A Texas mom wanted to send a strong message to her “bully” son after learning from his teachers that the fifth grader was not exactly playing nicely with his classmates.
Last Friday, she sent the boy to elementary school wearing a t-shirt that read: “I am a bully.”
In an interview with KTRK, the Splendora mother, who only went by the name “Star,” said: “He was calling other boys ‘stupid,’ calling them ‘idiots.'” Star said she wanted to handle the matter in her own way, calling herself an “a very old school parent.” She noted she does not “coddle” her children or “sugar coat the world” to them.
“I am a bully” was written on the front and back sides of the garment in large capital letters. An unhappy emoji-like facial expression underscored mom’s anti-bullying lesson. Star also posted photographs of her son wearing the t-shirt on Facebook. She insisted it was not to embarrass him in front of his Greenleaf Elementary schoolmates but to “reach out to the parents of any of the kids my son may have bullied so that each one of them could get a personal apology.”
However, the tough love plan backfired online when her social media page blew up with comments critical of her parenting choice. Star said she took down the posts, although she continued to stand by her decision to send her son to school wearing the t-shirt.
“I wanted to know what he learned from it, and he said, ‘I learned that I didn’t like the way that that felt and I don’t want anybody else to feel that way because of me,'” said Star. She told the Houston TV news outlet: “That’s exactly what I wanted him to take from it.”
However, Dr. Richard Pesikoff, a child psychiatrist at the Baylor College of Medicine said he understood why Star was upset with her son’s behavior but did not think it required “searing the letter ‘B’ on his forehead.” The expert feared that mom’s disciplinary method could net more harmful results than positive ones. “Not a good idea to embarrass your child and solidify a negative identity in an elementary school child,” he told KTRK.
He is not alone in that viewpoint. Psychology Today contributors have called these types of practices child shaming and humiliation, which they suggest are emotionally abusive. The Sun questioned if parents posting child punishment images and videos online have gone too far. Conversely, many defend this as creative discipline.
“He’ll survive,” said Star, who said she spoke with her son’s school counselor and teachers and they supported her decision. “They were all 100 percent on board. They understood why I was doing that and that, for my son, this is what works.”
According to Star, her son has since treated his sisters and cousins better. She said: “He learned from it. That’s all that matters.”
In a statement, the Splendora Independent School District commented, “Parents have the rights to make important decisions and take certain actions on behalf of their child. This parent met with our counselor at Greenleaf Elementary School to discuss the student wearing the “I am a Bully” t-shirt.'”
The school district continued, “The counselor, parent, and student met with all three of the student’s teachers prior to entering the classroom. The parent explained her rationale for the student wearing the shirt to the teachers and counselor.”
The school district noted, “Ensuring a safe, physical, emotional, and social environment is one of Splendora ISD’s Core Principles. With that in mind, our counselor checked on the child throughout the day on Friday and plans to follow up with the student and the parent early this week.”
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