No matter how many parenting books you read, there is never enough information to prepare you for the real-life situations your kids will put you in. So naturally, parenting is a trial and error process not only for the child but for the parent who is constantly working to find the best way to teach their child a lesson and prepare them to be the best adult that they can be.
We usually teach our children that actions have consequences through punishments. Bullying is one of the most devasting circumstances that a child can find themselves in, so we do our best to protect our children from it and teach them to keep away from doing it. But what happens when you learn that it is your own child who is the bully? Is there a right way to handle the situation? A simple slap on the wrist isn’t enough when bullying children and young people under 25 who are victims ofbullying are more than twice as likely to self-harm and enact suicidal behavior. So was this dad in the right to take extreme action when he found out his daughter bullied a girl with cancer or was he a bully himself?
A Fight Over A Boy
It all started as part of a fight over a boy, a typical dispute that happens between teenage girls. The dad explained the situation on a post on Reddit that has since been deleted. He explains that there was some bad blood between the two girls over a guy they both had gotten involved with. The girl who was sick with cancer had called the daughter names, which escalated the situation.
Although the dad recognizes that this was no excuse, he explains: “She bullied a student who had lost her hair because of cancer treatment…My daughter even removed the wig from another girl.” Now you can imagine how vulnerable it would be for a young girl to lose all her hair and have to wear a wig to deal with her illness so there really was no context where the bullying should have been justified from either end.
Actions Have Consequences
When the dad found out that his daughter not only made fun of the young girl who had just shaved her head due to cancer but even pulled her wig off, he was appalled. He knew that he would have to teach his daughter a lesson so that that type of behavior is never repeated. He explains that he had the guard over the 16-year-old girls and says “I mention this because what I did and what I will report here, I did without consulting my ex.”
Although experts recommend that even divorced parents reach mutual agreements about the discipline of their children, the dad decided to act alone as he had full custody and feels as though the mother has moved on with her new family.
The Daughter Showed No Remorse
The dad felt like he had drastic action because his daughter didn’t even seem to feel bad for what she had done: “I didn’t raise my daughter to treat people the way she did, and I was disgusted by her attitude,”
He goes on to add: “To make matters worse, my daughter showed no remorse about what she did and stated that the girl in question deserved it…. “
Two Options For Punishment
So the dad decided to give his daughter two options for punishment. For the first one, he suggested: I would [take] all her electronics, including her cell phone, and she would never have others again.”
Although that would be any teenager’s worst nightmare, the second option was even worst: “or she would go to a hairdresser and have her head shaved.” And no, he didn’t mean just a little haircut: “She will go to the hairdresser and get a cue ball haircut. As in, a completely shaved head, as bald as the hairdresser can do.” That is when the controversy started.
The Mother Thinks The Day Went “Overboard”
The girl chose to have her hair shaved off, probably out of fear of being exiled and not having any way of communicating with her world. Except going back to school with a shaved head would be equally hard considering the fragile state of teenagers.
That is exactly why the daughter’s mother was furious. The dad explains: “her mother went ballistic at me,” he said, stating that his wife was worried their daughter would become the target of bullying.” Yet the dad had no regrets and thought “kind of the point,” if she were to get bullied too as it could, “teach her some compassion,” according to him.
How Far Is Too Far?
The dad’s decision was met with a lot of controversies not only by the girl’s mother but the Reddit community where he posted about it. Yet, he held his stance: “I came up with the punishment because I thought my daughter had an extreme lack of empathy for the girl she bullied,” he says. “my daughter knows this, and that is what really disgusted me with her behavior. It demonstrated a complete and utter lack of empathy. I hoped that her going to school bald and walking a mile in the other girl’s shoes would teach her a lesson.”
Still, the Reddit community worries that his punishment was too extreme and would have the reverse effect of its intention. One person even thought the dad himself was a bully: “Your daughter is a bully because you are a bully. I seriously doubt this is the first time you used abuse and humiliation to ‘teach her a lesson.’” People felt as though there many others better suited punishments.
Another commented: “Taking away her electronics would have been an appropriate punishment. Grounding her would have been an appropriate punishment. Disrespecting her right to bodily autonomy and humiliating her is not an appropriate punishment. She’s unlikely to learn from it and if anything it risks perpetuating a cycle of bullying..”
Other Courses Of Action
It’s hard to be in the dad’s situation because we never want to condone bullying or let a child get away with thinking that it’s justified. Bullying can have lifetime damaging effects on those experiencing it. However, experts believe that there are some techniques parents can employ to better deal with situations like this.
They recommend acknowledging the situation first, to ask what happened and why. Giving them the space to tell their side of the story can take them off the defense and prepare them to take accountability. Then the second step would be to ask questions such as how they would feel if the situation was reversed. This would set up the stage to find lessons that help them develop solutions and think of better courses of action for the future.
Higher Perspectives Author is one of the authors writing for Higher Perspectives