Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Tough love

I was watching the Today show and they were talking about the first half of this story, where an exasperated dad took his 4th grade son to the street with a sign as a public means of discipline. The anchors all said it's a form of bullying itself, by making the son hold the sign saying "I'm a bully! Honk if you hate bullies!" And the dad caught a ton of flack for it.

Let me just make these points:
1. The son was in trouble at school for repeated offenses of bullying. This means that the school was attempting to curb/stop the behavior. The dad made various efforts to get his son to stop bullying.

2. The dad stood on the street corner with his son. He didn't sit in the car playing on his phone or drinking a latte.

3.  The dad owned his son's behavior. He basically said "My son screwed up. Let me do something to prevent it from escalating, and my son being the reason someone else's child ends up on the news because no one did enough to stop the tide of the mistreatment." He DID NOT defend his son's behavior. He did not say "oh, no! not MYYYY child! you're mistaken! you're lying!" that so many other parents do. He demonstrated to his child what other children were feeling when his son was being mean to his peers. Sometimes, empathy is a powerful experience. Who better to help victims of something cope, than other people who have experienced that pain and share their coping methods.

4. The school reported back to the dad that when his son returned to school, he apologized to his victim - OF HIS OWN ACCORD!  No one forced the apology as a contingency for his son's return. The son understood what he'd done, and how it impacted his peers, and he apologized.
Here is where I'll reference that Stanford prison experiment from the 70s. The two groups switched roles after a time. The first-round inmates did not mistreat the former guards to the same extent they were.
Maybe if bullies were subjected to a taste of their own medicine, they'd quickly check their own behavior.

5. He didn't backpedal. The next day, the dad stood on that same corner without his child, responding to the critics. He stood firm in his parenting, and told critics that he was not going to be bullied in to sugar-coating things. The fact that his son apologized to his victim of his own accord tells me this tactic worked.

As a parent of a child who must learn things the hard way, I can relate to this dad's frustration. It took a long time for my child to change some of his behavior, and it took interventions on many fronts. I can relate to the mental, emotional and spiritual exhaustion from constantly battling my child on things like house rules, treating people poorly, and consequences. And being strong-willed, my child also didn't back down from me either. As a result, the house was fraught with tension on a daily basis. But, I'm the parent, and the responsibility of the household rests on my shoulders and those of my husband. We HAD to exhaust our efforts to effect change. In our minds, there was no other way to do it. We were not going to shirk our responsibility to raise our children to become responsible adults.

I personally applaud this dad for taking a stand with his child, and going tough love on his son. If more parents did so, we'd see a decrease of bullying, entitled behavior, and an increase of civility. This guy didn't subscribe to what I call "speshul snowflayke parenting". And I appreciate that he took a stand against his child's behavior, and stood on that street corner with his son holding the sign.

1 comment:

Michael Pierce said...

I don't think there is anything wrong with a little humiliation as punishment, it seems to work. Bullies humiliate their targets, and it sounds like the kid got a taste of his own medicine.