homes, visit public parks to name a few. How many parents take the opportunity to teach their kids social skills during these activities? Or do we just let our kids do what they please as it’s someone else business to clean up or pick up after them? How important are social skills anyway?

Last week we needed eggs and lunch items and took a stroll to the local grocery store. A family was in front of us with two boys aged around 5 and 6 approximately. They proceed to run into the store whilst mum and dad got the trolley and began their shopping. The kids disappeared amongst the many isles of food, running shouting and screaming a ‘hide-n-seek’ game. The parents did not take any notice nor were they concerned about their safety. Grocery stores can be a dangerous place for little kids let loose. For starters if they attempt to remove tins at random they can fall on them causing injury, there are poisons in the cleaning section, they can be removed by a stranger etc. The noise levels these kids created were horrid but the parents did not say anything. When they got to the check-out dad yelled at the top of his voice calling their names with no concern for the noise levels he was producing!

I wished the store manager had found the kids earlier and returned them to these parents! Perhaps there should be signage which says "Children are to be supervised at all times". A basic that some parents need reminding.

Yesterday whilst having dinner at Thai Express, a family of 3 kids, mum, dad and helper arrived. The two year child banged the table with a toy loudly all the time without any correction, the six year old yelled and demanded and the four year old fought with the brother. Again, little was said as I saw the poor helper struggling to contain the two year old as he proceed to splash food all over. He did not have a bib, nor did they bring a wipe cloth with them.

These observations are great missed opportunities for boundary setting with kids and social skills that are transferred from the home into a public place. To name a few:

  • "We don’t bang the table when we eat";
  • "When we eat out, we speak softly to each other because other people are dinning and chatting";
  • "Food is to be eaten and not thrown at each other";
  • "If you behave badly, we will have to leave this restaurant";
  • "You need to say thank you when the waiter brings your food to you";

Another time we have seen little kids run wild in a clothing stores, in and out of the racks of clothing with no supervision. The sales person cannot say anything as it is not her place to discipline children but I could clearly see that she was concerned that the kids may injure themselves and she was also concerned about the merchandise being damaged. I am quite sure that parents would not allow their kids do this to their own wardrobe at home or do they? Perhaps they treat other people’s property differently to their own?

It makes you wonder… Kids need to be taught how to behave in different situations. For example, we can run and yell in a park which is outdoors, but we cannot yell and scream in a grocery store. Clothing stores are goods that belong to the store and we cannot step on them or play games in a place like this. If we damage them, we can be asked to pay for it. When we eat out, we have to use our table manners (if they are taught in the home i.e. how to use a napkin, eat with your mouth closed and no yelling etc).

Meal times at home is the place to teach these skills which can be transferred to a restaurant or when they get invited to have dinner at a friends or family member’s home. "We are going to use our table manners every time we have a meal and mum and dad are going to see how you kids behave, if you do well, we can eat out at a restaurant".

Praise them when they say please and thank you. Teach them how to talk and the volume to use when they are at the dinner table. Teach them that putting their feet on chairs is inappropriate. How kids behave at home get quickly transferred to school or other places. Parents need to be mindful that kids don’t learn these skills automatically. They need to be taught, they need to be prompted and most of all, it’s the parents responsibility to supervise their kids when they are in these situations away from home. I am sure there are parents that do this well and there are kids that don’t do these things because they are observed and reminded when they forget their basics. There are parents that are mindful and take their kids out so that they can be schooled in art of socialising appropriately.

I just happen to observe these over the last few days and thought I would remind parents that it is an injustice to kids not to teach these skills at the earliest possible age! It is a direct reflection on parents when their kids behave inappropriately. After all, there is no such a thing as a bad behaved kid, just poor parenting!

Here’s to well socialised children who in turn become well-socialised adults!!

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Perfect Parents vs Perfect Children

born in massachusetts, usa on 6th oct 2008 — my name is lucas wan!

What do I learn here?
1. Parents are teachers constantly. There are times to relax but certain protocols are for life (what’s not for life anyway?) so we’d better teach our kids well on the important ones (which ones.. someone list them pls.)

