Big Bad Bully?

This morning I was watching the news and saw that a father had filmed his child running to school in the rain. This was the punishment the father deemed fit for his child who had been kicked off the bus for bullying.  This video was posted on Facebook went viral and divides opinions on parental discipline.

My opinion is that it takes a community to raise a child and this is a clear example of being reactive rather than being proactive.

The comments on the video (link above) that drew my attention were:

‘…finally got in trouble enough…’

‘..this is old school simple parenting…’

‘…we have always joked that he’ll either fast or obedient.’

‘Ironically since he’s been running to school this week his behaviour has been better.’

I went on to watch an interview with the father and child and felt the father genuinely believed he was standing up for his child and for the children that were bullied.

This child is 10 on a bus with other kids. I wonder what form bullying took, how long it went on before the child was kicked off the bus and how long was the father aware that this was a problem.

So what is bullying?

Bullying is repeated verbal, physical, social or psychological aggressive behaviour by a person or group directed towards a less powerful person or group that is intended to cause harm, distress or fear.

The key here is ‘repeated’ and he father said ‘finally’ so clearly this was an ongoing problem that had escalated to the point where the bus administrators had to implement a punishment.

If the father had intervened earlier and worked with the administrators or the school, would this be necessary?

Unfortunately I see this all to often in my field of work. There is this separation between school and home. It is often forgotten that we are in a community working to achieve the same goal; successful children. It seems that opinion is: Bullying is a school problem. It is often left to educators or administrators to deal with the fallout of bullying and for them determine a suitable punishment. Lets be honest there really isn’t a lot they can legally do now but detain, suspend or expel.  Conflict resolution initiated by teachers between bully and victim can be construed as intimidation not mediation. Getting a child to walk in the shoes of another -discrimination. Schools educate on Anti-bullying but the truth is- bullying starts at home.

A common reason that a kid is a bully is because he/she lacks attention from a parent at home and lashes out at others for attention. This can include neglected children, children of divorced parents, or children with parents under the regular influence of drugs/alcohol.

Now the father is this video may disagree that he does any of the above but perhaps he doesn’t handle conflict well and that’s where the child has learned this behaviour. Perhaps the child was standing up just as the father believes he did for his child and the children that were bullied. Perhaps the joking about the child becoming either ‘obedient or fast’ has had a greater affect than he thought. Perhaps Dad following him to school is the attention that the child has been craving and he has certainly been rewarded for his efforts; he and his dad are now famous. Every time Dads chest puffs out because someone acknowledges him and the video the child could possibly think ‘ I did that, Dad is proud.’

Doesn’t every child seek their parents approval? Hmm maybe not looking as effective now?

This leads me to reactive punishment and why it doesn’t work. You need to find the root cause of the behaviour in order to modify it for successful outcomes. All behaviour aims to achieve something and there are multiple ways to behave to get the same result you need to teach the right way and be sure they understand the right way to behave before you punish, otherwise what’s the point?  The only thing is your teaching them if you punish before you teach is that the particular approach they adopted doesn’t work. You are not giving them tools to be successful.

I have often witnessed that not setting kids up for success and continually punishing for failure eventually lead to low self esteem and not even trying anymore.

I believe that this child in the video is unlikely to do what he did again but I am not sure has he learned to overcome the problem successfully next time. And undoubtedly the problem will rise again, that’s just life.

I don’t disagree with discipline because Discipline is training people to obey rules or follow an acceptable way to behave. Nor do I disagree with a suitable punishment when the rules aren’t followed. I disagree with reactive punishment for something that someone didn’t know was wrong in the first place or doesn’t know how to do differently. Based on limited information I don’t think the child would have continually bullied if he had:

  • Known how his bullying was wrong. I believe he knew that he was being a bully but felt justified in his actions.
  • How to handle the situation differently.

Or here’s a thought since the father said  ‘Ironically since he’s been running to school this week his behaviour has been better.’ Maybe the child isn’t getting the exercise he needs.  A study on physical activity and the effects on kids with ADHD found behaviour was improved with physical activity.

Nevertheless, it had a significant impact on information processing and on other important functional domains such as social skills and behavior. After the program, higher scores in behavior and attention functions were present in the experimental group without changes in the aerobic fitness level.

– Verret, Claudia & Guay, M.-C & Berthiaume, Claude & Gardiner, Phillip & Béliveau, Louise. (2012). A Physical Activity Program Improves Behavior and Cognitive Functions in Children With ADHD.

I know that the above study is for kids with ADHD and I am not saying that this is what the child has however I feel that the statement applies to most children these days. They just aren’t getting the physical exercise they need to function, they don’t get enough activity to ‘turn the brain on’ but that’s something I will rant about another day.

I don’t agree with filming the child but the man was trying to do something. Could it have been done differently ? Yes, But I am not about to punish a man who doesn’t know instead I will raise awareness by educating on other options.

On Friday the 16th of March Australian schools will celebrate the National Day of Action against bullying. Parents can access strategies at this goes over what to do if your child is being bullied and what to do if your child IS the bully.

If  bullying is affecting your child’s life, I hope you come up with an effective plan of action, If you do, please don’t film it.



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