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Is Anyone Else Sick of the Line "Punishment Enough" Yet? Bet Karen Klein has Some Thoughts!

Are words like "punishment enough" applicable to "Lord of the Flies" on the bus, especially when "punishment enough" usually refers to no punishment at all.

 

How is it possible that as a society we have watched the behavior of kids go from fairly normal to "Lord of the Flies" and still use words like "punishment enough." Especially when "punishment enough" usually refers to no punishment at all.

Some thoughts about Karen Klein, the bus driver in New York State who was mercilessly taunted by 7th grade boys.
 
1)  I am so thrilled that there are so many people out there who gave her quite a consolation in the form of retirement and vacation. It renews my faith in the human spirit and I truly hope she has a wonderful time with both.
2)  I think this society of parents better start taking the moral destruction of their kids seriously.
3)  Living in a society of talk first and maybe punishment later, but probably not, has got to change or we need to get used to this kind of thing.
4)  Will someone please tell me why all the little kid cartoons are geared towards manners, good behavior, living by the Golden rule, treating others as we would like to be treated and caring about others, but somehow when you make the jump to the next age level of cartoons, none of that is there. In fact the opposite is. Rather, you see insults made funny, the most deplorable behavior, complete lack of conscience and nothing in the way of teaching anything decent? Anyone? Who the "bleep" is making these anyway.
5)  Does anyone think that a child develops this lack of humanity and the ability to watch someone else suffer without first having either seen others in their lives do that and get away with it or get power for it or have had it done to them?

Mean behavior begets mean behavior. Period! Mean behavior with power, powerfully begets mean behavior. I don’t want to get into a long description of the science behind it. What I do want to say is that with 26 years of watching the real life version of mean behavior in kids that continues or stops based on the responses to it, I think we talk too much and I think we make too many excuses for kid’s behavior and allow it to grow into something malignant.

To parents: if you see your child doing mean behaviors to others when little, don’t walk away saying it’s a stage to be grown out of. It grows all right, into bigger and better mean behavior. Talking about it is fine but not by itself. If the child is getting power from it in some way or sees an adult in his or her world getting power for it, the behavior will continue to feel profitable no matter if you talk or not. If you take power over your child by being mean to the child or others in your home or life, realize that you are leaving a legacy behind and it may not be what you want it to be.

While I am not a proponent of censorship, I think parents need to not only be involved in what their kids are watching and are involved in, as the messages from those things can make a huge difference in behavior, but also set good examples.

I remember years ago, seeing "Uncle Buck" in the theater when it first came out. Two boys sat in front of us. They were about 11 years old. During the scene where Uncle Buck punches a drunk clown in the face and he pops up like a clown doll, one boy in front of us turned to the other and punched the other one in the face and laughed. It was immediate. My boyfriend and I looked at each other and shook our heads. Ok, so that might not be such a big deal to some, but put into context the fact that this was at a time when kids didn’t have access to the most basal and low of the human condition online. A whole new world of resources is open to them and if parents are not careful, that can become a seriously dangerous thing. 

I also remember a family who I worked with long ago and I found it amazing that the mom wanted to get done right on time so her 9 year old could go home to watch South Park. This was a delightful family and it didn't make sense to me that this mom would allow that, so I aksed the mom, "have you ever SEEN South Park?" She admitted she had not but said "that it was a cartoon so how bad could it be?" I asked her to go home and watch it by herself. The next week she came back and thanked me. She was amazed. She had no idea and assumed that because it was a cartoon, it was ok for kids. There are many more like that now, years later.

I realize I will hear from the crowd who thinks that talking is the "be all end all" and that punishment is an outdated concept, but Psyche 101 will tell you that if something is followed by a positive, it will be done again. If something is followed by a neutral stimulus, it won’t be avoided. If something is followed by a negative but appropriate, it will be far less attractive to do again. Simple.  Keep in mind, however, consequences should teach at the same time.

So, here is my short answer to the question posed by a proud parent of one of the bus bullies: "Isn’t his being involved in this publicity, punishment enough?" I can honestly say that after watching Karen Klein crying while these ridiculously cruel children kept bullying her, watching her suffer, my answer is not in a million years!  

