The Problem with Giving Bullies a Taste of Their Own Medicine

Social media is once again filled with a video of a parent humiliating a child as a way of convincing the child not to humiliate others. This time it’s a mother shaving her daughter’s hair off after the daughter teased a child who’s undergoing cancer treatment.

While teasing a cancer patient for her hair loss is not at all something a parent should ever treat lightly, I can’t imagine myself in a situation where recording my discipline of my own child and posting it for the world to see would be the right course of correction. Raising children is hard enough without making such family matters public.

On a broader level, though, there is the issue of bullying and the best way to stop it. Here’s my take on it: I don’t think bullying a bully – whether within your own family or in society at large – ever convinces a bully to stop bullying.

A Taste of Better MedicineGod has a better way

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:20-21.)

The Bible tells us how to be good to others, and how this affects our relationship with them and with God along the way.

If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you. (Proverbs 25:21-22.)

So, to review, what works with bullies? Jesus said to love them.

You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  that you may be children of your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:43-45.)

Love like a child of God.

Yeah, let’s go with that.

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7 Responses to The Problem with Giving Bullies a Taste of Their Own Medicine

  1. keriwyattkent says:

    I’m trying to understand this phenomenon of mothers video-taping before thinking. Every mom wants to know she’s doing it right, that she’s a good mom. Perhaps she was seeking the affirmation of others by making it public. After all, that’s what lies at the heart of bullying–wanting to be affirmed by the crowd, and treating someone else poorly to achieve that end.
    I wish I could write an alternate ending to this sad story. One where the mom takes her child to a children’s cancer hospital or maybe to a camp for kids with cancer, and gives her the opportunity to listen to those kids’ stories. Who knows what how the little girl might have responded? Perhaps her heart would have softened, perhaps she would begin to see people as well, people. She might decide to cut her own hair to donate it to Locks of Love or something. She might decide she wants to grow up to be a doctor. She might just become a more compassionate human being.
    But I don’t know if that would ever happen. The cycle of shame is hard to break. As Henry Cloud says, “Hurt people hurt people.”

    • Tim says:

      “See, how do you like it?!” – I’ve never seen that result in someone saying, “Oh, how wonderful! Now I know how to be compassionate!”

      It’s love that begets love, and kindness that begets kindness. I hope to remember that in how I treat people too.

      • keriwyattkent says:

        So true. But I think compassion grows when we listen. We listen to God, and we listen to people’s story. Really hearing people’s story helps us to understand and to become compassionate.

  2. I thought the same as Keri above about the mom’s motivation. She is probably ashamed and desperate to be seen as a good parent — but she doesn’t really know how. So she shames her daughter.
    As for the larger issue of bullying — this probably isn’t exactly what you mean here, Tim, but I would question the idea that a VICTIM of bullying (esp if that victim is a child) should be taught primarily to “love” the person bullying them. The victim probably already feels tremendous fear, anger and shame, so to be told they must now generate loving, Christ-like emotions toward the person causing that fear, anger, and shame may only add to the damage. Yet I agree that the bully should not be dealt with by inflicting the same hurt on them that they’re inflicting on the victim; they should be dealt with (by responsible adults) in a way that respects them as people yet makes clear that their behaviour is wrong and unacceptable. That’s challenging — and so often it fails to happen.

    • Tim says:

      How to navigate through that successfully eludes the best parents, I think. The first thing we should teach our kids when they are endangered by a bully is to try to get to a safe place or person. Then we can deal with how to respond best to the bully.

  3. CE says:

    In the language the mother chastising the girl for sneaking out with a boy. Their culture believes in chastity is cleanliness. The mother is saying the father wanted to make it so boys wouldn’t look at her. (Made her not seductive)

    It’s still shaming and abuse bur not for bullying a cancer patient.

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