• author
    • Debra DeAngelo

    • July 1, 2012 in Columnists

    Whenever you see a bully, look no further than the parents

    by Debra DeAngelo

    So, Karen Klein, the sweet grandmother from Greece, New York who was verbally tortured by some vicious little middle school bullies, has enjoyed the sympathy and support of the nation, as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars raised through a fundraising website to give her a well-deserved vacation to Disneyland and a nice little retirement nest egg. The boys involved were made to watch the video of their deed, and then ordered to write letters of apology to Klein. Their parents apologized too.

    And now everything’s hunky-dory, a horrible wrong has been righted, and we’re all kumbaya about it.


    Wrong. So, so wrong.

    Consider this excerpt from a story posted on the Detroit Free Press website:

    “On Friday, Greece police gave (Klein) apology statements written by some of the boys whose taunting was captured on the video…

    ‘I feel really bad about what I did,’ wrote Wesley. ‘I wish I had never done those things. If that had happened to someone in my family, like my mother or grandmother, I would be really mad at them.’

    Josh wrote: ‘I am so sorry for the way I treated you, When I saw the video, I was disgusted and could not believe I did that. I am sorry for being so mean and I will never treat anyone this way again.’

    The boys’ parents also apologized.

    ‘It made me cry to see how cruel my son and the other boys were being to you,’ wrote Wesley’s mother. ‘I am deeply sorry for what my son did. I wish there was some way to make it up to you.’

    Luis’ father wrote: ‘We apologize, from the bottom of our hearts, on what happened. We wish this will never happen again, to nobody and from nobody.’

    Klein said she isn’t sure she believes the apologies. ‘They were so brief and to-the-point,’ she said.”

    Ya think, Mrs. Klein?

    She truly is a kind lady, because when I read this story, I was even more furious than when I watched the video of these rotten little beasts poking her, teasing her about her son’s suicide, and talking about what it would be like to stab her with a knife. As tears rolled down her face.

    Beyond the forced and transparently insincere thank you letters the boys were clearly forced to write, the reaction of the parents floors me.

    Wesley’s mom was in tears over her son’s behavior? Lady, you aren’t the one who should be in tears. It should be your kid who’s in tears, after he’s been grounded for a year, and had his cell phone, video games and iPod taken away until he’s in high school, and has been assigned enough household chores to keep him busy every day, all day, until the anniversary of his little “prank.” And if the chores are done at Klein’s house, all the better.

    Luis’ father is so very sorry, and wishes it will never happen again to anybody, eh? Hey, Luis’ father — want to make sure it doesn’t happen again to anybody? Start with your own kid, and make the punishment so severe, so disruptive, so miserable, that your little brat will never even think about treating anyone like this again.

    It starts at home. And the “it” is not only the bullying, but the discipline as well. Can’t believe these little monsters did this to someone? Believe it. And if you think it’s an anomaly, you’re naive. This is just one incident, on one day, in one city. Bullying like this goes on every day in every town in America, whether the victim is a senior citizen or some gawky 12-year-old getting picked on by the local bullies until he’s finally so desperate, he hangs himself in his bedroom closet.

    And then everyone wrings their hands and furrows their brow, and wonders how this could ever happen. I’ll tell you how: Clueless parents, who don’t recognize that their kids are bullying or being bullied, who shrug off obvious signs or changes in behavior and, worse yet, who make excuses for their kids when teachers and school principals report their children’s misbehavior.

    “Oh, my Johnny would never do that! He’s a good boy and he was provoked by the other rotten kids, and you, Mr. Principal, should do something about those other kids, because my son is sweet and perfect and would never do any of those things you said. And if you don’t do something about those other kids, I’m going to report you to the school board!”

    Sound familiar?

    Let’s get something straight, parents: It’s not the school’s job to raise your disrespectful, malicious little brats. It’s your job. You are the parent, you are the boss, and you have the ability to make your child’s life a living hell if he or she needs to be taught right from wrong. And don’t even approach the idea that I’m suggesting child abuse, because there’s a world of difference between abusing a child and giving a cold, hard lesson on the relationship between actions and consequences. Moreover, if you aren’t up to the task of raising children after they’ve grown out of cute, cuddly toddlerhood, do us all a favor and don’t breed.