Dr. Sherri is a Child and Family Processing and Motivation expert seeing people via webcam. For more info click here.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

LMJ June 24, 2012 at 05:19 PM
I believe Karen Klein was a bus monitor, not a driver. There are homeschool families that are talking about this story and saying, "... and people wonder why we homeschool..."
Hi LMJ, Thanks for pointing out that error. I think I was so focused and incensed about the extreme nastiness of this story that I wasn't being as detailed as usual. You are right. This is exactly the reason people homeschool. It is too sad that this is very common too. Maybe not towards an adult, but even the way the kids treat each other in front of adults while nothing seems to happen until it is pursued by parents. Some would say it is the "law of the jungle" and they have to learn how to deal with this kind of conflict without running for help. I disagree. I think our civil world is quickly degenerating into something primitive and with knowing that human beings have a frontal cortex and the ability to act above animal behavior, it is truly disgusting. Thanks for your comment!
Pam June 24, 2012 at 07:28 PM
I hope they do not receive a free vacation from school with a home suspension. In school suspension and then parentally supervised yard work for the rest of the year....every week....mow her lawn, trim her hedges and shovel her driveway ......that might come close to "punsihment enough" for both the students and the parents who think it is just boys being boys.
LMJ June 24, 2012 at 07:32 PM
I would say it is because the behavior is allowed to continue. I am 99% positive that this was not the first time that they bullied her. The disrespectful behavior should have been stopped the first time. It makes me wonder if the bus driver was aware of this... and I am wondering about who actually filmed the event, THAT time. There are small details that aren't answered that makes me wonder why this behavior was allowed to go on. People were aware... and did nothing. Except for this particular time. The hero's in every situation, are the ones that see what is going on and blow the whistle. That don't allow the behavior to continue and DO something about it. It is too easy to look away now a days. So, even though I feel for this lady and what she had to go through, hooray for the person that filmed this and turned it in!!!
WorriedParent June 24, 2012 at 09:37 PM
Sadly, it was one of the kids doing the bullying that filmed the event. In his interview, he thought it would be his claim to fame because lots of kids were doing this and posting it to U-tube. So this makes the bullying act even worse, they intentionally did this for popularity and the fun of it so they could post it online. It was a premeditated act just for laughs. The kids deserve to be kicked out of school for the whole year, or spend a year in juvie. This would teach them and make an example to the rest of the kids out there that this will not be tolerated. Too many kids are doing these crazy things so they can post online and get lots of hits or comments.
LMJ June 24, 2012 at 11:53 PM
Really? Oh sheesh. This is horrible. Our future leaders, huh? Sighhhh. I was HOPING that someone did the right thing. This just made this already horrible story, worse for me, at least. We need to all take this story and teach our kids to do the HARD things and go against their peers and ALWAYS do the right thing. You know, those pillars that they like to teach the kids? It makes me wonder, who their heroes are?
That truly is the problem that frustrates me to no end. No matter what the crime these days, from kid crimes to heinous adult ones, it doesn't seem that punishment ever meets the crime appropriately. Funny because in our society everyone who goes to see a movie about crime, cheers in the end when the bad guy gets the punishment of whatever type, but in real life, we find all kinds of excuses and diagnoses for why the person should get away with it. Ir drives me crazy because it paves the way for that person to do it again and for others to do it as well. If they know there is nothing bad that will happen, then why not? I think your idea of them working for her is a great one!
This is the very thing that makes the need for some sort of punishment that lasts for a long time important. That fame and evil notoriety is very attractive to many kids today and there needs to be some sort of reason not to do it. Clearly they have no internal knowledge of why they shouldn't.
Ed60062 June 25, 2012 at 01:31 PM
The problem is extremely complex, ranging from parents who don't care, to drugs, to kids who believe they are likely to be shot before reaching adulthood. From kids who became parents as teens to immigrants who grew up in a different kind of society. Karen Klein isn't the only, or the first, or be harassed. It goes on every day in most cities with large minority populations. I don't know if any punishment is enough to break the cycle. Gang members go around shooting each other knowing, and expecting, to spend part of the lives in prison--or dead. Even that is not sufficient deterrent. Call me pessimistic.
