Anyone who was ever bullied growing up knows that being the target of a classmate's anger and taunting can have leave a serious impact. So when Ohio dad Matt Cox learned that his 10-year-old daughter had received her second school bus suspension because she'd bullied another student, he took action. As a result, this dad made his daughter walk five miles to school in the cold in an attempt to teach her a lesson about respect and entitlement, according to CBS News.
His Facebook video — which quickly went viral, racking up more than 18 million views since it was posted on Monday — has left countless parents applauding his actions, but not everyone was on board with his hard-line approach. On social media, some also argued that the punishment was harsh and criticized him for publicizing it.
As much as most parents likely worry about their kids being bullied at school, the idea that they could actually be the bully is just as concerning. In his viral Facebook video, Cox explained that he was upset when he learned his daughter had been suspended for bullying again — especially because, when she told him about it, she seemed to assume that he'd simply be driving her to school instead.
That didn't sit well with Cox at all, and so, instead of taking her to school in his car, he made her walk the entire way, and drove beside her as she trekked. While he did so, he also filmed it, and in his video — which has now garnered more than 380,000 shares and 76,000 comments on Facebook — he said, "Let me make this extremely clear: bullying is unacceptable. Especially in my household."
As for her expectation of being driven? Cox explained, "A lot of children today feel that the things their parents do for them is a right, and not a privilege. Such as, parents taking their children to school in the morning, or even bus rides to school in the morning. All of that is a privilege, and should be treated as such.
In a later update to his original post, Cox said that he felt the punishment did the trick: he wrote on Facebook that his daughter now "seems to have a new outlook on bullying as well as a new appreciation for some of the simple things in life she used to take for granted."
And he's received a ton of praise from other parents for his approach, with many saying they felt all parents should be teaching their kids that bullying is completely unacceptable, and that if they harm others, they should expect to face the consequences of their actions.
"Excellent parenting. That’s who it starts with, us parents. Demand more from your children. Teach them empathy and love," one wrote on Twitter.
Those applauding Cox certainly have a point: according to USA TODAY, a report released by non-profit group YouthTruth in September found that one third of middle school and high school students were bullied last year, which is actually an increase from two years ago, when the rate was about 1 in 4. What's more? Middle school students were at the highest risk of school bullying: 40 percent of middle-schoolers surveyed said they'd experienced it.
At the same time though, Cox did receive criticism from some who felt that his decision was harsh. On Twitter, some users thought that expecting a 10-year-old to walk miles in the cold was excessive and didn't agree with him uploading the video to the internet.
"Humiliating your daughter for Facebook likes seems like bullying to me," one person tweeted.
While there is no single "right" way to address bullying situations, it does still sound like Cox may have had the right idea, more or less. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's "Stop Bullying Now!" campaign, it's actually a myth to think that kids who bully are loners with poor self-esteem who need to be gently encouraged. Though children can become bullies if they lack a warm home environment with involved, caring parents, when children are already exhibiting antisocial or violent bullying behavior, they need to be told that it will not be tolerated, according to "Stop Bullying Now!" The recommendation? That parents set "clear and consistent rules" in their homes, with "non-physical, non-hostile consequences for rule violations."
That's not to say, of course, that all parents should follow Cox's example. But dealing with bullying is also incredibly complex, and an issue that unfortunately doesn't seem to have many easy answers. At the very least, it's clear this dad is trying to prevent his daughter's behavior from escalating, and to the families directly affected by her bullying, that is likely to be incredibly appreciated.