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Should Parents Be Fined or Jailed If Their Children Bully People?


Analyzing why people do the things they do and how those things affect others is one of my favorite pastimes. I enjoy finding solutions.

Boy crying

Boy crying

Who Is to Blame When Children Bully?

Most children who bully learn this behavior after having been bullied themselves or after having witnessed somebody else bullying others. Before technology gave people the power to hurt others instantly without talking on a phone or confronting them in person, many bullies learned this behavior at home. Whether they were the victims of misguided disciplinary tactics or siblings who taunted them relentlessly, they imitated behaviors that felt normal to them. In some households, parents and siblings still bully members of their families. However, most parents and siblings have become more aware of how damaging their words and actions could be to their loved ones, making it less often that these behaviors are learned in the home. In addition, children with internet access witness other children and adults cyberbullying each other daily, making it more likely that children learn to bully through people outside the home.

What If the Child Learns to Bully From the Parents?

Children learn to bully by observing or being the victim of other bullies. Sometimes those bullies are the child's own parents. Fining those parents for their children's behavior may put the child in danger of more severe punishment. It's unlikely that this would teach the child not to bully. More likely, it will make the child internalize their anger until they can release it on others who have less power over them.

Changes to Begin the Fight Against Bullying

The internet, with all its capabilities to connect people with other people across the world, came in like a wildfire and nobody really knew what to expect. Most parents are only just beginning to learn how their children can be negatively influenced online. Therefore, the fault lies not so much with parents as it does with society in general. Social media site owners need to better inform parents of the risks and dangers of internet access. A static notice visible on every page accessed by the public should outline what steps to take when people are victimized by bullies or when they witness other people being cyberbullied. Adults need to be kinder to each other, especially, in the presence of children whether online or in person. Many adults cyberbully other adults online. If we must fine or jail anybody for bullying, wouldn't it be more effective to start with them? After all, they control their own actions and they are influencing the children.

Police fining parent for cyberbullying

Police fining parent for cyberbullying

Are Parents Being Bullied With Fines

In an article by Carol Kuruvilla in the New York Daily News, the town of Monona, Wisconsin, began fining parents who had previously been made aware their child bullied someone if the child again bullied that person. The fine increases each time the child bullies that person. According to Ms. Kuruvilla, the ordinance defines bullying as "an intentional course of conduct which is reasonably likely to emotionally abuse, slander, threaten or intimidate another person and which serves no legitimate purpose."

By this definition alone, the ordinance to fine parents, as well as jail them, is an act of bullying. It's a way to threaten or intimidate parents into accepting responsibility and paying the consequences for an act they may not have contributed to nor had any control over. It's a way to slander them by branding them bad parents for not stopping their child from acting without empathy. Fining or jailing parents does nothing to punish the bully. It does nothing to instill empathy in him or her. It does nothing to ensure that the bully will not repeat their behavior. Therefore, there is no legitimate purpose to fine or incarcerate parents.

Is There a Correlation Between Bullying and Puberty?

Bullying tends to be most prevalent during the years children commonly go through puberty. According to a study referenced in Health Psychology and Behavioral Medicine, a Finnish study found in girls that "very early puberty increased the risk of being a bully over threefold and for boys over twofold compared with peers with late puberty." In addition, the journal states that children going through puberty may become the victims of bullies because of the differences in their bodily changes.

Most parents in the United States have little knowledge or access to correspondence regarding puberty and how that phase might contribute to the possibility of their child becoming a bully or a victim of one. If this information was readily available to parents, perhaps through pamphlets in doctors office, parents might be more apt to discuss these issues with their children before they are in the throws of puberty. They might be able to recognize the signs of bullying and address it sooner.

What to Do When Children Refuse to Obey Rules

Many children experience a defiant stage, especially during puberty. Parents often try to instill morals and values in them which includes treating people with respect. However, with hormones going haywire and wrecking havoc on their emotions and moods, some children lash out at people trying to guide them. In this stage, many of them believe they can find their own way. Rules and advice given by parents take a back seat. As a result, they may bully someone against the demands of their parents. Parents might enlist the help of another adult the child admires or law enforcement to get their child to understand bullying hurts innocent people and it's unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

What Role Could Law Enforcement Play in Encouraging Bullies to Change Their Behavior

Police officers often have to use coercion with criminals to safely get them to comply with their demands. However, bullies rarely cause a threat to people likely to stand up to them. In most instances, it's not necessary for police to be forceful or intimidating toward them. In fact, this type of behavior from the police would likely encourage more of that behavior from the bullies especially if their behavior is the result of somebody else treating them that way. While police officers should be firm, when bullies witness people of authority demonstrating empathy, they feel the strength behind it and may become more empathetic toward peers who are bullied.

