Mero Moment: Bullies And Discipline

This week I want to revisit the topic of bullies. Recently, there have been two incidents – both at the fast-food restaurant McDonald’s for some reason – where a group of kids assaulted another kid. In one case, an adult who tried to intervene was shot dead. These stories are being attributed to bullies, and I suppose each case, and others like them, could be seen as bullying. My guess is that both of these extreme cases are actually gang-related. Even the youngest kids, now, are becoming dragged into gangs.

As we step back and reflect on these cases, I’m sure we’d find that most, if not all, of these bullies come from broken homes. We can recite the litany of personal and social dysfunctions that are created when families fall apart. But we often fail to understand the familial power of gangs and other social substitutes. Just because a traditional family falls apart doesn’t mean that our feelings about family disappear. Everyone longs for a family. Everyone wants to belong to something safe where we can feel loved.

A family is also where we learn discipline, and, unfortunately, even intact families seem to be failing miserably in this task. For whatever reasons, the latest trend in parenting seems to be not to spank the kids. Frankly, I thought the so-called “non-violent” approach to parenting went out with the hippies, but now modern young couples are refusing to discipline their kids using this very effective tool. On top of it, many government agencies view spanking as a crime. Meanwhile, without effective discipline, many children are seeing that bullying is an easy way to get what they want – “Hey, if nobody’s going to stop me, why not take what I want from someone if I can get away with it?”

And this lack of discipline is not just occurring at home or on the streets. Our schools have become a war zone in many cases because we won’t let teachers discipline children. We have schoolyard fights that can’t be broken up because teachers and administrators are no longer allowed to intervene. Now they just call the police, which only wastes more public resources and doesn’t solve the root problem.

The root problem, of course, is human nature, the bad part of human nature. Little children are taught to hate and misbehave, and it doesn’t take parents who belong to the Ku Klux Klan to teach hate, nor does it take parents making bad choices themselves to teach children to misbehave. Frankly, if we are not expecting better behavior from our children, keeping the kids in proper boundaries and circumstances, and consistently applying appropriate punishments, even so-called “great parents” can play a part in creating juvenile delinquents.

The same can be said of educational settings. Our children spend the better part of a full day at school. They learn much more than the three R’s during that time. They are socialized there, and often and routinely negatively socialized at school. If during their time at school, their surrogate parents – otherwise known as teachers and administrators – don’t or can’t help them behave, who will? Oh, right, the bullies will. The bullies will create a new rule of law if adults don’t.

At home, it’s time responsible parents get back to spanking their kids. Do it early and as often as needed and your little ones will know how to sit still in the church pew without being fed a loaf of bread, 14 bottles of juice, and without an array of Tonka products – not to mention they’ll know how to behave when you go out in public. Too many of today’s new parents are timid. Hey, for the sake of future society, how about manning-up and swatting junior on the behind once in a while! Do it for freedom’s sake.

The school disruptions are a bit more disconcerting. No parent wants another other adult to lay their hands on a child. It’s natural to feel protective that way. But the fact is that if a parent is going to turn over her child to a bunch of strangers for eight hours a day, 200 days a year, that parent also should expect to give up some parental autonomy. And if your little angel is a problem, as determined by the adults who are around your little angel more than you in a day, then let the school teachers and administrators do their job, which includes disciplining your kid. If you can’t deal with that, home school your kid.

We are very close to allowing the patients to run the asylum. It’s time parents take back authority and delegate that authority when appropriate.

For Sutherland Institute, I’m Paul Mero.