One of my favourite blogs over the past few years is Pants with Names. Although I have neither the time nor the inclination to become part of a much larger mummy blogging community, I have my favourites that are mostly written by friend and friends of friends and I take a lot of interest and delight in the parenting challenges of others.
Recently, she wrote about whether one should or should not discipline the children of others. By discipline here we are not beating a small child in public but rather highlighting to other children some basic social norms (sharing, not hitting, being kind to smaller children) that are the basics with regards to human decency and a harmonious society. This is something I grapple with a great deal. It is a particular problem in HK because lots of children are not looked after by their parents and carers are rarely empowered to discipline the children at all, let alone in public. I don't tend to tell off children directly but I do seek out their parents or carers and suggest to them that they might like to do something. More than once I have felt very sorry for a Filipino helper whose prime motivation is to ensure that the little princeling (or princess-ling) does not tell any bad stories to Mummy about her, who has not actual support to instil discipline but faces me telling them that it would be a good idea if they could stop/start/remind their charge about something.
The worst instance was in a local theme park, Ocean Park. We went with friends and Eve was queuing up for a bouncy castle. Parents and carers were not allowed to stand with the children, but I could see Eve, and there was a park guide organising the queue. Eve was with her friend but, being kind, she had let her friend go in front and she went on a different slot to Eve. This meant that Eve was standing next to a couple of boys who pushed in front of Eve. Eve, having her mother's innate sense of fairness, asked the boys to go back, whereupon the larger brother of the two boys shouted at and hit Eve. I lost the plot completely.
I leapt over the barriers and grabbed Eve, who was by now crying. I told the park guide what had happened (she had been watching) and told her that she should remove the boys from the line immediately. She said that she didn't know what had happened, couldn't, and let the boys onto the castle. I told her, loudly and firmly, that she was reinforcing bad behaviour and if parents weren't allowed to stand in the line then she had a duty to ensure that children were treated fairly. She did that classic HK Chinese thing of saying sorry but not really engaging at all in any form of sensible discussion. Then, to top it off, she said that Eve would have to go to the back of the line to wait her turn to go on the castle again. Giving up on her completely, I looked around to find the parent of the boys to give her a piece of my mind, only to find the two boys were getting off and ran over to their Filipino helper who had seen the whole thing and just gave me a slightly weak smile as she carried their bags for them.
My Mum suggested that I write to the park manager but I know HK and they way things work here to know that nobody would care at all.