Why I won't tell my children they must stand for adults on public transport


It's a debate that gets people fired up on a regular basis; should children stand for adults on public transport?

In my view, it's when the wowsers come out from their 1950s hiding spot, from a time when children should "be seen and not heard" and when women were expected to be full-time domestic goddesses.

It seems our kids are still fair game when it comes to setting their little feet upon the buses, trains, ferries and trams of the twenty-first century.

The latest is a Twitter battle about the issue, started when 29-year-old British Etiquette and Protocol Coach William Hanson tweeted the following, re-igniting this very musty old debate.

I'm calling it an absolute crock and there's no way I'm telling my kids to stand simply because there's an adult in the vicinity.

Do I believe there are circumstances where children should stand for an adult? Absolutely, unequivocally yes.

Those times include when someone with a disability, the elderly, the injured or pregnant step on board. Also, if asked by someone to vacate the seat for a good reason, such as invisible disability or pregnancy, or pain. Also people who are trying to control prams or who have very young children.

But simply as a show of deference as it relates to some outmoded notion of "respect" for an adult? Absolutely not. Why?


Well for a start, if my five-year-old were to vacate his seat on Sydney's light rail, he would have nothing to hold onto as the hand rails are too tall even for many full-grown, short-statured adults. He would fall and it would be dangerous for him. 

There have been times I have stood and put him on the seat so he is safe and I'm not apologising for that to any able-bodied adult who is perfectly fit to stand.

There are times I'm on my way home from work and I vacate my seat for a particularly encumbered high school student, who has so much baggage they are stumbling dangerously. Should that person be told to stand for an adult? No they shouldn't.

So what I'm teaching my kids, is if it's safe for them to vacate a seat for someone needing it, they should do so. They then need to find a safe place to stand where they can hang on to a rail. Isn't that just common sense?

I teach my kids about respect all the time but I do not teach them to abandon their own free will and personal safety in its name.

Adults could quit their online sniping and evaluate the situation for what it really is, using the full breadth of mature thinking they are supposed to be capable of.

Here are some of the responses to Hanson's Tweet.