2. Children are natural explorers and are less sensitive creatures. Thats why we are here to teach them the humanity protocols (hehehe.. life’s stressful from young).

life’s tough man.

Kids are smart creatures,

Kids are smart creatures, and they are always finding loopholes, to bypass mummy/daddy’s rules and regulations πŸ™‚

For our kids, it is mostly a case of one-person-shy, one-gang-havoc.
They will Dare each other to test parent’s threshold !!

Different parents have different threshold, leeway for their kids to roam/explore.
We might have to nag at them a few times, or else they face the music later (at home).

In extreme cases, we have also come across parents who "bochap", and let their caretaker (or maid) handle their screaming kids !!

Monkey see monkey do. Kids imitate their parents.

When adults are chopping seats with tissue paper, and eating-in-trains, how can we expect our children to behave any better??  hee hee. 



Thanks, skippy. will visit

Thanks, skippy. will visit your blog

It is quite a balancing act

It is quite a balancing act to be able to get the kids to do things that conform to social norms yet at the same time not stifle they way of expressions and their creativity.

At one stage I tended to be strict about my kids’ behaviors in public – if they tend to run around too much or make too much noise I would reprimand them. However, I have come to realize that it is stifling for the kids in this way.

so these days I am more flexible. I will still monitor their behavior in a distance when we are in public places. if their behavior does not cause nuisance to the others around them i let them be. If not I will intervene. Of course, basic manners still need to be adhered to.



Suggestion - Ahmih

I just want you to know that you are not the only one feeling frustrated about a spouse who does not work in unison with your parenting methods! So many mums and dad’s too say that giving children double messages makes parenting so much harder and I truly empathise with you.

You could try having a private conversation with your spouse bringing up the following points one by one and talking at length about them: Add to these as well !

1. Tell spouse how much you value his/her support and how the children love to be with him/her. Always start with a positive, then the person is more likely to listen to your concern as he/she does not feel attacked during the peaceful confrontation.

2. Talk about an example: “”The other day when I came home I noticed Sam jumping on the sofa and you were watching TV. I never allow him to do this because I want him to understand that the sofa is for sitting on. When you allow this to happen when I am not at home, I am concerned that we are giving Sam mixed messages. I say no to him and you say yes is going to confuse him. I would really feel supported if you can enforce the same rules as me so that he knows we are a team”. This is just an example, you can raise your own.

By using I-Messages, you refrain from blaming your spouse – eg. “You are always letting him get away with stuff” sounds negative and is less likely to work. Also a you message does not tell the person what impact it has on you and your true feelings about it.

3. Suggest you both talk about what is allowed and what isn’t because if don’t do this you cannot blame your spouse as he cannot mind read what you like and dislike. So set these boundaries together and talk about 4-5 important things you have observed that you would like to change. Keep a small note book on this.

4. It’s a parenting myth that both parents must react in the same way, but if both parents agree on something e.g. not jumping on the sofa, both can reinforce this in different ways. One may just pick the child up and put him in a sitting position and say ‘sit please’ and the other may request ‘can you please sit down as sofas are not meant to be jumped on’.

5. If a spouse always hears you critise his parenting he will get turned off being a parent. The kids enjoy the difference between the two genders so try not to restrict your spouse from being himself or herself as we cannot change people, just the way we look at things. So when you see your spouse doing something wonderful with your kids, make sure you give praise where praise is due. “I love the way you cuddle the kids when they get upset, it really calms them down”; “I wish I were as patient as you, it helps me a lot when I am upset”; ‘Thanks for caring for the kids today whilst I was at work, I was able to focus on work knowing you were here at home”.

Good wishes for a productive conversation with your spouse.


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Intolerance vs being Irresponsible

I would like to clarify that my comment as quoted was not meant to judge parents with no tolerance for marginal groups as I have reinforced with my earlier replies – it was meant to target and remind parents who do not take the responsibility to assist their children integrate appropriately in the community in particular the examples given in the article. When we do this, we do our kids an injustice as they get judged and looked down upon when it really is not their fault that they have not been guided on social protocol. Thanks AlvinaT for your feedback.


