While there’s no doubt that children need to be disciplined for their bad behaviour, a father in the United States has sparked debate about what is considered a suitable form of punishment.
Ohio father Matt Cox decided to teach his 10-year-old daughter Kirsten a lesson after she was caught bullying other students on her school bus. It wasn’t the first time Cox’s daughter had bullied students and as a consequence, he forced his daughter to walk 8 kilometres to school on a cold day, while he followed and filmed her from his car.
The clip, which was uploaded to Facebook on Monday and had been viewed more than 17 million times at the time of publishing, shows Kirsten walking on the grass by the side of the road carrying her school supplies in 2°C (36°F) temperatures.
“This lovely lady is my 10-year-old daughter who has for the second time this school year been kicked off the school bus due to bullying another student,” Cox could be heard saying in the video. “Let me make this extremely clear. Bullying is unacceptable – especially in my household.”
He explained that his daughter came home from school and advised Cox that he would need to take her to school next week because she wasn’t allowed on the bus. He also said he believes many children today feel the things their parents do for them, such as driving them to school, is a right and not a privilege.
“I know a lot of you parents are not going to agree with this, but that is alright,” he continued. “Because I am doing what I feel is right to teach my daughter a lesson and to stop her from bullying.”
As Cox anticipated, his method of punishment divided other parents on the internet.
Some agreed with his lesson and didn’t think he was doing anything wrong.
One person said: “Way to go. It’s time we step up and make sure our kids know that bullying is not acceptable at all.”
Another comment read: “Good job. Actions have consequences and this is one of them.”
A third person added: “I think you’re doing the right thing and she’s fortunate to have a dad that’s raising her right.”
There were also comments from others who didn’t agree with the punishment.
“Daddy is a bully,” one person claimed.
Another thought the daughter wouldn’t learn a lesson.
“Except now she’ll take this out on the kid she was bullying or another kid,” they wrote. “Someone must suffer for her suffering.”
A further comment read: “Clearly you need to heal the wound and not just cover it up with punishments. Something isn’t right at home when kids become bullies.”
Still, Cox was adamant that his strict punishment had worked.
“UPDATE: Lesson learned!” he wrote on Wednesday. “Still has all her extremities intact is happy and healthy and seems to have a new outlook on bullying as well as a new appreciation for some of the simple things in life she used to take for granted.”
The man’s creative form of punishment comes after an array of studies and expert opinions in recent times weighed in on what is the right and wrong way to discipline a child. Earlier this year, Australian parenting author Dr Justin Coulson appeared on Today and claimed that yelling at children is just as harmful as smacking them.
“Yelling unfortunately seems to have similar effects, especially if it’s pervasive enough and ongoing, to hitting,” he told Today. “The same parts of the brain are activated, the same fear mechanisms as smacking, the same neurotransmitters are released and it leads to some fairly harmful psychological effects over time.”
Coulston’s advice is backed up by a 2010 study from the University of Texas, which found that yelling makes children more aggressive both physically and verbally.
The findings are in line with other modern parenting techniques outlined in the New York Times that encourage mums and dads to constantly praise their children when they do something good and practice looking in the mirror and saying, “I am your father/mother, not your friend”.
Other more extreme techniques, such as ‘gentle parenting’, advise parents to ask permission before picking up or hugging their child.