Their punishment for a first offense might be for the bully to come to the police station after school every day for a week and clean the office or hand wash all the cars in their fleet. While the bully performs these chores, the officer could try to get to the bottom of why the perpetrator bullied the child. Many children feel interrogated when their parents ask them questions; however, they may answer more freely when other adults question them. With so many outside influences, a little help from people outside the home may be enough to encourage a bully to stop being mean to others.

How Should Parents React Upon Learning Their Child Bullied Someone

Sometimes even the most well behaved children try to show off in front of their peers by teasing or taunting another child. Their intention may be to test the level of control they could have over another person's feelings or actions. They may feel inadequate and mistakenly believe that bullying others will lift them up. A parent should not be too quick to dismiss an act of bullying. Some parents believe it's a natural part of growing up; however, for the person bullied it most likely was a traumatizing experience. It may have been another traumatizing experience on top of others the bullied suffered from other bullies. After verifying the accusation of bullying is true, a parent needs to administer appropriate discipline firmly and swiftly. The parent should show empathy for the bullied child so their child understands nobody deserves to be treated without it.

Should Children Have Texting and Unsupervised Internet Access?

Parents should refrain from allowing their children to have phones capable of texting and online access. If we're going to fine parents for not doing their jobs, maybe the ones who allow children to have these things should be fined. Most children are not mature enough to grasp the dangers and consequences they could face or cause to others through their correspondence.

Kids often have a stronger sense of being invincible and feeling like nothing bad will happen to them as a consequence of their behavior. In addition to the dangers they could get themselves into with strangers such as human trafficking or kidnapping, children text mean messages to or about their peers and post compromising photos of themselves that often cause them to become the target of bullies. A phone with only voice calling is a much safer alternative.

Parents should also monitor their children's internet access in the home by keeping a desktop computer in the living room or dining room so they can easily look in on what is being viewed or said to others. Too many children are committing suicide and finding themselves in other dangers for parents to ignore the dangers this access puts in their lives.

Does Fining Parents For Child Bullying Disproportionately Punish Poor People?

A single parent working two minimum wage jobs struggles to meet the bills. For that parent, a $170.00 fine might cover the gas and electric bill. Those services will be shut off if not paid. The reason she may not be able to get her child to obey her could be because she's working all the time. She can't afford to pay more than minimum wage for childcare because that would defeat the purpose of her working. Therefore, her childcare provider leaves much to be desired. In fact, the child may be learning his or her bullying behavior from the babysitter. When the parent doesn't pay the fine, a warrant goes out for her arrest and eventually this problem lands her in jail. Fines should never be an option for governments to use, especially when the person being fined has no control over the actions that brought on the fines. Punish the perpetrator by having them do community service. This approach makes it more equal to people of all social classes.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.


Brad on May 14, 2019:


I didn't understand your point.

BTW, The democrats have bullied the congress and the president since 2016 and they set an example for the kids. The kids see how the democrat bullies get away with it, and they are their role models.

That is where politics come into play. It is national, and maybe international in its scope.

H Lax (author) on March 25, 2018:

bradmaster, bullying is much different now and much harder to get through for kids because they don't get a break from it. They spend most of their time online, not outside being active, so they are more active bullying people online and there are many more of them. It has nothing to do with being liberal or conservative. Every kid has a phone and that makes the biggest difference in bullying and why kids can't let go of being hurt by others...the beatings never stop. More people are involved in lashing the victims. Parents didn't stop spanking their children because liberals fought for laws to make them stop, if parents aren't spanking their children it's because they want to give them everything they didn't have. In the process, they aren't giving their kids the important things that they did have. It's everybody...politics don't matter.

Brad on March 25, 2018:

S Maree

I know this wasn't answering my comment.

So I will add to my comment.

In this century, the democrats and the liberals in education have totally changed the rules of parenting. The schools have been where the liberal ideas have been continuously fed to the students. They have been pampered by these liberals taking all the social and academic pressure that exists.

No one loses a sports game, and everyone gets a trophy. No bullying, safe zones etc. These are all artificial aides that don't and never will exist in the real world. When they kids graduate and go into the real world, they are like wild animals that have been raised in captivity, and then released in the wild.

