You, All Right?! I Learned It By Watching You!
Posted by Arielle
I just saw another “bully shaming” photo on Facebook. You know the photos I mean, where the kid is on the corner at a busy intersection holding a sign that says, “Shame on Me For Being a BULLY” or “I was sent to school to get an education, not to be a BULLY. I was not raised THIS WAY!!!!!” (http://www.wsvn.com/news/articles/local/21007137790589/suspended-student-holds-sign-outside-school/)
And it made me mad. Not at the bully, though – at his parents. Now, let me make a couple of things clear before anyone gets up in arms:
- Bullying is NOT okay, the kid’s behavior was not acceptable, and it should not be allowed to continue.
- Whatever that kid did to land him on that street corner, there should certainly be an appropriate consequence.
- I am sympathetic to the bully’s victims, I hate that they were made to suffer, and believe that appropriate restitution should be made.
That being said…every time I see one of these photos, a piece of me wants to scream, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?”
Bullying is “when a person intentionally inflicts injury or discomfort upon another person, through physical contact, through words or in other ways.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bullying) Any parent inflicting this punishment upon their child, deliberately causing them emotional distress is, by this definition, a bully.
There are so many things wrong with this form of “punishment”, it’s hard to even decide where to begin, so I’ll start with something that everyone knows:
Two ‘wrongs’ don’t make a ‘right’.
This is beyond basic. A bad behavior added to a bad behavior makes two bad behaviors. They do not cancel each other out, the original victims’s suffering is not negated, and his circumstance has not improved. Nothing has been resolved. You may think you are teaching him a lesson, but
“See how you like it!” is not an effective form of teaching.
This seems to be the most common justification, and it is often echoed repeatedly in the photo’s comments. “Well, I’m just teaching him a lesson.” What lesson, one may ask? “If he sees how bad it feels to be bullied, it will prevent him from bullying in the future.”
I’m sorry, but if this were true, then how come child abusers often have a history of being abused as children? Didn’t they learn this ‘lesson’ when they were kids? How could some of these victims grow up to abuse someone else when they know how damaging it can be, how horrible it feels? And yet, statistics show us that enacting a behavior often perpetuates it, because
Children learn what they live.
Remember that anti-drug commercial in the eighties, where the dad walks in on his kid doing drugs?
After his father angrily asks him how he learned to use drugs, the son shouts, “You, all right?! I learned it by watching you!” The narrator then intones, “Parents who use drugs have children who use drugs.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_learned_it_by_watching_you!
Same concept here. This parent is telling their the child to “do as I say, not as I do”, but that’s not how it works. No matter how many times you tell your kid not to do something, if they see you do it, what do you think is going to happen? Children learn from behavioral modeling. Congratulations, parent, you have just modeled bullying, hypocrisy and illogic. And speaking of hypocrisy…
Bullying is not okay “sometimes”.
This parent seems to be telling their child, “It’s okay for a parent to bully, but not a child, because parents know when and why and how much.”
What a crock.
By virtue of being a parent, we do not have the right to behave badly. We do not have the right to intentionally inflict emotional harm and bad feelings even, especially, on our own children. There is no reason that makes it okay to enact this kind of behavior. Even if the adult is claiming to be proving a point or teaching a lesson. Even when the parent thinks the penalty is equivalent to the crime, because
This punishment is not an “eye for an eye.”
If the argument is that he should exactly get what he doled out, then this consequence is way out of proportion to the original offense. Just as, if the boy threw a rock at another child, an “equal” consequence would be having one rock thrown at him, not getting stoned by the whole village. In this case, a parent is subjecting the child to a potentially unlimited amount of taunting and bullying, certainly exceeding the one-to-one ratio implied by the term “eye for an eye.”
Even in the bible, an “eye for an eye” is not literally interpreted as “the punishment shall be identical to the crime.“
The term “eye for an eye” is found in the Old Testament, and it has been interpreted, based on context, to mean that the value of the restitution should be based on the severity and nature of the crime,
…the Bible mandates a sophisticated five-part monetary form of compensation, consisting of payment for “Damages, Pain, Medical Expenses, Incapacitation, and Mental Anguish” — which underlies many modern legal codes…there is no form of punishment in the Torah that calls for the maiming of an offender… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/An_eye_for_an_eye
In other words, there are better ways to penalize a person than to inflict the original crime, first and foremost being to assure recompense for the victim.
“But,” you say, “the punishment should fit the crime.”
I wholeheartedly agree with this statement. The first step, of course, is to assure that whatever can be done has been done for the victim. But in addition…
Was the bully picking on someone less fortunate financially? How about making the kid trade in a month, 3 months, a year of TV/video time for community service or fundraising? Was the bullying related to bigotry or intolerance? Maybe spending his free time on a research project on the topic of his prejudice would enlighten him.
I would hope that the goal of the punishment would somehow encompass exposure to new information or new points of view, and an opportunity to think about how his actions had impacted another human being. But I’m a realistic person, sometimes an appropriate punishment isn’t feasible.
If you can’t figure out a good match, make him go bag groceries or rake leaves during his former “free” time, and donate the earnings to a cause. At least he’ll get the benefit of some exercise, and a charity will benefit financially, which is still better than wasting time standing on the side of the road.
However, once “bully-shaming” comes into play, and the punishment makes the bully a victim, anger and fear are going to supersede any useful thought processes or enlightenment that might otherwise have had the opportunity to take root. And speaking of sabotaging the future,
Do you want your kid to suffer for the rest of his life because of this?
Because the second you put him out on that curb, you’ve relinquished control of that decision. It’s pretty much guaranteed that someone will post your child’s photo to Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, Twitter or Instagram within minutes, and once out there, that’s something you can never undo.
Every college or job interviewer, every potential girlfriend/boyfriend, political opponent and future neighbor will be able to pull up this photo with a quick trip to Google FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE. And isn’t that a little extreme, because…
Everyone makes mistakes.
We’re talking about a kid, here. Should a bad decision made as a child follow them around forever? Even underage criminals get the protection of sealed record once they become an adult. Keeping in mind my 3 points at the beginning of this rant, I believe that everyone deserves a second chance. And although I don’t believe that an “explanation” equates to an “excuse” for wrongdoings, maybe there’s something going on with this kid that’s crying out to be addressed! Every kid deserves a parent that wants to know:
Why did the bullying happen in the first place?
“Bully-shaming” not only is a harmful, misguided, ineffective punishment, but it also fails to address the underlying problem. Sociopaths aside, we are all capable of empathy; I seriously doubt the reason this kid was a bully was because he failed to understand that someone else would be hurt by his aggression.
Something is going on here; people don’t lash out for no reason. Social/peer pressure? Stress? Depression? Chemical imbalance? A behavioral disorder? A bad role model in his home? Maybe something else entirely, but before making the kid a victim and blocking all paths to the answers, shouldn’t we at least ask these questions?
Punish the kid, because he should have known better. But address the reason that, even knowing better, he chose to do it anyway.
Because, really, I think we all want the same thing: to stop the bullying cycle, not create more victims.
Why do you agree or disagree with this form of punishment?