A father who made his 10-year-old son run to school in the rain after the boy was barred from the bus because of bullying, made a video of the boy's trek and posted it on Facebook. Now he has become a pariah or a folk hero, depending on which comments you read.
The dad, Bryan Thornhill of Roanoke, Virginia, provided live commentary on the video, which has been seen by hundreds of thousands of people since he posted it on Facebook last Thursday. He explains that he didn’t want to drive his kid to school – that would turn the punishment into a reward. So he thought that having the boy use his own legs made sense. For the record: Dad did not cause it to rain.
On the video we see Thornhill driving slowly behind his son, an athletic kid who does indeed seem capable of running the entire mile to school. The boy is wearing a backpack and dad watches him through swishing windshield wipers. “My son has finally gotten in trouble on the bus enough to where he got actually kicked off the bus for three days because he was being a little bully, which I do not tolerate,” Thornhill says on the video.
He added: “This right here is just old-school, simple parenting. This ain’t killing nobody. This is a healthy way for a child to be punished.”
Ah, but is it? In these days of parentainment – the entertainment of judging other people’s parenting – of course the world has weighed in on social media. Some praise the dad for being hands on, and not coddling. “This Dad is teaching his son what accountability looks like,” read a typical comment on the Fox61 Facebook page. And another: “This is NOT harsh & I think the kid will remember this next time he goes to bully someone. Yay Dad.” Others also liked that in a subsequent video, Thornhill runs with both his son and his daughter, age 8. (His son had a three-day bus suspension.)
But of course the nay-typers are out in force, too, calling the dad a bully himself – and doubly hating on him for posting the video, which they see as cruel and unusual punishment. “Punishing your child by publicly shaming them is just another form of bullying,” said a commenter on The Washington Post site.
On his video, which Thornhill said he made and posted for fun, Thornhill also mentioned that unlike his guns, he can’t keep his kids locked in a safe. This prompted other comments on the Post site like, “Dad's trying to make himself a folk hero on social media. And turn himself into a gun spokesman by.....connecting it with his kid's misbehavior? Yeah, I've got questions about dad.”
But others there praised the dad for choosing exercise as a way of eliciting better behavior. Thornhill told the Post that his son has a diagnosis of ADHD and several commenters pointed out that when kids get more chance to run around and get their ya-yas out, often they behave better. I’ve seen that myself.
So was this boy bullied by his dad who made him run in the rain? To me it seems obvious that there’s a big difference between bullying – being cruel and derogatory with the goal of hurting someone – and doing your best, as a parent, to help your kid do better. So I don't think the dad was bullying, at least as far as I (or anyone) can tell from a 2-minute clip. While it's doubtful I would do something like this, who cares? We're all different people.
But wasn’t it bullying to post the video on Facebook? Again, I’d say no. Parents post everything on Facebook. Nitpicking their decisions is pointless. Let he who has never posted something they later regretted (or that someone else disliked) cast the first pixel. You don't have to believe you'd be Thornhill's best friend to give him the benefit of the doubt.
So let’s give Thornhill the final say: “If you’ve got your panties in a wad over watching a kid jog, well I feel sorry for you. If a kid jogging offends you, then get … off the couch — you probably need a lap or two.”
Not a slap. A lap.