Should Parents Get in Trouble for Raising Bullies?

Dreamstime Dreamstime.com

There’s a new approach in the fight against bullies—ticketing their parents. In Monona, Wisconsin, moms and dads whose kids repeatedly bully others can now be ticketed by police and fined in municipal court. This approach is part of a broader anti-bullying ordinance passed May 20 by the Monona City Council, in response to a general concern about bullying, school shootings, and teen suicides.

Monona Police Chief Wally Ostrenga says that these tickets will be given sparingly, and only if the parents are proving to be uncooperative. A first violation carries a $114 fine. Subsequent violations carry a $177 fine.

When we first read this, it sounded like a pretty good way to encourage more parental involvement. However, it’s complicated. For one thing, as Hannah Mills from the Texas Child Care Quarterly points out, “approximately half of all children who engage in bullying come from abusive homes.”

Picture a scenario where a bully comes from a violent home. How would an abusive mom or dad react when they face a police officer questioning their parenting and handing over a fine? This seems like it may only exacerbate the situation and generate further abuse for the child.

So what’s the answer? Should parents be held liable for bullying by their children? Will penalizing parents help the larger situation and bring down rates of teen suicides, school shootings, and everyday child-to-child torment? Or will it only cause further pain to children and give bullies more reasons to bully? What do you think?