Every generation of kids had their bullies, and they were disciplined by their parents. All in all, they seemed to have turned out OK. Now, the schools have become the parents using tricks of the mind, trying to bend reality into something they can avoid.

This current generation is the worst, and they are the product of the liberals.

S Maree on March 25, 2018:

Some people have no business being parents! I have cousins who were adopted out of drug-infested houses. The "parents" allowed them to run around in filthy diapers, cooked meth around the kids, & for "fun", burned them with whatever was handy & beat them for minor infractions.

Don't tell me society had no business rescuing those kids! They'd likely be dead or turned into street waifs being used by pimps.

You hear in the news often of "good, respectable" parents who made their kids lives a living hell. Even torturing, raping, & killing them! Parents are supposed to prepare kids for adulthood, not take out their rage, frustration, power trips, or pretend they don't exist. THAT's when society needs to step in & rescue them!

Plenty of people, many just kids themselves, making pipe bombs, torturing animals, shooting up schools, etc. And parents aren't to be held accountable for some or all of this?

Sure, In a perfect world ineffective or bad parents should volunteer to give up children for adoption or go to parenting classes. But how many do it VOLUNTARILY? Most have this "my kid, I OWN him!" attitude. Nope! Doesn't work that way! Just 'cause you bring a child into the world, you have absolutely NO RIGHT to harm him!

I had corporal punishment from parents who truly loved me. They never left a mark or hurt my psyche. Parents like them, who know the difference between instructional, corporal punishment, and abuse, seem to be a dying breed.

But I will never forget those damaged, frightened, mentally & physically beaten little girls my relatives took on. It was YEARS before they even began to seem normal. Despite their best efforts, one chose to return to her natural parents after turning 18. She's now just as drug raddled as her natural parents, and she's had more kids that she expects my relatives to raise.

This is not isolated. It's happening everywhere! Let abusive parents discipline their kids without interference? I don't buy that at all!

Brad on March 24, 2018:

When you take away the parents ability to discipline their children, then you should blame society as they took discipline out of the family.

Everton on March 23, 2018:

I totally disagree. I find it fascinating that many who espouse this position on "bullying," seem to choose to ignore this behavior in other species. What you call "bullying" is in fact more accurately referred to as Social Darwinism. The notion of a child recognizing the feelings of another child when communicating or interacting is patently ridiculous. Bullying builds character. It has been going on in EVERY species that has a social living structure for MILLIONS of years. And, the main reason for the advancement of our species, is that we humans, more than most if not all of other species, eliminate the weak.

All of this 'Wah Wah Wah, my son killed himself because he was bullied at school or online" is just silly. If a parent raises a child so weak as to have his/her need for social acceptance outweigh his/her survival instinct, that represents a massive failure on behalf of the PARENTS of that bullied child: NOT the parents of the bully, or even the bully his/herslf. That child is so weak that a collection of sentences is enough for them to put a bullet in their brain, or hang themselves? Are you kidding me? Hate to be so blunt, but a child that weak was not contributing to the human race. He was not going to grow up to do anything special other than have kids who are even more weak and useless. Life is a right, but survival is a privilege. And, if that sounds harsh you should watch some more National Geographic.

We are not talking about children who are molested by adults, or physically abused, or suffering from a cruel illness, or has mental problems. We are talking about kids who can't handle the fact that nobody likes the way they dress, or look, or smell, or speak, or walk. Kids who don't like their hairstyle. Kids that don't like their body weight. Or kids who don't like how much or how little money the parents have. SO WHAT!!!

THAT is the lesson that these "bullied" kids should be taught. The lesson of "So What."

'Mommy, this girl at Melissa at school said I was a fat cow'

The mom say "So what. Who is Melissa? You are beautiful baby! Melissa nor anybody else sets the standard for beauty around here"

'Teacher, Billy said that he was going to beat me up because I dress like a faggot'

The teacher says "First of all, Billy is not going to touch you before, during, or after school. And, if he does he will be expelled from this school permanently. And, secondly So What. Do you think that I care what Billy thinks about my outfit? Do you think that I looked in the mirror this morning and asked said to myself "Gee I hope Billy likes this dress?" Of course I didn't. Billy does not set the standard for what clothes you, nor me, nor ANYBODY else should wear. You are dressed wonderfully. Now send Billy over here to me so that I can tell him not to lay a finger on you."

