While giving a kid a “dose of his own medicine” may make sense in theory, it doesn't withstand further analysis. Jose Lagares publicly humiliated his fourth-grade son in an attempt to teach him not to humiliate others. This will never work. Here's why.

When I heard about Jose Lagares, the dad who made his fourth-grade son (who had been accused of bullying) hold a sign on the side of the road saying "I am a bully! Honk if you hate bullies," a few words came to mind: Arrogant bullying moron. Double-standard. Counterproductive.

I was not thinking of the boy.

You teach your son not to bully by bullying him? On the one hand, I understand what the dad is trying to say: "Here's what it feels like. Don't do it." Lagares told his son that bullying is a form of "public humiliation," and so, by publicly humiliating the boy, the dad hoped to create empathy or understanding of the pain endured by the victim, thinking this would encourage the kid to stop bullying.

Whether it's for acceptance among peers or an indicator of underlying insecurity or an emotional problem (or, um, in this case the bully's dad is an arrogant bully himself), the cure for violence is not more violence.

While this sort of thing works in theory, it's simple-minded and shallow and completely falls apart when held up to further analysis. I mean, there is a reason the boy is bullying. Kids don't just bully. It's not human nature to taunt and torment and abuse "weaker" kids at school. Whether it's for acceptance among peers or an indicator of underlying insecurity or an emotional problem (or, um, in this case the bully's dad is an arrogant bully himself), the cure for violence is not more violence. Period. If your kid is a bully, figure out why. Get into the child's psyche. Work with him. Love him harder. Do something that will transform the rage and black in his gut, not fuel it with more pain.

Here, kid. I'm going to teach you not to hit by hitting you.

I'm going to teach you to not yell by yelling.

I'm going to teach you to not hurt others by hurting you, which will create more hurt so you in turn hurt others more.

Nope. Doesn't work.

You know why? Because people are emotional, feeling creatures. When you publicly shame your kid there is one thing that kid will learn: Pain. Mistrust. Anger. A fundamental desire for self-protection.

When we're faced with humiliation and agony, we enter an adrenaline-like fight-or-flight mode. We retaliate or we run. That kid, though he looked submissive and thoughtful in those photos, was also quite clearly full of fear. The look in his eyes was one of humiliation and sadness.

young boy head hung in shame

Those emotions do not manifest in personal growth. They manifest in a fundamental commitment to self-survival. That kid will become hard someday. That kid gets hurt and humiliated at home, so in turn he hurts and humiliates those weaker than him, just as his dad does to him.

That's the way this deal works, folks. But I imagine that man is way too arrogant to even consider a critique of his approaches.

That kind of arrogance in parents destroys me. The idea that kids are our property, like they become an object we own like a car or house, something to be built and created just as we like it, to be torn down or rebuilt to suit our needs and visions, as if they are not separate, free, independent beings, complete with their own personalities, needs and lives.

We are the stewards.

We are the teachers.

We are not the owners.

Don't believe me? Well, hmmmm. Do your parents own you?

Exactly.

And this nonsense that bullying our kids is "engaged parenting," "good parenting," "good ol' fashioned values" parenting — the kind of parenting that puts the fear of God into kids, that leaves them ashamed and full of fear, yes, doing what their parents say but why?

Why are they doing it?

Respect? Admiration? Genuine trust? No. Fear.

Fear.

There is nothing admirable in that, people. There is nothing admirable or noble or impressive about using the fact that you are older, stronger and physically larger to force your kid into submission. You know what that is? That's bullying.

When we treat our kids a certain way because they can't fight back, we're bullies.

When we treat our kids a certain way because we physically dominate them, we're bullies.

When we treat our kids in hurtful ways because we have the power, we are bullies.

When you publicly shame or humiliate your child, when you scream at them and shame or hit them, you're doing it because you can, because there's nothing they can do about it.

Let's not sugarcoat this into something prettier: When you publicly shame or humiliate your child, when you scream at them and shame or hit them, you're doing it because you can, because there's nothing they can do about it. There's an easy test for this: Would you do it to your best friend? Your husband or wife? Or do you only choose those weaker than you?

Obviously we have the power in families, and we must use that power all the time. Kids aren't our "equals" in power. Absolutely not. You know what that leads to? Entitlement.

But kids are our equals in their right to a free, safe and respected life. They have a right to make mistakes and learn from them in a way that helps them grown as human beings. They are kids. They are smaller and weaker with less experience and virtually no power.

If we abuse that, we are no better than bullies we claim to despise, and we will raise kids that mirror those power dynamics, finding "underlings" to mistreat, because we've taught them that that is what power is for: Abusing, manipulating and dominating others.

When we can see the other side of power, that it can actually be used for guidance, empowerment and strength, we'll have arrived someplace new as humans.

Until then, we'll have the bully Jose Lagares and his "bully" son, and a million people singing their praises.

You see? You see the problem there? It's acceptable in man form but not in boy form.

Well, America, I ask you: What exactly do boys grow to become? We either value bullying or we don't.

Pick one.

More on bullying

My sister, the bully? Not in my house
Kids' resources to fight back against bullying
How to protect tweens from online bullying

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