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Agreed. I’m constantly mindful of how my kids behave in public and would remind them constantly too. Sometimes may come across as stern and strict, but hey they need to learn what’s the appropriate social behavior! Their dad, on the other hand, never does that. He just let them be, even when I’m not around. I get feedback from neighbor and sometimes, I saw for myself too. He just let them yell off their heads and walk away when other people look. I wish he could be on my side then, it would be so much easier to teach kids. 

Let's not judge the parents like this..

Quote: “After all, there is no such a thing as a badly behaved kid, just poor parenting!”

Most parents want a reasonably well behaved kid, but it takes a lot more effort and time to guide a high spirited child. While I agree that it’s good to share on good social behaviors. Let’s be more tolerant of others around us.


Yes how true!

Thanks foreverj

When you said “parents fail to identify the needs of the child” which then results in a mountain of problems is so profound ~ We can avoid so much of drama by understanding what their needs, meeting these, reevaluating these from time to time and lastly talking to them about it. Of course we will make mistakes along the way, but at least we can learn from them.


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thank you momoshop

Social protocol is not meant to stop a child from being creative. When creativity in the making disturbs those around us then we have to find another way to allow the child’s outlet to flow.

You sound like a parent who provides reasonable supervision whilst out in the community as you provided us with a good example of how parents can give freedom with limits.

My observation was the opposite of what you illustrated. Kids gone crazy with parents who did not once stop them from climbing into the open refrigerators which prompted me to write on social behaviours. A supermarket is a good place to teach kids skills, enjoys the senses of colour and shape, and boundaries as you pointed out.

I totally agree that when we cage kids into tight boundaries they either rebel or revert to being depressed. Reasonable and comfortable boundaries see children grow and express themselves freely. Kids so need to know and experience each place has different social rules. We can chat loudly in an open air restaurant when tables are at a good distance from the other, we cannot do this in smaller places where other people are chatting as well. The best way to teach this is for parents to actually engage in a conversation with their kids at these places. Usually dad is reading the papers, mum is on the mobile or into a magazine and the kids have their hand held games that they are totally lost in ! A missed opportunity for sure for developing social interactions, bonding with parents and more… Could this be another reason why kids grow up and are unable to express themselves? Some additional food for thought !


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Thank for feedback Jedamum

Yes I know in an idealic world we would have perfect kids and perfect parents and most of all, a society that does not judge. Unfortunately, this cannot come to pass and we all are subjected to some form of judgment, sometimes in the way of punishment when we do not conform. I fully empathise and support parents who have children with additional high needs. It is not easy. Having worked with people with special needs for over 15 years I found myself telling them that their disability should not keep them away from mainstream society. They worked tirelessly with support of their community, parents and friends to ensure that they fitted into society by not making a spectacle of themselves whilst out in the community.

Children with Autism, ADHD often find it difficult to sit in confided spaces such as a restaurant, it’s placing high expectations on them. A parent I know seeks out restaurants that have plenty of space, outdoors so that she and her son can enjoy an occasional meal out. For example she goes to West Coast park, allows her son to run and jump all he wants for 30 minutes to burn off his energy, then she expects him to sit and behave appropriated for 15 minutes whilst he enjoys his happy meal and snacks. She does not tolerate climbing on tables or running. Once done, she lets him run for another 20 minutes when he is then asked to return to finish his drink, again, using the manner she teaches him at home. She said “having ADHD does not give my son the right to misbehave or he will never learn to partake with his friends and our community”. She uses light headphones when she takes him on public transport so he can listen to calming music and he has stress balls to squeeze. She ensures he does not get taken for a long journeys but uses her Occupational Therapist to guide her so that her son’s life is made comfortable with some aides and adjustments. She also invested in a small mini trampoline at home in his bedroom where he can jump instead of ruining her furniture, again once done, he will sit and enjoy a meal with appropriate social manners. Instead of a chair he sits on a bouncy ball at home whilst watching TV – just a few ideas for you jedamum.