THAT is how you raise children.

Racial bullying. That is different and unacceptable. Religious bullying. Same thing. But stop this cry baby approach to bullies.

H Lax (author) on March 22, 2018:

Thanks S Maree, I hope people who read my article continue down to read your messages. They are so important to help bring about change and improve everybody's lives especially the children.

S Maree on March 22, 2018:

And yes, I agree with your last sentence! Punish the guilty -- only! But if we can only reach out to educate the parents who cannot control their children! Help them find places to go & resources to turn to when it gets difficult to deal with the children! And do take those texting devices away! A simple talk phone is all a kid needs. They can be muted in serious situations. Socialization is seriously compromised & we're seeing the tragedies that result!

Old resources are being shunned due to media hype. Churches are still some of the best places to go for group support, as are children's organizations. They must never be parental substitutes, nor should parents ever let their guard down when it come to protective instincts.

But REACH OUT! Talk to doctors, social workers, pastors, teachers, parenting groups. They're out there. Ask pediatricians; they have scads of resources, most without cost to financially strapped families.

Children do not need to fall between the cracks and bullying can be fought & defeated. But parents who won't even TRY to find help, allowing the children to suffer, need SOMETHING to wake them up!

If you know a child needing help, and the parents refuse to act, call your local Child Protective Services. If parents won't protect children, the community must!

And TALK to the kids! Please keep the interrogative voice at bay unless a really serious breach occurs. Main thing is give them a sounding board with options. Choices. How many parents really teach their children the art of weighing options? How many explain good, neutral, bad, evil? It doesn't stop after the "terrible twos". It goes on for life.

I was a very fortunate person to have had the kind of parents who set standards, boundaries, morals, & expectations. They let me push, but not too far, and their expectations changed as I became an adult.

Was I a great success? No, not really. Only years later do I look back & say "crud, I should'a listened better". But, I think they would be satisfied I'm more a benefit than a menace to society, & leave no injured parties seeking a pound of flesh.

H Lax (author) on March 22, 2018:

Thank you S Maree for that insightful and important message to parents. When I was a kid I had to ask permission to use the landline phone. Parents really do need to step up and learn how to say No for their children's safety and benefit.

S Maree on March 22, 2018:

I believe bullying is also passed on from siblings. This is one reason why the problem seems a never-ending cycle. A child can either BE bullied by a sibling, or LEARN how to bully by emulating behaviors of siblings who bully others.

Let's face it; bullying is power. Most everyone wants power, but it's learning behaviors of manipulation & the buzz they get from bullying that fuels bullies with the ammunition they need. Bullying can change brain patterns. It's addicting!

In the old days when physical confrontations occurred, the weapons of a bully were:

Physical size (or a larger person with authority who would provide backup).

Experience (participating in or watching other bullying behaviors).

Sycophants (a coterie of hangers-on to provide backup & alibis).

Currency (access to money, desired objects or needs).

Location (privacy to pull off intimidating acts).

Lack of development (of morals, altruism, & empathy).

Lack of responsible supervision (those who would make the child accountable & atone for bullying).

Today, with the cloak of anonymity, bullying is reaching heights never before imagined. Today's bully can not only tap into the weapons of old, but do it in isolation, or with the backing of barely or completely unknown "friends" within a website that has next to no supervision.

Websites can be raided & shut down, but such is the pertinacity of the web (appropriate moniker!), that when one site shuts down, another can be created.

Before anyone decides to have a child, REAL consideration must take place between parents-to-be about children & the cyber world.

NOW is the time to set up agreed-upon guidelines & make plans. DO NOT just think this can be dealt with when the time is right. WHEN IS THE "RIGHT" TIME? WHO will have access to your child (even other children)?

Will you keep up with web developments, or like so many parents, let other life matters cause you to fall behind? Believe me, catching up gets harder as time slips by.

And, this is so CRITICAL! What are YOUR beliefs about altruism, humanity, empathy, & kindness? What are YOU planning to pass to your children? What kind of tolerance & understanding of others do you practice, uphold, defend?

It starts in the womb. You will be putting another human being in the world. Your responsibility is that that human gets the best start possible. How willing are you to accept help when offered? Will you be insular, or let the village try to assist you? Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating giving your child over to others to raise, but accepting or at least listening to experiences of others can be of immense help.

For every child without access to electronic communications, there will be others around that have. They're waiting to take over your child's life. Are you ready for the battle? The lines are drawn!

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