Toy store terrors stir debate: Parents to blame for kids' behaviour?
They flung toys around and smashed them against one another.
They also created a ruckus, yelling and screaming.
The boys were not doing this in the privacy of their home nor did the toys belong to them.
This ugly scene took place at the toy section of the Metro store at Compass Point.
The incident was captured in a video and shared in a Lego enthusiast Facebook group last Saturday.
It led to a storm of criticism of the boys' behaviour.
In the clip, no one was seen telling the boys to behave.
It is not clear how long the boys went on destroying the toys, but the video is three minutes long and ends only when a man, who appears to be the boys' father, returns for them.
He is seen carrying four boxes of Lego toys.
Netizens were critical of the boys' behaviour. Some called them spoilt brats. Others held the parent responsible for the children's destructive actions.
Netizen Penelope Wee wrote: "Have to blame it on the parents. This is really poor upbringing. These kids need to be told off on the spot... Else they will never learn..."
Parents The New Paper spoke to said the children should not have been left to their own devices.
A mother, who gave her name only as Mrs Lim, said: "If those were my kids, I'd slap them."
The 34-year-old executive, who has a two-year-old son and is expecting her second child, added that it is ultimately the parents' responsibility to discipline their children.
"The children are very ill-disciplined and inconsiderate. It doesn't reflect well on their upbringing," she said.
Madam Melanie Goh, 40, a housewife, said children tend to be rowdier when they are left unsupervised.
The mother of three children, aged between 1½ and seven, said: "I've also seen some who fight and snatch toys from each other. It's safer for parents not to leave their kids alone."
Other parents were more sympathetic.
Accountant Lynn Chia, 33, said children might be rough with toys as they do not know any better.
She said: "Sometimes, children are just clumsy and spoil toys unintentionally, especially when they get too excited."
Mr Ronald Chan, 42, who works in human resource, agreed that parents are not entirely to blame.
The father of two sons, aged three and four, said: "Sometimes, parents have to rush off for some urgent errands and they leave their children alone without knowing they will cause so much trouble."
Dr William Wan, the general secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movement, said that while the video clearly shows the two boys misbehaving, it does not tell if they have mental health conditions or other conditions like autism.
But even then, parents are not excused from leaving the children to their own devices, he said.
Psychiatrist Alvin Liew pointed out that getting excited over toys can be part of a child's normal reaction.
So it is important for parents or caregivers to teach the child that the toys in a store are meant to be sold in their original packaging, and should not be handled roughly.
"If children are to be allowed to behave rowdily when rowdy behaviour is not appropriate in certain social situations, they may get the wrong idea that they can behave in any manner as long as they wish to," said Dr Liew, who has previously helmed the child and adolescent psychiatry department at the Institute of Mental Health.
Both Dr Wan and Dr Liew emphasised the role of parents when it comes to encouraging appropriate behaviour.
This is so children learn how to "behave as they continuously interact with their external environment", Dr Liew said.
Dr Wan added: "It is a trite saying that graciousness must begin from young at home.
"Unless parents take the trouble to model and teach considerate courteous behaviour, it is hardly unexpected that kids do not know better."
Rather than focusing on the boys' bad behaviour, he advised viewers to reflect on how to better ensure that their children do not misbehave.
"The children are very ill-disciplined and inconsiderate. It doesn't reflect well on their upbringing."
- Mrs Lim
'Common scene in most toy stores'
Retail department store Metro, where the boys were filmed, did not want to comment on the incident.
But some department stores and toy shops said such occurrences are common.
Toy store owner Ricky Munir, 57, estimated that about 10 per cent of his stock is damaged every year.
This could result in a huge loss if the damaged ones are collectors' items, said the owner of Toy Station at Serene Centre.
"If we are bound by non-returnable or exchangeable policies set by the distributors, then we give it away or clear it at extremely marked down prices," he said.
At Tom & Stefanie, a local children's clothing and toys company, there are at least two items with damaged packaging or missing parts every week, said merchandising manager Lim Chiew Hoe.
"(It is) in fact a common scene in most toy stores and we are not spared," said Mr Lim.
Such instances are more common during weekends, as well as school and public holidays, added Mr Lim, who has six outlets across Singapore.
Staff are trained to approach such situations with sensitivity and to avoid direct confrontation.
But parents can get a little touchy when their children are approached, Mr Lim pointed out.
"We've had experiences where shoppers felt that it is part of their rights as shoppers (to mess up the place) and that tidying up the mess is part of the services we have to render," he said.
At retail department store Robinsons, staff members would approach the misbehaving children and ask to see their parents, said its spokesman.
"It is not our store policy to demand payment for damaged merchandise but we will politely explain to the parents and ask them to stop their child from damaging the merchandise," he said.
The extent of damage could be in the form of destroyed packaging or dismantled figurines on display.
A store supervisor, who has been working for seven years at a toy shop in United Square, said the shop averages one damaged box almost every day during the school holidays.
She said: "Kids will run around the store and knock into boxes and cause dents. We have to put the damaged boxes in the storeroom and sell them at a cheaper price during clearance sales."
But, she added, it is understandable for such damage to occur as children are playful by nature.
She said: "We cannot scold or chase them out of the shop, so we just tell them to be quieter when they get too noisy. We also inform their parents if they are in the store."
At Xplore! by Zenitant, which sells educational toys, an employee recounted incidents in which children dismantled figurines on display.
Justis Soh, 16, who has been working at the store since October, said: "We had to use scotch tape to connect some parts together as the kids were too rough with them."
But he said that some parents would apologise if their children mess up the play area.
Mr Munir has seen the "Try Me!" features of toys being abused not only at his shop, but also at bigger toy stores like Toys 'R' Us.
"I had to intervene and reprimand the child. To my horror, the parents replied, 'Mind your own business, and just let him play. We were going to buy it anyway'," he said.
"We can only do so much by telling the parent or the kid to stop abusing the 'Try Me' features, or pay for the products that have been damaged.
"Sometimes out of goodwill, we just bear the losses for fear of losing the customers' business entirely."