By Anh Đức
A friend of mine is an avid action figure collector, and had a collection worth millions in his house. He returned to the house one day and found his collection in tatters. The culprits? His 3rd grader cousin who had come by for the holidays.
When my friend asked the child's parents for damages, the parents shrugged off and said, "You're overreacting. It's just toys, and it's children - they don't know anything."
This phenomenon might seem strange to our many Western readers, but is fairly typical when talking about Vietnamese parents and how they bring up their children.
The lame excuse "children don't know anything", was well encapsulated in two recent events that have been stirring up conversations in social media these past months.
|Illustration by Trịnh Lập|
L.H., a college friend of mine, was in a café working when a child ran to her table and spilt a cup of coffee onto her Macbook. The child's mother was nearby and seemed okay with paying for the repairs.
H. brought the laptop to a repair service, where she was told that the immense water damage would cost her around VNĐ9 million (US$380). She then called the mother to inform her, but received no reply.
The father of the child later called back H. and denied any responsibility for the laptop, saying his son did not mean it. The parents then agreed to only pay back VNĐ200,000 (US$8.50) to dry the computer.
H. then brought her story to social media, where the community supported her, and the parents were soon shamed into compensating her, paying H. up to VNĐ10 million.
If the first story is a horror to all tech enthusiasts, this second one will bring outrage to animal lovers.
On the third day of the 2023 Lunar New Year, which is designated the Year of the Cat in Việt Nam, U.N., a cat lover, shared on footage on Facebook of the brutal beating of her beloved golden cat.
Around five minutes of CCTV footage posted by N. showed two children, identified as N.'s nephews who came by for the New Year holiday, continuously kicking the cat in his stomach and jumping on the defenceless animal's body multiple times.
The children then saw that the cat laid motionless, and hid the cat in a carton box, thinking the animal was already dead.
N. went home, saw that her cat was missing, and cried for help. After checking the CCTV footage and finding the cat in the box, she demanded her cousin's answers, who replied, "It's just a cat. Is the creature's life worth it? My kids did not know any better."
The golden cat was immediately brought to a veterinarian, where she was found to have sustained multiple life-threatening injuries, including a bruised head, abdominal effusion and broken ribs. Luckily, she was saved in time and is recovering.
Again, these instances are shocking, but they are sadly not new.
Vietnamese families are blessed with close-knit dynamics, but sometimes when parents get overprotective of their children, the blessing can become a curse.
In this country, it is not unheard of for grandparents to physical 'beat' the ground in anger, if their grandchild merely trips over and cries -- a comic state of affairs.
In my youth, when two kids fought, parents always defended their child and were sure to put the blame on the other.
For many parents, their kids are the most benevolent and innocent beings on the planet, and they can never do any wrong. When something goes wrong and their children are involved, it's never the child's fault and other factors are always to blame.
Actions such as damaging personal property and animal cruelty are pardoned with the four magical words: "Children don't know anything."
Sure, young adolescents are still exploring the world and learning about how it works. But one of the most important rules in life is that you must take responsibility for your mistakes. Because if you are not aware of your mistakes by taking responsibility, you are prone to keep thinking that your actions were right and continue to repeat the same mistakes.
Simply thinking "children don't know anything" is wrong. Although their knowledge is limited compared to adults, recent research by Science Daily showed that children can pick up more information faster than adults in the same period. With the way children are handed unprotected access to the internet and social media, the research results could prove worrying.
In the story about the beating of the golden cat, I was startled by how the two kids knew how to hide the cat's body when they presumed it was dead. That's a shivering detail you'd hear from serial killer stories. And the two kids could have been reading stories like that on the internet, unnoticed by their parents.
According to an FBI research, most serial killers, school shooters, and mass murderers tortured animals when they were children.
I sincerely hope that the two kids will learn from this experience, and be aware of their horrendous mistakes. And it seemed that they did when they and their parents apologised to the cat owner days after the incident.
It's a shame that the incidents had to be brought up to the internet for the victims to find social justice. But if these incidents are never brought to light, and the mistakes are shrugged off time and time again, we could see a darker future for these children, and our children.
But it should not always be the public who had to bear the responsibility of correcting the behaviour of children. The responsibility should be upon the parents, and the families, which are always regarded as "the nuclei of the society".
Love and respect for all lifeforms, and taking responsibility for actions are just two of the most basic rules in life that every human being should learn well, before they go out, explore and connect with the beautiful world.
A famous Vietnamese song goes: "The children of today are the world of tomorrow."
Parenting is a lifelong journey, and it does not stop after you give birth to your children. Responsible parents must accompany and guide their children to blossom in their own way and contribute to the future of this society. They must make and let children understand that they are responsible for their actions.
And when we all do so, the world will get better, day by day. — VNS