june shellene June 25, 2012 at 04:28 PM
The schools have devolved into "institutions" in the worse sense of the word, with heartless, state mandated curriculums...the media has devolved into a violence, sex, and consumerism propaganda machine. A few hours a day, even with great parents, just isn't enough to stem the damage being done to children by our culture which has been hi-jacked by a highly centralized system which reaches into every aspect of our lives, be it food (mono-culture, gmo's, monsanto) education (the state knows best???) government (at best it works for the too big to fails, and the worst is it's a perpetual war machine). I feel sorry for kids. How can they possibly grow up straight when their parents don't even have a clue as to why and how we've come to this corrupted state of being. If we adults can wrestle back the power to make our world right again, through demanding more of ourselves as part of our local communities, rather than expecting some out of control and out of touch government to help us, maybe we can set things right as our children watch us work together rather than hand our power over, only to be fleeced and ignored as our children's' futures are sold down the river of debt and the road to war.
I don't find you pessimistic at all Ed and I think you're right. Where I have a huge problem is that the prisons are not much punishment anymore and have themselves become their own sick places for building worse behavior. We have all heard the stories of 3 squares a day, law libraries, workout gyms, basketball, drugs on demand amd the rest of it. We have also the stories about those criminals who want more to be in than out. This might be why the recidivism rate is huge. Crime is also a huge money maker for lots of folks, so why on earth would it stop? With the kids, I think this society has gotten into a very bad form of apathy with regard to this kind of behavior. People shake their heads, are amazed, yell a little bit among friends about how it should stop but the next day there are 10 more stories.
Great comment June! Statism at it's finest! Children raised by the state have allegiance to the state. This is why I laugh when I hear about the state deciding to make the school day longer as a positive thing. Also why homeschooling is thriving and increasing all the time. I think a lot of people are feeling like you are!
David Greenberg June 27, 2012 at 04:13 AM
When I saw that video, I was just astounded. I then had the thought that if those kids had tried that bit with my Great-Grandmother, that she would have solved the problem with a good old-fashioned back-hand flosk right across the kid's mouth and that would have been the end of it. There's some instances where it's good to talk to kids about things, but in this instance, if I was the parent - that kid would have had a huge punishment to contend with, a very public apology, and then we'd have the talk... I think the biggest issue is that there's a total lack of consequences and that emboldens the little criminals (oops, I mean bullies). Kids need to learn that there's consequences for their actions, what those consequences are, what they mean to them, and why certain actions are bad. We can talk all day long BEFORE the actions - to help prevent them from occurring in the first place, but ultimately, if and when they do occur, we have to "put up or shut up", met out the consequences, and make it happen very publicly so the others who are considering the actions will hopefully reconsider. In my book, that's not happening nowdays, so here we are... 7th grade thugs attacking and abusing elderly bus monitors...
David, you're right. The unfortunate part about it is there are so many who are into the talking and coddling thing that this kind of behavior continues. In our society, your great grandmother would be prosecuted as a child abuser and very incorrectly so. It amazes me how people know what the right ending is in the movies, but in real life, they get lost when getting to the right conclusion. I think that setting a strong example of what happens to a foul, disgusting, sociopathic person in the form of punishment would go a long way to making others not go there. If there is one thing you can count on from a sociopath, it is protection of their own skin. Just the comment that one of the Dads of the thugs made, asking if the being embarrassed in public wasn't punishment enough. Give me huge break. What kind of person actually believes that. It gives you a clue as to how he raises his kids and why this would have happened in the first place. Lord of the Flies and it smells like ****!
David Greenberg June 27, 2012 at 05:38 AM