All the best Skippy.

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hi, i believe to a great

hi, i believe to a great extent that children need to be guided in their actions and words from young, ie the appropriate social behaviour to model in the right social setting. a parent may no doubt see that his child is being a musician when he drums on something but if its causing a disturbance to people, then its appropriate to ask the child to stop and perhaps transfer his energy/interest into something else constructive like drawing a picture. continuously doing this wil allow the child to understand there’s a time for everything and now is probably not the right time to practise the latest made-up rhythm.

however i do agree sometimes we do stifle a child’s creativity by putting on too much restrictions. it takes a discerning parent to decide on what’s an appropriate action. many often, when we witness scenes like screaming children and screaming parents who are totally oblivious to the envt around them, its usually parents who have not started on the parenting journey right from the start. granted there may be cases of children with medical /psychological histories who really are difficult for parents. and for such cases, its hard to blame them as the kids may be extremely unpredictable. for most cases though, its simply the parents not bothering to identify, over time, what are the trigger factors which make the children throw tantrums, misbehave etc. n for those that outright have not bothered to discipline their children, its certainly sad cos these parents probably wil face even more problems when the children are older and discipline is no longer applicable.

so thanks skippy for providing great guidelines for parents as a start πŸ™‚

Some food for thought..


While I was going hmm.. and yes.. with most of the stuff listed, on the other hand,  I cannot help wondering if all the reprimandswill stifle the natural curiosity and creativity fo the kids.

We have often heard the story of how tame and welll behaved and repressed Singaporeans are in concerts etc. As a nation, as Singaporeans, I believe we do not really know how to let go of ourselves enough or be expressive enough many a times. Cuz we want to fit in, we do not want to draw attention to ourselves and we have all probably been asked to behave and be quiet when we were young.

While table manners, and safety are stuff that do need to be instilled, no issue and quarrels there for sure, but I also feel certain things such as free expression, loudness of voice and choice of activity etc do need certain leeway and are not so straightforward.

E.g. if a child is v hapily singing loudly or cranking his utensils loudly pretending them to be drummer (like mine tend to do), we can ask them to be quiet but in the process, we have killed his imaginary play and his outlet of creative expression.

Hence, while I fully agree that kids need to be taught social skills, I also will like to caution parents do just instill rules without looking at their behavior in another way, espeically if the kids are very young.

Also, kids need to be supervised, yes, but the aim that we are working towards eventually is for the kids to be independent and responsible. My kids run free during grocery shopping most times, but he is taught discretion and caution and also pausing at the suitable distance so that he does not get lost. If we tell them what to do all the time, and not letting them practise having autonomy, we will never rear kids who know how to act with discretion once they break free of the kids stage or when they start to be independent.

Just my thoughts to share – no flaming! πŸ™‚



Quote: "After all, there is

Quote: "After all, there is no such a thing as a badly behaved kid, just poor parenting!"

While I agree with this, it is not 100% the truth – ie the above can only be applied to a normal kid/kid that is ‘socially-ready’.

You have to take into consideration that some kids suffer from ADHD and other attention deficit issues and rendering parents of such kids as lousy parents are not doing them any justice.

My kid climb the handbars, sit on the floor, try to run around the train, so does it mean that I have to take the taxi everytime i visit my parents? I used to think ‘ and so should discipline their kid’ blah blah blah, until i get a challenging kid myself; while we look forward to living in a gracious society, we should also be somewhat tolerant of such behaviours from younger kids and not judge parents on a common yardstick.


thank you for the parenting tips

Dear Skippy,

Thanks for reminding us to teach our children to mind their behaviour in public places and table manners like:-

"We don’t bang the table when we eat"; "When we eat out, we speak softly to each other because other people are dinning and chatting"; "Food is to be eaten and not thrown at each other"; "If you behave badly, we will have to leave this restaurant"; "You need to say thank you when the waiter brings your food to you";

…and I couldn’t agree more on this:

"After all, there is no such a thing as a bad behaved kid, just poor parenting!"



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