A Wisconsin Town Will Fine Parents of Bullies $366 – But Will It Stop Bullying?
A town in the US state of Wisconsin has passed law that forces parents to pay large fine if their child is a bully.
The attempt to kerb bullying in the city council of Shawano allows police to intervene when the aggression gets out of line. The law covers harassment of any kind, from taking lunch money to posting online taunts, and applies to anyone under the age of 18. Officials will warn parents after the first incident, but if the child’s behavior doesn’t change within 90 days they’ll get slapped with a $366 fine. A repeat offense will cost $681.
While we can all agree that bullying needs to stop, the new law isn’t free from controversy.
The difference between teasing and harassment can be subjective, and a monetary punishment particularly hurts families who are already struggling, while barely causing a dent to the families that are wealthy.
So here’s why a bully fine won’t work.
Bullies act out aggressively because they lack social skills to communicate effectively. It’s easier to bully somebody than to work things out, manage emotions, and learn to solve problems. Others might not react to them in the way they’d like, and instead of shrugging it off, they act out. It’s the only way they know how to handle the situation. Some children just need guidance.
Some children learn how to be a bully from their parents, who have passed these behavioural traits onto their children by example because they don’t know better themselves. The parents are bullies too.
Sometimes the parents reward bad behaviour and allow tantrums to continue out of toddlerhood and through childhood into adolescence. If the parents give in to an aggressive teen because they are afraid of their behaviour, they have created a bully. The child is bullying their parents.
Now throw a fine into that mix.
If the child has learnt by their parents example, how do you think a large fine would go down in that household?
The parents would no-doubt react negatively and further intimidate and bully their child, perhaps causing serious injury to the child or other family members. No good could come of this scenario.
If the child has learnt to be a bully by using their aggressive behaviour against their parents, a fine would be water off a duck’s back to them. It would only further punish the parents, who have no influence or control over their child anyway.
If they child just doesn’t know any better, a fine issued to their parents isn’t going to teach them anything.
So what is the answer?
Instead of financially punishing the family, why don’t they enforce a Community Service-type course where everyone gets to learn appropriate social skills? The parents can learn how to effectively parent the bully child, and the child can learn compassion and communication skills. Everyone leaves the program a little smarter, kinder, and with a positive plan for the future.
If that doesn’t work and the child continues to bully others, instead of a larger fine, the child and the family go back to the course for Round 2.
This would certainly be more effective than just issuing a fine. Everyone gets the help they need to correct the behaviour and it would break the cycle of bullying within the family.
But that would be the exact opposite of issuing a fine. It would be too much effort and cost the town financially instead of generate an income. So the chances of this being successful are probably slim to none anyway.
At least the bully fine is a step in the right direction, of that we can agree. Bullying needs to stop. Good on this town for trying something different. It will be interesting to see how it pans out.
What do you think?