Two articles in the past month saddens me.
The first, a woman slapped an eight-year old girl for unintentionally stepping on her foot on an MRT train. She was fined $5,000 for the offence.
Slapped. For an eight-year-old to receive such treatment from a complete stranger — the slap was hard enough to leave a bruise. That hurt will heal but the emotional trauma could scar that child for life!
What truly triggered me was how an adult would attack a child over what was clearly an accident. Even if Soh got into an argument with the girl’s mother, what could lead her to take her frustrations out on someone smaller and weaker than she is?
Then there is the report of a man who used vulgarities and slapped a teenager who was sitting with his legs stretched out on a bridge in Punggol.
Even if the teenager (who was part of a group of youths) was being inconsiderate and responded rudely, as the man claimed, it certainly does not justify vulgarities and physical harm to be inflicted on him.
In both incidents, I saw violence inflicted on a child by an adult. This is heart-wrenching.
How will our future generation grow to make sense of this world when they are treated roughly and with disrespect, even if they had made a mistake? Will they grow up thinking that “might makes right”? Or that wrong behaviour (perceived or otherwise) is a justification to treat others badly?
Respect should be earned, not demanded
Growing up, we have been taught the importance of showing respect to our elders. After all, they have had more life experiences and have valuable lessons to impart.
However, this does not mean that this respect is automatically gained with age. One still has to be a role model to earn the trust and respect of others.
Not all of us are parents, but we are all children. Surely we can all see how important it is that children be guided by the right values and morals (though the right people!) during their growing-up years.
In my almost three decades, I have met people who have impacted me through their actions and beliefs and how they carry themselves as a human being.
Other stories you might like
It takes a village to raise a child
Parents should take full responsibility in raising their children and to make sure that they are brought up to become kind and contributing citizens of our country.
But because no one lives in isolation, our encounters with the people around us will shape our perspective on how we live our lives. And it cuts both ways too: Just like people can influence us, so do our actions have the potential to change someone’s life!
This raises the bar on how we should conduct ourselves — in our actions both big and small.
When you flick a cigarette butt away without looking for a rubbish bin, you never know if a teenager could be watching you. Or if you utter a vulgarity at someone, or even if you mutter it under your breath, how would you feel if a young child was listening, perhaps choosing to echo you later at the most embarrassing moment?
Especially during a child’s formative years, their daily interactions with the environment and people around them will determine and shape their thinking for years to come.
The way we behave and interact with one another goes a long way in building the society we want to live in. It takes an especially strong character to remain true to civility and kindness when people around you don’t seem to care.
It takes a courageous person to stand up and be the change you want to see but it is definitely a team effort in building and sustaining a more gracious society to live in. Everyone has a part to play.
Think before reacting
The pain of any physical injury often heals faster than its emotional impact.
Friction between generations is not a new thing. We fight with our parents just like they fought with theirs. And our children will find new and inventive ways of disagreeing with us. Every generation will probably have some way of calling the ones who come after them “spoiled” and “entitled”.
We are often cautioned against raising a “strawberry generation”, but physical violence is not the answer, especially when boundaries are not properly enforced and lessons not properly explained.
Take the effort to engage and understand before acting. There is often a root cause of an issue. Mistakes could have been made out of ignorance, not out of willfulness or malice. Rudeness or bad behaviour should be confronted but not with a loud voice or a raised fist.
Someone once told me that we never know what’s going on in another person’s life, so be quick to listen, slow to speak and even slower to judge.
An act of impulse may feel good in the moment but it isn’t going to help address the root cause of the problem and may backfire and cause more problems than it solves.
So let’s think before we act. Our children are our hope and the future, so let’s be sure to exemplify the character we wish to see in them.