Thailand has a reputation throughout the world as having some of the world’s nicest people. As a teacher in Thailand, I’ve always noticed that Thai kids do not behave like Western kids. Thai culture is completely different to Western culture, and Thai kids are brought up much more strictly. Thai children are taught different values than Western children and, because of this, they tend to be behave better and be sweeter and nicer than many Western kids. After five years of teaching English in Thailand, here are what I think are some important Thai values that every Western parent should be teaching their child.
Be Kind – Living in Thailand over the last few years, I’ve come to realize how different it is living in a country where people are intrinsically kind. Thais are the kindest people I’ve ever met and will bend over backwards to make sure you’re taken care of, safe and happy. Thai parents also teach their children to be kind to others. So Thai children and young adults are kind to their elders, to other children, and are incredibly kind to foreigners who visit Thailand. If more parents taught their children to be kind, like the Thais do, the world would be a much better place.
Be Polite – The most important characteristic to have in Thailand is to be polite. In five years of living in Thailand, I have never seen a Thai lose their temper (sure, it happens, but very rarely and usually in the comfort of their own home). If Thais have a problem, they always remain polite until they solve it. If they have a problem with you, they will be polite, even if you continue to be rude to them. Being polite makes Thailand a very civilized society, where people don’t feel threatened because somebody is uncontrollably screaming at them. Even while driving, which is very stressful in Bangkok, Thais remain calm, cool and polite. Western parents should teach their children to always be polite, after all, my mother always taught me “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”.
Take Care of and Respect Your Elders – Thai children are taught that elders are always taken care of and respected. So, consequently, most Thai families take care of grandparents and parents, even to the point that the whole family lives in communal areas, where every elder is respected and cared for. In the West, we tend to throw our elders into a retirement home and forget about them. That’s why Western cultures are moving away from being ‘family oriented’ and Asian cultures, like Thailand, put family before anything, including their jobs. I’m only in my 40s and I still get a lot of respect from Thais in their 20s. I’m older than them so I should be respected and taken care of. For me, this means the people in my office in their 20s do everything for me. I’m older, they should do. That’s how they think and that’s what their parents taught them. If Western parents taught their kids to take care of and respect their elders, the whole fabric of Western society would be stronger and every individual would feel important and wanted.
Be Jai Yen (Cool Hearted) – The Thais have many phrases using the word ‘jai’, which means ‘heart’. The term jai yen is drummed into every Thai child’s head and it means ‘cool heart’ or, literally, don’t lose your cool. Stay calm, even in the worst situation. Being jai yen is highly prized in Thailand and will gain you the respect that having temper tantrums won’t. More Western parents should teach their kids to be ‘jai yen’ and the West would have less drive-by shootings, road rage, rude behavior in businesses and stores, and much more.
See the Humor in Everything – I laugh all the time in Thailand. Thais are taught by their parents to see the funny side of everything, even the bad stuff. Consequently, they find everything funny and love to laugh. Laughter keeps you young and has been medically proven to keep you healthier. If Western parents taught their kids to laugh at bad situations instead of getting bent out of shape and stressed, we’d have whole nations of people who were healthier and happier. Thais even laugh at funerals, telling funny stories and jokes about the person who died, as they feel they should be happy because the deceased is in a better place. Western parents would do well to teach their kids to see the humor in things. It simply makes every day better.
Thai children are well-behaved, polite, kind, helpful to their elders and respectful of everyone. Western parents could learn something from Thai parents as, year by year, Western kids become less polite and more aggressive.