Parenting Singaporean Style

What I’m about to say, please don’t take as a blanket statement for all Singaporeans. Just like Americans don’t want to all be labeled as gun-toting child killers, I’m sure Singaporeans don’t all want to be labeled as blasé parents. But recently, a real-life Singaporean (I point this out only to say these were his words, not mine) said that Singaporean parents never own-up to their children being in the wrong.

I know, to some extent, that all of us parents can be that way. For instance, this school year we have run the gamut with 4th grade mean girl behavior. Without a doubt, my child is no saint, but I don’t know how I would react if someone showed me physical proof of her meanness (not that I need any physical proof, I live with said child after all). I’d like to think that if I catch my children being little shits, I’d be all over it. But I’m not so sure my initial reaction wouldn’t be to clutch my pearls and proclaim, “Not my little angel!”

About a month ago I got to witness the “not my little angel” behavior in action and it. was. amazing. I can’t remember the last time I saw an actual fight break-out amongst grown adults. I mean, it’s possible I’ve never seen adults fighting which is crazy because the States is the Wild West. But, here I am, 42 years old and I do not have a recent memory of witnessing a fight.

Anyway, I took the girls to one of those tree-top obstacle courses and was minding my own business with a book and a snack, having parked my butt at a shady picnic table next to a large group of people. Now, what happened next, I regret not stopping but I was, A. Afraid of any confrontation, and B. I had one of those, “not my monkeys, not my circus” kind of mentality.

So, as I read my book and did my best to mind my own business I watched as a group of three older children (like 8 to 10-years-old) began chucking rocks at each other. They were scooping handfuls from the rocky ground cover and just pelting each other. It was definitely a moment of “is this really happening” because these kids were way too old for this nonsense and a moment of “where the hell are the parents?!” I watched as they moved their incredibly stupid game closer to my and my neighbor’s tables and that’s when the inevitable happened.

As one of the three ran through the group next to me, one of the others hurled a handful of rocks directly into my neighbors, hitting a few innocent bystanders. Understandably, my neighbors were pissed. They chastised the children who quickly ran away and, I figured it was all under the table. I was wrong.

Eventually, one of the members of the group next to me figured out who the parents were and went over to have a talk. It seemed to go well. Also, note, I am fully invested by this point. There was a polite conversation and the guilty children were summoned and the parents seemed to be concerned about the allegations and were questioning them. However, this was not to the liking of one of the other members of the group.

I’m not sure if she was annoyed by the parents’ lack of response, like, the children weren’t immediately instructed to apologize (which, would have been the correct response) or if she was still just fuming from the fact she had been hit by a rock. Both scenarios are valid. Whatever it was, she walked over there and within seconds (seconds!) things got heated.

I watched in disbelief as the women got in each other’s faces. Hats were swung and chests were pressed against each other. Insults, like the rocks, were hurled. Insults like, “You are a bad parent!” and “Shame on you! Shame on YOU!,” and other things in Singlish that I couldn’t quite catch but I can only imagine were just as cruel and devastatingly low. It was truly hard to listen to but mostly because it was like listening to children be mean…but grown adults…who I would assume had a more extensive vocabulary. And, let’s be honest, this is when the ever so versatile “fuck (a noun, verb, adjective, adverb, pronoun, preposition, conjunction, article/determiner, and interjection)” really comes in handy.

Meanwhile, chaos ensued as children began crying, and the mass of angry parents moved closer and closer to my table. Gone was my investment into how the scenario would play-out and now it was about self-preservation. I realized that the entire group of people who had paid money to play in the tree-top obstacle course were now filming as angry Singaporean parents fought. I, being the only white lady around, realized if I continued to sit there like a dummy, I was going to find myself either on a tattle-tale Singaporean website (of which there are a few) or be an unwitting participant in a Singapore Gone Wild video.

Once one woman was pushed to the ground and started wailing, I decided it was time to casually get-up and find my children. I found them, completely agog at the whole thing, high in the trees and getting a literal birds-eye view of the entire spectacle. We three just looked at each other and shook our heads because even my 10 and 12-year-old knew that this was absolutely insane.

Eventually, things calmed down enough though by this point the police had been called. The employees of the tree-top place had only enough patience for the back and forth “shame on you’s” before they grew tired and turned their attention back to their job. At one point, the husband of one of the women finally descended from the trees and found-out what happened which resulted in a second round of puffed chests and “Coward!” but that, too, died down.

It was once the police arrived and a third round of vague insults were being shouted that the girls and I decided it was time to leave. We made our way to a nearby cafe, and I had a beer while the girls had an ice cream float and we discussed, mostly in disbelief, at what had transpired. I considered for a second to give a report to the police but that whole “not my monkeys, not my circus” mind-set kicked-in and I decided to not get involved.

So, this is all to say that I believe my friend from the first paragraph of this post. I believe whole-heartedly that Singaporean parents may not always admit to their children’s wrongdoing. I have witnessed more than a handful of times of parents not being totally aware of their little shitheads doing shithead stuff. Only just today I was on a walk and observed children chasing a family of otters which is incredibly stupid and will result in an attack and Lord, Jesus, if I get bit by an otter because of some stupid little shit…*deep breath*. It was only because another adult chastised them that they stopped and the mothers then got involved.

Believe me when I say nobody is perfect. I know I’m not perfect. I curse, I lose my temper, and I’m sure I’ve said and done things that will have a lasting impact on my children. But I can say this with certainty, A. If my kids would ever be accused of throwing rocks and hitting someone it would definitely be an “apologize immediately, ask questions last” kind of moment, and B. If I ever get a fight with someone, I will have way more mean shit to say.

Published by Lauren Tepaske

I am a full-time mom and wife with a penchant for writing a humorous point-of-view of daily life.

3 thoughts on “Parenting Singaporean Style

  1. I guess it’s an Asian thing? But still, it’s good that the red-hot engines essentially died down. Had that instance happened in the Philippines, it would have gone viral on social media.


  2. Back in the 70s some American parents would have whipped their kids butts, then asked questions later. Sadly, this is also the new normal behavior of many American parents now. They don’t even believe the teachers anymore! Not so surprised.


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