Woman uses public punishment to teach a lesson about bullying

Published: Wednesday, May 22 2013 2:15 p.m. MDT

These are two of the outfits Kaylee's stepmother had her wear to school to teach her what it felt like to be bullied for the clothes she wore. Kaylee said she learned her lesson and didn't want to bully anymore because "it's stupid and it's mean" and it hurts people.

KTSU-TV/Fox

When Kaylee’s fourth-grade teacher emailed her stepmother, Ally (who wanted to keep their last name anonymous), saying that Kaylee’s bullying made another girl want to stop coming to school, Ally took action.

For weeks, Ally’s stepdaughter was teasing a classmate about the clothes she wore, saying she “dressed like a sleaze.” Ally, whose husband says the two have a mother-daughter relationship, talked to Kaylee about the harmful effects of bullying. But when that talk didn’t seem to change her daughter’s behavior or attitude, Ally tried a different tactic. She bought several outfits from a thrift store for under $50 for her stepdaughter to wear to school.

Last Thursday, Ally told Kaylee that she would wear one of the unflattering new purchases to school that day — which she did.

“I thought, ‘this is a perfect moment for us to teach her, this is right, and what is wrong. Which path are you going to take?’ ” Ally said in an interview with Fox 13 News.

Kaylee wore the thrift store clothes to school for two days and reported that her classmates said unkind things about her, saying, “they talk behind my back.”

After wearing a different style of clothes to school, Kaylee says she has a different take on the effects of bullying. She said “it’s stupid and it’s mean” and it hurts people.

Ally believes her stepdaughter learned a lesson from wearing the different clothes.

“I think now she knows what it feels like, and now she doesn’t want to be that person anymore because she knows how hurtful it is.”

Other forms of parental punishments have gained national attention, as well as raised questions about the ethics and effectiveness. Some parents have punished their children by having them hold a sign in a public place that explains their misdeed. Others parents use Facebook as a form of punishment. One Wisconsin couple confiscated their daughter’s phone and took amusing pictures of themselves on it. They posted the pictures of themselves on their daughter’s Facebook wall.

While some respect and cheer for the parents’ punishments, others criticize their actions and consider them inappropriate.

“Teens are sensitive and easily embarrassed, and I think parents need to be smart about using the Internet to punish kids,” commentator Lizdelarosa said on a forum discussing these types of punishments. "The last thing you want to do is kill a kid's confidence or create a situation where she's mocked mercilessly by her friends. Plus, parents and educators are trying to teach teens to not embarrass and bully other kids online and so parents should probably set a good example by not humiliating their kids on Facebook."

Regarding Ally’s particular approach to reprimanding her stepdaughter with thrift store clothing, Dr. Douglas Goldsmith of The Children’s Center in Salt Lake City said, What happens with that is the person walks away at the end saying, ‘Now I’m really angry. That was humiliating, and I’m angry.’” He suggested teaching children empathy by having them participate in volunteer service activities.

Many online comments support Ally and other “Facebook punishment” acts.

“Well done to her mum. The experience of walking in the other girl's shoes, even for just a few days, will stay with her a lot longer than the more standard punishment here of grounding or taking away her mobile phone,” said Mel of London. “She's learned a lesson that will pay off in the years to come.”

Abby Stevens is an intern for the DeseretNews.com Faith and Family sections. She is a recent graduate of Brigham Young University–Idaho. Contact her at astevens@deseretdigital.com.

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