Just to play devil's advocate: I wonder if the "punishment enough" comment wasn't derived from an exasperated father who had probably endured his own punishment from people known and unknown to him, the world over as a result of his son's idiocy. That said, I think the right thing to do would be for those fathers to get on CNN with their sons, and have the sons make a very public and humble apology to the Bus monitor and beg forgiveness. Then the father's should get up there and pull a mea culpa for letting things get to this point. Finally, the sons should be the poster boys for an anti-bullying campaign that lasts at least a year. Any proceeds from appearances, etc. to go toward their documentable expenses for travel, and the rest to the campaign itself. And as an additional punishment, they should be made to handle all the outside work at this woman's home for the next 2 years. Snow, leaves, grass, landscaping, etc. All of it. And yep, I'd suspend them for 5 days in the school. The punishment? They'd get to clean every single bathroom, every single day. Scrub every toilet. Clean every floor drain - and especially the ones in the locker room showers. And if they missed any deadlines for school work as a result of the suspension? Tough. But that's just me :-)
I'm with you every step of the way!
Dr. Mark Solomon June 27, 2012 at 06:04 AM
Punishment, does not teach empathy - it only acts to erode empathy in those that have it and maintain the lack of it in those that don't. The kids in Lord of the Flies, like many of kids today, did not become savages because there was not someone there to punish them for being out of line, but rather because there was no adult to teach and model empathy. People who cry for more and more punishment and those who make excuses for these types of behavior are just the flip side of a coin -- neither side addresses the elements associated with being callous, cruel and/or without empathy. Does anyone really believe that most of the people who are jailed in this country for antisocial actions have been under punished by their parents, the school or the judicial system prior to their incarceration. "Morality play" shows like Leave it to Beaver or The Andy Griffith show focused on adult characters helping kids to tame their impulses, learn empathy and, perhaps most importantly earn their trust in the process. It is true that these shows did not have single parents, teen parents, same sex parents, poverty -- but it is also true that while the country is a much different place, the manner in which people become empathic and civilized remains the same. We with great powers have great responsibility - lets not let it go to waste becasue of apathy (doing nothing) or outrage (I'll teach you not to do that again punishment) -- niether of which does a lick to foster caring people.
David Greenberg June 27, 2012 at 05:50 PM
In some cases you had kids who received TOO MUCH empathy - they never learned the consequences of their actions. Some of them turn out to be schoolyard bullies...or have other issues. kids having kids having kids... Many of whom grow up without any values is certainly a huge problem. But the societal issues that have created that mess have been going on for about 50 years now. Fixing it isn't going to be politically simple, which means it's going to take a long time to accomplish. We still have several generations of screwed up individuals to contend with, and I'd argue that the ones who are over 18, and have already been in/out of jail numerous times are essentially gone. Empathy isn't going to work with those sociopaths. But the kids that are still young enough - say under 14 - we can work with. Certainly the Schools have a role in developing young minds and ingraining proper societal norms, but they can only do so much and they shouldn't be expected to do it all. So again, we're back to the issue of parental responsibility or the lack thereof.
Dr. Mark...I respectfully disagree with you. After many years of working in severe behavior disorder programs w some of the most frightening kids you will ever meet, there is a time when emapthy & trying to teach anything moral is over with, & you now need to protect others from those behaviors as a priority over trying to rehabilitate the offender. I will also say that while working with the less severe kids, all the talking and understanding in the world will create huge therapy bills for the parent, but will not do much to teach what you are speaking of. Our society is dealing with a huge lack of boundaries everywhere you look from our families, all the way to the prisons & government. Bad behaviors are going without response except maybe 15 minutes on the news and fame, & the moral decay continues on it's merry way. I do agree that these behaviors don't exist in a vacumn & do develop from early experiences, but when you see cases like the one that infuriated me many years ago about a "lovely" guy who had murdered 40 people in cold blood, while a politician sat there and smugly lectured people about how he was dropped on his head when he was a young child so we need to understand, I lost it and continue to feel the same way. Making excuses for the behavior does nothing to stop the behavior & nothing to protect would be victims of the behavior. We have spent a long time making the excuses & I think it's time to protect others & require decent behavior or have a cost.
LMJ June 27, 2012 at 06:54 PM
I like you Dr. Sherri. You aren't the typical psychologist. Most, as you have described about excuse the behavior, because of whatever happened that MADE them do this and that. Quite refreshing.
Thanks LMJ! Kind of tough to have these opinions among many others who get very passionate the other way, but how I feel is how I feel based on what I have seen.
