Not too long ago, I saw a child bawling at the toy section of a shopping centre. He was throwing the worst tantrum I had ever seen. Ignoring his own safety, he was kicking wildly while…

…his mother tried to drag him away.

“What a brat he is,” I said to my father, who was pushing me about in my wheelchair.

No sooner had I uttered those words than the mother gave up. She pacified her son by buying him the toy he wanted.

My father remarked: “See, she does not realise that she is creating a monster. When the monster gets too big to handle, she will be wondering why she has one.”

It makes sense – the boy must have felt triumphant that his tactics worked. And in order to continue getting his way, he will do more and more of the same. Therefore, the blame for the child’s future misbehaviour must rest on the shoulders of the mother. Right?

The question is: “Is it hard for parents to avoid pampering their kids?”

Were it as easily said as done, I would not hear my parents “accusing” each other of spoiling me rotten. While exchanging good-natured banter with father, my mother reminded him of his “failure” with me. She said: “You are talking about other parents spoiling their children. Look at yourself, you are no better.”

My father responded with a guilty smile: “What to do? I just can’t help it although I know it is not right.”

No wonder many children take their parents’ kindness for weakness. They treat their parents like servants if they do not have maids. It is not uncommon to see parents carrying their children’s schoolbags, ferrying them around and doing their bidding.

One incident I saw at Bishan food centre raised my ire. A secondary school girl was reading a book while her mother was feeding her. Arguably, there was nothing wrong with that. However, when she started to rant and rave at her mother for “burning” her tongue, I thought that that was too much.

Many would say that the mother deserved to be treated like a rag. After all, she was instrumental in shaping her child’s character. She created the monster. Hence, she has to live with it.

I find the argument hard to swallow. If she was five years old, I could understand it because she would not be able to appreciate her mother’s love. But she was old enough to know what was right and what was not. I am sure she has, through the education system, at least learnt the meaning of being grateful and respectful.

I agree that it is the responsibility of parents to nurture positive values in their children. But I don’t blame them if they don’t do it right. After all, they always mean well.

Moreover, children are not plasticine, at the mercy of the moulder. They are humans with brains to think with and hearts to feel with. They – especially those who are mature – can choose to adopt positive or negative behaviour. The choice will ultimately determine who they become.

I remember reading a suggestion that parents be punished for their children’s misdeeds. At first, I thought it was a brilliant idea. But after some deliberation, I am for children being held responsible for their own behaviour. Why?

Children have the power to bypass any adverse influence, even their parents’. If they choose not to do it, it is their fault. No parents want their children to be brought up badly. They do what they do, right or wrong, because of love – and as children, we should not break their hearts.

(This journal entry can be found in TODAY of 16 May 2006)