Bullying comes in many forms, even if it looks like good parenting

Bullying comes in many forms, even if it looks like good parenting


By John Engh

Executive Director of NAYS

So, this is a great reminder for coaches, and if any parents glean some information off this post, I won’t mind one bit.

A video went viral this week that shows a young boy being forced to jog to school as punishment for his behavior on the school bus. Now, I don’t have all the facts, but his dad mentions that he was kicked off the bus for three days for bullying other kids, according to this Washington Post story.

As coaches and parents, our first reaction when a child acts out is many times to immediately jump to deciding upon an appropriate punishment. But while punishment for inappropriate actions is usually an appropriate response, sometimes there are bigger issues that need to be addressed. But I’ll get to that in a moment. 

First, let’s talk about the coaching implications. I stated at the beginning that this story should be a “reminder” for coaches. Our organization, the National Alliance for Youth Sports, has always taught that using physical activity as a punishment is never a good idea for children. Why? Because as coaches, one of our most important goals, and especially for younger children, is to teach a love of activity and physical fitness. Using running and pushups as punishment certainly doesn’t help us accomplish this goal. In this situation, maybe just let the child decide whether to walk or run. I am sure not having a ride is a solid punishment, but making him run sends the wrong message about running as something negative.

Now let’s talk about the parenting aspect of this punishment. First, I think parents should have the same goals as coaches as far as trying to get our children to love physical activity. But what I think is even more important is what to me is obvious with this parent’s behavior. We have a free training available to coaches (but really anyone) on our website called Bullying Prevention. While the training is geared toward coaches and what they should look out for on their teams, it also addresses the idea that as a coach (or a parent) our actions speak volumes to our children. They are always watching us and learning from our behavior. A coach and a parent have similar roles in their child’s lives. They are held up to be respected adults, so their ACTIONS matter.

And that gets me to the real point of my post. Overwhelmingly, the reaction to this parent’s action is positive. But the bigger picture here to me is how did this child learn to become a bully? The story cites the father as saying that his child has been diagnosed with ADHD, which I know is a real challenge for many kids. But what got my attention in the video was the father’s attitude, telling others “not to get their panties in a wad,” or if “jogging offends you then get off the couch.” He also lauds himself as a parent to be emulated. 

All this tells me that this particular parent has probably not been as good of an example to his young son as he thinks he has. Maybe before thinking about an appropriate punishment for a behavior we all agree is bad (bullying) he should think about what actions of his own his son might well be emulating.

Bullying Coaching Parenting

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