As parents grapple with the question of how to teach their children to be kind to one another, the internet has presented us with two very different approaches: Last week, a Virginia dad’s video of his 10-year-old son jogging to school in the rain as punishment for being a bully on the bus went viral. Meanwhile, a video of two mothers forcing their boys to apologize to a girl they bullied is also being shared by millions.
The second video, which Facebook user Keshia Larry posted on Feb. 27 — we don’t know whether it was hers originally — shows two boys entering their elementary school holding balloons, flowers, and a gift bag. A woman filming and another woman at their side encourages the boys to approach a girl and speak up.
“I’m sorry for calling you a ‘four for four’ and it will never happen again,” says one boy. “You are a beautiful black queen.”
The other boy is too quiet to hear, but his mother takes over to explain the gifts he presents to her: Silly Putty, a plush star, and a feathered mask.
“In the Bible, it says that all of us are clay and we have to be molded, so he bought you clay, so that when they’re bothering you, when you feel bad, you play with it and you know that you’re molding clay and you make something very special and very pretty, because that’s who you are. … You don’t let nobody — I don’t care who it is — tear you down.”
In contrast to the Virginia father’s jogging punishment, this looks more like the method child and adolescent psychologist Barbara Greenberg recommends to parents who discover their child has been a bully.
“You can give them a consequence, like having them do repair work, like engage in some acts of kindness and apologize,” Greenberg tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “You were mean; how are you going to be kind? How are you going to fix this? The consequence has to fit the act of bullying.”
The federal government’s StopBullying.gov site also has the same advice about how to address bullying behavior. “Consequences that involve learning or building empathy can help prevent future bullying,” the site states. It recommends that parents try to learn what led to the bad behavior and then get their children involved in doing something like writing a letter to the person they bullied, or doing a good deed for the other child or the community.
It’s also important that parents model correct behavior for their children, and that means not shaming them as a punishment.
“You teach your children nothing by shaming them,” Greenberg says. “In fact, what you do is you make them sad, and you make them more prone to engage in other kinds of problematic behavior.”
In other words, she says, the mothers in this latest video, who send their kids to class with a hug and a smile, are doing things right.
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