OPINION: Teaching ‘natural consequences’ in the age of Facebook

Marg Johnson

Parenting is hard enough without living in the fishbowl of today’s media (especially Facebook) where everyone has an opinion and yours is definitely wrong.

I am speaking for the parents who are doing the best they can. I am speaking for parents who are at their wits end and finally have the courage to be parents and put their foot down. These are the parents who need help and deserve support when they ask for it, and who do not need total strangers putting their two cents in if they don’t.

Periodically I am thrilled to see videos on FB of such parents making a stand “for” their children.

One such video was of a father who had reached his limit. It opens with an over-the-hood view of a girl (possibly 10 or 11) walking along the side of the road, with backpack and lunch in hand. Dad is clearly filming and following behind in his car.

Nowhere does he show the face of the child, or say her name, but he is clear in his need to make a point with his daughter. “Why is she walking the five miles down the road to school?” he asks.

Twice in the first week of school the girl had received a three-day suspension from the bus because she bullied another student. It was clear from the father’s voice that he was horrified, disappointed and probably ashamed of his daughter’s behaviour, and I suspect that after the first suspension there was a real family meeting about it. But the straw that broke the camel’s back for the dad was when she actually handed him the second suspension notice, and casually said, “Well, guess you’re gonna have to drive me to school for a few days.” They no doubt had a second, more direct “come to Jesus” meeting, where dad clearly said riding the five miles to school on a school bus or in a car was a privilege, not a right, and she had clearly not earned either.

She was going to walk the five miles to and from school, and dad would follow her to ensure she got there and home safely.

You can imagine the Facebook comments that followed: “this is parental bullying”; “how dare you publicly humiliate her this way”; “you should be ashamed”, etc.

In my opinion, it was an example of parenting at its best. The problem clearly was the bus and her behaviour on it, so take the bus out of the equation and allow her to experience the consequences of her actions. In CYW-speak, this is a natural consequence.

This father was prepared to face his daughter’s rage and tears and humiliation in order to teach her a very good lesson: “Bullying is never, ever OK.

And I think walking five miles each way should do it.

Sarnia resident Marg Johnson is a retired Certified Child & Youth Worker who worked with behaviour children as an educational assistant for 15 years at the York Catholic District School Board.