I WAS having dinner with my family at a restaurant last week when a young couple in their 30s walked in with their son and daughter.
The boy looked about 10 years old, and his sister still a toddler.
As the waiter took their orders, the girl was throwing a tantrum.
From her action, she appeared to have wanted her mother to buy a toy she had seen at a shop earlier.
First, she was tugging at her mother's blouse, and when she was ignored, she started punching her mother.
Then the girl cried and stomped over to her father and "attacked" him instead.
The man tried to pacify his daughter but she continued to punch him.
The more he tried to reason with her, the louder she wailed.
She wanted her toy and that was it.
Finally, the man tried shaming her by telling her that everyone was watching her.
The girl stopped crying briefly, looked around to see if it was true, and then bawled even louder then before.
This time she exploded into a flailing routine on the floor.
But instead of the girl being embarrassed, it was the parents who went beet-red when the commotion caught the attention of the diners.
Finally, the father gave in to her demand.
The minute he told her he would buy her the toy, she stopped crying and got up from the floor.
Next, she wanted her mother to come along.
The man motioned his wife to follow.
She did so under protest because the food was on the table and she was about to eat.
The trio hurried out of the restaurant and left their son to eat alone.
What surprised me was that the boy did not appear to be affected by the drama.
Perhaps he had seen too many such episodes and was jaded.
When the couple returned 15 minutes later, the little girl had cheered up considerably, with her new toy.
As her parents sat down to eat their cold dinner, it was obvious that the girl had learned to use her temper tantrums most effectively.
In the old days, you rarely saw toddlers use emotional blackmail on their parents. A
ll it took was a frown or stern stare to tame even the most disobedient child.
Otherwise, a cane would soon follow to bring the young recalcitrant to his or her senses.
Those days, children who were allowed to get their own way would be scolded and labelled "kurang ajar" or Malay for lack of proper upbringing.
Today, modern social norms frown on such traditional parenting practices.
Spanking a disobedient child or loudly reprimanding one who is behaving wildly in public will draw disapproving looks.
Some parents even allow their children to get away with murder rather than wield the cane for fear of traumatising the child.
And when the child grows up spoilt rotten and becomes a manipulative adult, or worse, a bully in later years, one wonders who will be traumatised then.
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