Adults behaving badly?

Back in school days, when I was a kid, there was a strict zero tolerance policy towards children who talk in class when the teacher is talking or children who talk without a teacher’s permission. If you were caught talking, even if it was just a whisper, you’d be punished and made to stand in class. Even though I was a quiet student most of the time, I was still caught once, and the other time I was punished when a classmate accused me of talking when I was merely mouthing. As a child, it made me think that the adult world must be disciplined and quiet. Oh how I was deceived! When I think about it now, I wonder what the big fuss was about. I have been attending a few lectures in the university given by my colleague. On one occasion, during a break, a student approached my colleague and requested her to speak up because she found it difficult to hear as other people were whispering behind. I find it amusing that instead of asking the fellow classmates to stop whispering, this student thought it would be more appropriate to ask my colleague to speak louder. Isn’t it ironic that a behaviour I would have been punished for if I were a child is deemed acceptable and will be tolerated if done by an adult? I used to think it was a case of kids behaving badly, but sadly, I think it is the adults who are supposed to be role models behaving badly.

For the same reason, I get really skeptical when anyone or research suggests that schools could prevent bullying byย encouraging peer bystanders to intervene. Don’t get me wrong, I think we should teach them the skills and encourage them to intervene but I don’t think this alone will prevent bullying. I said this not because I think kids are incapable of intervening. I said this mainly because I lack the confidence in adults to set a good example. By adults, I don’t mean teachers specifically, I mean adults in general. What I’m saying is it is not merely the responsibility of teachers and parents but everyone in this society to set an example and I have no idea what kind of example we adults in this society is giving to the younger generation.

I inadvertently conducted my own little social experiment when I was in Melbourne, as we were travelling on the metropolitan train to catch the airport shuttle. When you travel on the trains in Singapore and Hong Kong, the screen doors open automatically at each stop, regardless whether there is any passenger entering or exiting. Trains in Australia (and I believe other countries) work differently. I once missed my station whilst travelling on the regional train in New South Wales because I didn’t notice that I had to press the button to open the door. I thought I’ve learnt my lesson but my recent trip to Melbourne taught me another lesson. As we approached our station, we pushed our luggage out and stood to wait for the door to open. I noticed the door doesn’t have a button so I made the mistake of assuming that the door will open automatically. I started to panic when I saw that we have reached our station but the doors weren’t opening. I hurried to the next door to see if it would open. It didn’t. There were more than ten other passengers in the train compartment but none of them was getting off and while they saw us trying to get out, none of them stood up from their seats to offer help. We missed our station in the end. I was feeling embarrassed but there was nothing much I could do, I was just hoping we could manage to get out at the next station. Just as we were standing there with our luggage and looking helpless, an Asian young lady turned around from her seat and raised both hands to indicate that we had to grab and push the door handle to open it. If I had stayed calm and less panicky, I might be able to read the words on the screen doors which would have told me how to operate the doors. The advice came a bit late but I was still grateful for that lady nonetheless. I’ve always been interested in social psychology and research on bystander effect has suggested that individuals are less likely to offer help when others are present so I wasn’t surprised that none of the passengers offered to help. Moreover, we were in the city and city-dwellers tend to be colder. My disappointment stems from the fact that I was in a country I dream ofย moving to.

If we can’t rely on adults to intervene when help is needed, how are we going to teach that to our younger generation?


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6 thoughts on “Adults behaving badly?

  1. Excellent point, my lovely! ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿผ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿผ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿผ. Actually, several good points made here ๐Ÿ’—

    This led me down several thought-trains…

    I wonder if some of the suggestion for intervening is actually an excuse for adults passing the buck out of laziness or fear of liability (the latter probably being more common in the US than in other parts of the world)?

    How are kids supposed to learn what to do if there are few (if any) adults setting good examples?

    Colleges/universities tend to allow way too much, whereas K-12/primary/secondary schools tend to be way too draconian with their “zero tolerance” policies and whatnot.

    Ugh I’m so sorry these things happened to you! ๐Ÿ’๐Ÿ’ž

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, my friend! ๐Ÿ˜˜ That’s a good question, I don’t know how the adults could overlook a point which is so obvious to me but I think liability is certainly one reason. Sadly, we can’t count on the majority but its good to know that a minority population of righteous individuals exist. ๐Ÿ˜‡ I’d like to think that I belong to this group of minority but I really don’t know, people like to perceive themselves in a better light but they could just be blinded by their overconfidence cognitive bias. This is why I find social psychology fascinating. When I tried to think of an explanation for what happened in the train, maybe the passengers thought this was staged and I was doing some kind of reality experiment and therefore did nothing to help lol ๐Ÿ˜‚

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lol! ๐Ÿ˜˜. Yeah I think cognitive bias is simply a human trait, nothing to be ashamed of, especially when one is aware of it and tries not to let it get in the way ๐Ÿ’–. For the record, I *do* believe you are a member of that righteous minority ๐Ÿ˜. Psychology is totally fascinating! I love it, too โค๏ธ.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I do believe that people on the spectrum may be less susceptible to cognitive biases and with their strong sense of social justice, I suspect many on the spectrum will come under the righteous minority ;P


  2. Can I just say, as an Australian, I am both disgusted and embarrassed that nobody offered you any assistance on that train – and I want to apologise on their behalf. I know part of your point is about staying calm and not panicking – but the behaviour of a lot of adults is so wrong. How hard would it have been for someone to open the doors for you? I fear for our world when this, the tiniest show of tolerance and understanding, can’t even be achieved by so many people. On a positive note – both of my children (12-year-old ‘aspie’ son and 14-year-old ‘neurotypical’ daughter) read your piece too and both of them commented how wrong it was that nobody helped. Maybe, our younger generation offers hope despite the bad role model.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Dear Kellie, BIG thank you to you and your children! Here’s a virtual hug โค to them for bringing a smile to my face and restoring my faith. Please be reassured to know that I have also encountered many acts of kindness from Australians. Thanks for all that you are doing, as a parent, educator, and adult, to instill positive values on the younger generation and fight for their better future. We need more people like you! Here's to a hopeful future!


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