Should young children have to stand for adults on public transport?

When we were in Bangkok last Christmas, one thing I noticed, when we used public transport, was that Thai people treat children differently on transport. We used the SkyTrain a lot, whilst we were there (it’s amazingly efficient, we loved it) and when we got into a carriage with the children, people used to immediately offer them a seat. Even older people. I found this a bit strange and disconcerting at first because here, in the UK, I have often made my children stand or had them sit on my lap or squeeze into one seat to give someone who needs a seat more, than them. It took me a few days to get used to the difference. My dad explained that in Thai culture, children are viewed as the next generation to be looked after and are protected.

Here, for example, it’s very different. We get on a busy bus and find a seat, but if an elderly, disabled or pregnant person gets on, it’s often me, making my children give up their seats, whilst those who are perfectly able, sit and ignore those around them and don’t offer up a seat.


Yesterday, we are on a bus. It’s busy. An elderly lady gets on. No one offers her a seat. I am two weeks post knee surgery, with one child on my lap, the other standing, but I feel compelled to offer her my seat, and make my five year old stand, clinging on for dear life to the handle of the seat, because it’s ingrained in me that she needed the seat more than either my small child or I and no one else offered. I’ve been told off before for allowing my kids to sit in seats when others need them, and mostly I’m ok with my almost nine year old standing, she’s old enough, but I think my boy is still little enough to have a seat.

My children are pretty seasoned commuters, and to be honest are used to standing and giving up their seats, but I can’t help feeling a tad resentful that my small son has to cling onto a handle, with me holding onto to him with one hand, whilst trying to not fall over myself, whilst others sit and ignore us. I don’t need a seat, but at 5 he is surely still considered more needy than others?

Am I wrong? First world problem? Does Thailand have it right? What do you think? What do you do with your kids on public transport? Should kiss have to stand and risk falling over, or being hurt? Manners are important but surely kids also are?


Posted in Family Life and Parenting and tagged Kids on public transport, manners, public transport, travelling with children.


  1. I recently boarded a busy bus with my 85year old (relatively fit) grandma, my grey 56 year old mum and my two year old daughter. We were already struggling with a folded up buggy, bags and coats. It was an 80 year old woman who immediately got up and offered me her seat with my daughter on my lap. I was so grateful because I couldn’t have held my daughter with all the bags but she’s too little to hang onto a pole. But I felt sooo awkward that it was an elderly lady who offered it to me and that I was taking it instead of my own grandma!! I think young kids do need seats however I have been on the flip side where I haven’t been able to board a bus with a buggy because a woman refused to move her child from a fold up seat in the buggy area. There was plenty of room and if other passengers were more aware then they could have offered the child a seat and I could have got on the bus!

  2. I had to give up my seat last week whilst I was carrying my baby in a sling. Fair enough an elderly person needed it but there was 18 year old college kids that could’ve moved to save me hanging on for dear life as we know those bus drivers aim to recreate a rollercoaster ride. Few stops later happens again and I made my 3 year old stand up. I looked round at the college kids but they didn’t shift…..then to make it worse the got off at the next stop! Seriously why can’t they stand for 2 minutes!!

  3. I’m constantly finding myself standing holding onto my 19month old son in one arm and a pole or rail with the other. I don’t mind so much doing that for someone who’s in need, because I could stand. On the other hand, when I was 36 AND 39 weeks pregnant (and I had one of those god awful pregnancies where I was I’ll the whole time) I has people, not only ask me to give up my seat for someone else- when there was a teen boy sat behind me and other younger people around, but yell at me like an angry lynch mob. I ended up crying and leaving the bus- and having to be caught by a passenger as I got up because, as you stated, bus drivers like to try and kill you when they drive. It was one of the time so felt I really needed to be sitting, I was heavily pregnant (and visibly so too! There was no mistaking my belly!) and I was treated appallingly.

    I think it’s more of a case that more propel than not in London do not give a crap about anyone else. I’ve found myself asking a whole carriage of people sat down if one of them didn’t need their seat because there was a pregnant lady standing right in front of them.

    I’m ranting now. I think my point is, as mothers we know what it’s like to need seats, so we feel obliged to give up seats to others we feel who need them. People who have no idea the need are ignorant to the needs of there’s around them. Perhaps. That’s my view anyway. That or they are just di*ks. ?

  4. It’s always going to be a judgement call for something like this. I haven’t been much of a bus rider in a few years but I know I always got up and offered my seat to both the elderly and those with young children. As an able bodied man, I think I should stand but if you have little ones it’s a different story. Great post. #PoCoLo (Facebook page)

  5. I think it depends on the age of children. We all seem to have it drilled into us that standing and offering our seat to elderly people is polite and good mannered, therefore with older children, we are perhaps keen to make sure they are well mannered and don’t mind standing up for those who may need a seat. However, I think a five year old is just as entitled to a seat as an elderly person – the reason we give the seat up in the first place is for comfort and safety, something we then sometimes take away from our children in order for someone else to sit there. It’s a bit of a catch 22, you’re doing it for the same reason; so why should we force our children to be uncomfortable and unsafe when other, more able people should. The responsibility doesn’t fall souly on you! Others should see you’re BOTH in need of a seat and act accordingly!! Ray xx

  6. It’s really interesting how people of different cultures think of children. I think that whether the child has a seat depends on the age of the child. I would offer a younger child a seat but at some point I think that an older child should learn to give up their seat for an elderly or disabled person.

  7. I always made sure that Grace was sitting on public transport when she was small. I personally feel it is dangerous for them to stand – we make them wear seatbelts and sit in special seats in cars, so why not on public transport?! She is 8 now and taller and I think in a couple of years time she should be respectful of the elderly, pregnant or disabled and give up her seat (I already believe she will as she is good-natured).

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