What Would You Do if You Found Out That Your Kid Was a Bully?

If I found out that my kid was the school bully, I’d be horrified. And embarrassed. We try to teach kindness in our house. But, I wouldn’t humiliate, publicly shame, and bully him right back, like Wisconsin dad Timothy Robenhorst did when he found out that his son Kayden was a bully.

Timothy said on Facebook that he wanted to make sure his middle schooler never bullied another classmate again. So he implemented a five-part punishment, which involved Kayden waking up at 4:30 a.m. to do two different types of push-ups, run a mile, and do landscaping work. Kayden had to apologize for bullying in front of his entire class. He was also forced to pose for a photo alongside his dad with a sign revealing his name and a confession that he was a bully; he had to post that photo to his own Facebook page. Timothy also posted the photo to Facebook, and it has been shared over 1,000 times. 

“I teach my kids they do not start fights but if someone puts their hands on them they finish it,” Timothy wrote alongside the photo. “This is what happens when you become a bully! I don’t put up with it and at 4:30 a.m. today my son found out what happens when you pray [sic] on people and bully! Please share this to end this behavior everywhere! Nothing changes until you take a stance and it only takes one person to start a revolution!”

Last year, my son had to ride the bus to school with kids who were unkind and often mean. One in particular would tease my son, who was then a kindergartener, until he cried. Not one other child helped my son, nor did the bully’s parents ever intervene. As the parent of a child who has been bullied, I commend any parent of a bully who lets his or her child know that bullying won’t be tolerated. But I can’t help but wonder exactly what Kayden is supposed to learn from his Dad’s five-part plan?

Because to me, it seems like Kayden’s dad is a giant bully himself, who thinks that public humiliation will somehow make his child a nicer person.  It’s unconscionable to me to put a child’s name and face all over Facebook so a group of strangers can treat the story like a modern-day Gladiator match. And to publicly shame a child, no matter what his actions are, seems irresponsible and reckless.  It also seems like a recipe to make your child a bigger, meaner bully.

I think bullies should be punished and their behavior needs to be addressed. But that doesn’t mean that we get to be bullies ourselves. So while Timothy Robenhorst may seem like an involved dad who refuses to ignore his son’s bad behavior, he’s actually modeling the same bullying behavior back to his son.

So what would I do if I found out my kid was a bully? Would I put him to work? Possibly. Would I make him apologize to the child he bullied? Absolutely. Would I humiliate him in front of thousands of people? No way. Even at their worst, our children deserve our best. But chances are, this kid wouldnt have been such a bully if he didn’t have the kind of dad who would humiliate him online.

Photo: Getty