Thursday, April 7, 2011

Turning Your Own Kid in For Bullying?

There was a NYT article online recently about bullying, which linked to this intriguing news story out of Queensland, Australia about a father who reported his 17-year-old son and his 15-year-old daughter to the police when he caught them battering a 13-year-old boy.

I was really struck by comment #17 to the NYT article, from KS in San Diego, California, who wrote:

"This is going to sound totally off the wall, but I think that every parent should HOPE that their child does something completely stupid at a fairly young age (ie, before that act can cause much damage) just so the child can face the consequences and see that their parents are serious about what they're teaching them."

"As a small child (8 or so?) I threw a rock at another kid and hit her in the head--she needed stitches. I didn't even know her, just found a rock and decided to throw it. But I can tell you that my parents came down on me like avenging furies, and I never did anything even remotely similar again."

"My own kids once stole eggs from a neighbor's chicken and used them to egg a local (not their own) school. I'm pretty sure the fallout there was something neither of them will ever forget--nor should they. I'm just glad it happened while they were young enough that I didn't feel the need to involve police."

Your thoughts?


Clare said...

I think I agree. I mean, I hope I raise my children well enough that they don't make utterly idiotic decisions. But if they're going to (and it's likely that they will, in fact, do stupid shit despite my best efforts), I'd like it to be when they're old enough to learn from it but young enough that it doesn't cause too much harm to their "permanent record."

It's the same reason I don't really check my son's homework. Yes, he's only in 1st grade, but my nagging him did nothing but make us both miserable. I figure he'll learn to make sure he does it all, and it doesn't really matter if he misses something now. And I have to say, he's been a lot more conscientious since he missed recess one day because he forgot to do his math homework than he ever was when I hovered over his shoulder. If he asks for help, I help him, but getting it done is pretty much all his responsibility.

NK: Style-ING w/ Children said...

I think it would really depend on the temperament of the child in question. Some children are more conscious of their actions and some are more selfish, and, as parents, we just have to accept our children for who they are. It is the whole nature vs. nurture thing. However, I would like to point out that if I caught my child bullying another child, there would be very severe consequences to that behaviour. And I would hope that the combination of nature vs. nurture has given them a proper view of their role in the society.

Jac said...

I agree with this. My dad was a total a-hole growing up but the one thing I actually think he did correctly was scare the beejezus out of us about consequences.

We grew up next door to a police officer. When my brother took some money out of my dad's wallet my dad marched him over to the policeman's house and made him confess and ask the policeman not to send him to jail. I remember my brother BAWLING (he would have been about 11). Harsh, but it scared him straight.

Cloud said...

I definitely think there should be consequences for bad actions. Dealing out those consequences is part of parenting.

But I'm not sure I'd turn my kids into the police for bullying. I don't know. I guess I hope that I'd find out before it got so severe that calling the police would be a sensible thing to do. Actually, I hope that my kids will not be bullies, but I don't think I can count on that- just try to make it happen.

And I agree with @NK- the most effective way to teach a lesson will be different for different kids.

mom2boy said...

I guess it goes back to how much influence you really think you have over your child's behavior once they are too big to pick up and carry.

In contrast to comment #17, I have a very vivid memory of a similar incident at a birthday party. I was in the fourth grade. It was Josh G.'s birthday. We were all outside running around, it was summer, and god knows what possessed me but I threw an unopened can of soda at Gary F. and hit him right in the eye. I was mortified. No one yelled at me though. Josh's mom told me throwing things at people in general wasn't a good idea and they gave Gary some ice and the party went on. I don't know that anyone even said anything to my mom. Regardless, I never threw anything at anyone who wasn't ready to catch it ever again. you have to be rained down on like all fire and fury for an event to make a lasting impression and direct future behavior? I don't think so.

the milliner said...

DH and I have this conversation now and again. In fact, we had it yesterday. DS was playing on the deck while I was cleaning the BBQ. I didn't notice that he was fiddling with my (heavy) bike, and it fell, hitting him slightly, but scaring him more. Tears ensued but he was OK. DH says that he's glad stuff like that happens so that he can learn the consequences. For some reason he's big on DS learning physical consequences especially. I think it's how he was raised.

But I'm not sure I agree totally. Not surprisingly, it's not how I was raised, and yet, I think I'm very aware of the consequences of my actions. I agree that the silver lining to it happening is that DS gets the natural consequences of his actions and hopefully will think again before playing with a big and heavy object.

But, I don't think he needs to always learn this way all of the time, or even most of the time. Especially since he is a VERY sensitive child (as DH and I were). I actually think that for most things he will learn better if we talk it through first (i.e. potential consequences)...esp when the stakes are higher - i.e. he can be significantly hurt physically or emotionally.

I think that DH learning a lot through only suffering the consequences of his actions shaped his general view point of 'I deserved it, it's my fault', which I think was/is detrimental to his self esteem. Not to mention I think it makes it very difficult for him to empathize with someone else when they have made a mistake. I think there's a certain amount of shame DH feels when he's done something wrong. Instead of taking responsibility for his actions (and therefore making amends / fixing the situation) he more has the attitude of 'I did something wrong and now I must be damned to hell. I don't deserve forgiveness'. That's powerful stuff. I don't think it's reasonable to expect kids to have all of the answers or understand all of the consequences behind something. Yes, hold them to the highest standards for their age level. But there has to be guidance with that. I think that had he had more direction from his parents regarding the potential consequences of his actions (and how they could be prevented before they happened, or what the possible outcomes might be) he would have a healthier view point regarding consequences to actions and how to right wrongs (when they can be).

All that being said, I agree (as in the homework example) that when you're repeating things over and over again, the best teacher is usually first hand experience of the consequences. And as @Cloud said, hopefully we will not get to the point where calling the police seems like the sensible thing to do. I guess for most kids it's probably a combination of teaching & guiding as parents as well as setting limits and consequences along the way. In general, I don't really believe in scare tactics because I think the feeling that led the kid to do that particular thing crops up in other ways, and consequently is not addressed. But, until you're in a situation, it's a bit hard to judge others' actions.

hush said...

"Depends on the personality of the kid" and "when kids get older perhaps parents aren't as influential" has to be the correct answers - which all of you basically said. Maybe in the extreme cases of older teenagers being physically violent, a parent calling in the cops might just be the appropriate course of action. But of course that means certain Very Important Life Lessons weren't learned at the appropriate age. I wouldn't have the balls to do it to my own - here in the US being put in jail for any amount of time too often subjects a person to horrible violence. Let's hope this is a bridge none of us will ever need to cross.