Two more things I'd like to respectfully point out Dr. Mark... first, you mention that adult role models who show empathy are the way that the kids learn empathy. I would agree with that, but what about role models who let bad behavior go by without a response? What about adults who give a child positive attention in the form of talking after a bad behavior? What kind of role modeling does that show? I remember working with a 9 year old kid years ago who was a nightmare in school. It had gone on for a long time. He had all the counseling/redirecting/talking, yet the behavior kept going & getting worse. When I sat down w/ this kid, & I asked him what happened right after he did something wrong in school, he told me that he would be taken to a room with 3 women Social Workers and they would talk while they threw a ball back and forth. I asked him how he felt about it & he told me he liked going there. Thus, the increase in the behavior. Was there empathy there? Yes. Were the adults understanding & modeling good behavior? You bet. Was it helping anyone? Not on your life. I set up a consequence program for this kid & the behavior was gone in a couple weeks. I'm sorry, Dr. Mark, while I appreciate what you are saying, what is reinforced positively will continue to happen. I'm not saying that talking & positive role modeling should not happen-it should. But in a world that seems less and less full of positive role models.... Oh and Andy Griffith was a single parent.
Billy Bob June 28, 2012 at 02:42 PM
We incarcerate more people than any other nation on the planet by a wide margin. We are not suffering from too much punishment in this country.
Billy Bob, Seriously? Do you really see our incarceration system as being synonymous with punishment? No. Our system does more to provide shelter, 3 square meals a day, sports, religious materials, drugs etc. Also, the recidivism rate in our country is huge beyond huge. Those that get out and go back in over and over again through the revolving door tells you something about how little of a deterent that really is and how little is actually effects future behavior.
Sully July 03, 2012 at 12:29 AM
I'm sorry Sherri, but you continue to be simplistic at best. I realize this forum is small, but why must you make everything so black or white? You are supposed to be the "expert", but you continually sound like you're simply the lowest common denominator. I agree with you in that empathy is not enough and the lack of meaningful consequences causes misbehaviors to recur, but generalizing every problem with the same one-fits-all solution is irresponsible.
Dr. Mark Solomon August 07, 2012 at 08:15 PM
It is interesting, I too have worked in school, residential and hospital programs with kids who have enacted the most inappropriate, cruel and destructive behaviors, but I see things differently. I never said that a child who breaks a rule, doesn't follow a legitimate direction (from teacher, parent, etc.) or otherwise misbehaves should not receive a consequence. Do you equate consequence with punishment? I equate a consequence with discipline -- something that aims to teach, improve skills and/or improve understanding. I view punishment as a reflexive, usually retaliatory act that rarely addresses any of these things; I'll spank you so hard, I'll embarrass you so much, I 'll ... that all the offender will be able to think about is how they can get back at you or how they can make sure that you don't find out about things that they have done wrong. Is immediately switching and/or burning a kids hand "doing something" about a kid who is lighting things on fire? How about holding a kid by his leg out the window of a 3rd story building for repeatedly not following directions? Sound like punishment enough? The monstrous kids that I saw often were "punished" like this - it did not seem to help them. I am all for consequences and more than talking; however I maintain that there are many instances in which it is perfectly acceptable to pity rather than scorn the perpetrator and address the problem with measured discipline rather than self-serving punishment or nothing at all.
David Greenberg August 07, 2012 at 09:41 PM
Discipline is a great place to start. But somehow, I think my great-grandmother had it right - a good ole fashioned back hand flosk when you don't remain disciplined was a great way to make you think twice about what you were about to do. You may have only gotten smacked once - but it was more than enough to make you say "ummm, this might not be such a great idea...". This might not be the right way to deal with everyone - psychological issues, etc. But it's severely lacking in today's society. I'm not talking about smacking someone hard enough to draw blood or anything, but what great grandma did stung, hurt for a good 15 minutes. You cried. And you didn't want it to happen again. That was all you needed to know as a young kid who wasn't able to process all of the ramifications of what you might have been plotting... Over time, you realized "Great Grandma was right, and you were the better for it.".

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