    You say you love your kids? Love them enough to show them right from wrong, good from bad, and to teach them how to behave in civilized society. If you don’t do that, Mr. and Mrs. helicopter parents, hovering over your child like he’s the most precious, fragile, gifted creation in the universe who could do no wrong — you are abusing your own child. You’re not teaching him or her how to function in the world.

    • Amen Debra. Well said.

    • fukcing brilliant. should be in every single newspaper everywhere. you my dear friend ROCK THE WORLD. thank you!

    • Concise, absolutely right-on, and written like a rock star. Love you!

      • Cindy

      • July 1, 2012 at 3:11 pm
      • Reply

      I agree that the parents of the children who behaved so horrifically toward Mrs. Klein need to do everything within their power to ensure that their children understand how enormously hurtful and fundamentally wrong their behavior was, and to work with their children come up with a set of concrete steps they can take to make sure that Mrs. Klein knows how deeply both the children and their parents regret the verbal assaults the children launched against her. As a teacher and parent, though, I’m not sure that harsh and protracted punishment is the best way, or even a particularly effective way, to help children learn to respect and value others, or to develop, first, the critical human capacity for empathy, and second, the self-confidence and courage necessary to step up and speak out against bullying attacks against others in the future. (I’m reminded of a cartoon of a mom spanking a child who has smacked his younger sibling, with the caption “This will teach you not to hit someone smaller than you!”)

      I’m also not so sure that the backwards leap from effect to cause is as simple or as certain as the parent-post here suggests — while some bullies may be coddled, entitled children whose parents are absolutely certain that they are inherently superior and therefore incapable of behaving badly unless richly provoked, I suspect that at least as often, kids who bully have, themselves, observed and/or been on the receiving end of bullying, whether at home or elsewhere, and have learned to bully by example.

      Kids absolutely need to understand that any and all bullying behavior is unacceptable will have negative consequences, but I’d urge all parents to remember that kids will work far harder to earn your praise than to avoid your criticism, and to begin every parent-child interaction with the end in mind.

      • Jesse

      • July 1, 2012 at 6:45 pm
      • Reply

      Absolutely! OMG just sit in a classroom in high school and see the disrespect. The parents have raised pets, not humans.

      • Lynda

      • July 2, 2012 at 4:00 am
      • Reply

      Back in the day, there didn’t need to be a video. Just one adult telling on the kids and the parents would believe the adult. I don’t know when it changed but it needs to change back. It takes a village, folks.

    • ” IT TAKES A COMMUNITY ” if society doesn’t start ” NOW ” and change – America will not survive !

      • Gary

      • July 2, 2012 at 9:30 am
      • Reply

      Couldn’t agree more. Well done.

    • Cindy- Who said anything about spanking???

      • Candy

      • September 11, 2012 at 11:16 am
      • Reply

      I am one who is referred today as a Baby Boomer: grew up in the 50s, raised by people who have been referred to as The Greatest Generation. You know. The ones who sprang back after the 1930 Depression, the men who answered the needs of the country after Pearl Harbor, and the women who kept it all together on the home front, both in factories and homes – those folks. And how did the Greatest Generation raise their kids? WITH DISCIPLINE. Parents were in charge, 24/7. If not yours, then your friends parents. God forbid you sass off to any of them. If we crossed the line, we got the consequences. Yeah. A spanking. Not a beating with a tire-iron, for pete’s sake – a mom’s-hand-to-girl’s-petticoat-covered-fanny or Dad’s-hand-to-boys-denim-clad-butt. What hurt the most for a lot of us was their anger at us for what we had done; the people who loved us were pushed over the edge by our actions, and we learned that the less we disobeyed, the fewer spankings we got. Duh! What a revelation!
      HERE’S THE LESSON: by the time we were in high school we had permanent respect for our parents AND ALL ADULTS. We knew they wouldn’t spank us any more, but we still did not want to incur their disapproval. We had SELF-DISCIPLINE. Say what you want to, but that is the way I raised my kid and that is the way he raises his.

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