In Shawano, WI a new ordinance allows police to fine parents $366 if they’ve been informed their child is bullying and they do nothing about it.
Bullying is being defined as including actions of physical, verbal, and/or cyberbullying in this new move, which went into effect the last week of April. Parents of the “offending” children who are caught bullying are going to be given 90-days to take steps to stop the bad behavior of their children. If they fail to correct the behavior, the $366 fine will be imposed. If there’s a second offense within a year, the fine increases to $681.
I’m on the fence about this, as on one hand, bullying–particularly the cyberbullying variety through social media can be quite vicious, because those doing the bullying are able to hide behind the computer. But at the same time, I’d like to think that if given the proper instruction, a child could effectively ignore, or more effectively put a bully in his or her place eloquently. What I mean by that is, my parents taught us to be ourselves and if others didn’t like us for who we were, we didn’t need that kind of negativity in our lives, so we basically avoided dealing with those people, or let their mean comments roll off of our backs.
I may be oversimplifying this, but I distinctly remember as a kid playing outside with my brother one summer afternoon, and one of the neighbors, an unruly boy hollered over to us in a sing-song manner, “We have peanut butter sandwiches, and you guys don’t!”
This may seem ridiculous, but it’s true. I almost responded, but my brother held up his hand and told me to just stay quiet.
The neighbor kid yelled it again, “We have peanut butter sandwiches, and you guys don’t!”
A snarky grin covered my brother’s face, as he hollered back, “What?”
The neighbor boy, with a little more volume cried out again, “We have peanut butter sandwiches, and you guys don’t!”
Again, my brother bellowed back, “What?!”
This went on for about two minutes, with my brother only forcing the neighbor boy to screech his taunting so loud that eventually, he shouted back, “Never mind!”
And my brother turned to me with a big smile and a wink.
It was a classic lesson for me on how to deal with bullies for the rest of my life. But today, we’re at a point where now the police have to get involved and shut down the behavior for a number of reasons it would seem. First and foremost, there are parents who are not fully engaged with their children and don’t recognize the offending behavior in their children, or they don’t want to believe that it exists, so they live in denial about it; allowing the behavior to fester and morph into a more serious problem down the road. Secondly, technology today, as mentioned earlier makes bullying too easy to do for some kids, allowing them to remain anonymous.
I don’t know what the right answer is, but I’m not sure if fining parents for their children’s bullying is going to fix the problem. What do you think?