Bully Punished With Bad Clothing. Unusual Yes, But Cruel?

School bullying is a national crisis, but one woman thinks she found the solution—give the bully a taste of her own medicine.

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On Wednesday, a Murry, Utah-based woman named Ally Olsen, 41, discovered that her fiancé’s 10-year-old daughter, Kaylee, was bullying a classmate. Kaylee’s teacher had emailed Olsen, explaining that the girl had been teasing a student for the past three weeks because of how she dressed. As a result, the victim no longer wanted to come to school.

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“When I received the email, I was confused because just a few weeks ago, Kaylee had received an award from her principal for stopping a bullying incident at school,” Olsen told Yahoo! Shine. “I confronted Kaylee who explained that she had called another girl ‘sleazy’ for wearing Daisy Duke shorts and a tank top. We’ve taught Kaylee to dress conservatively but never expected her to be judgmental.”

Olsen said Kaylee was not apologetic so in lieu of grounding her which she felt "wouldn’t resonate” she turned to Facebook, asking friends for advice on how to handle the situation. By the next day, Olsen had a plan of action. She took her family, who regularly frequented thrift shops, to a local store, pretending it was a routine shopping trip. As Kaylee deemed various articles of clothing “ugly” and “embarrassing,” Olsen had her try them on as a joke, eventually telling the fourth-grader that she was purchasing the clothes for her as punishment. “I wanted Kaylee to truly experience the embarrassing feelings she had evoked in someone else by wearing clothes she felt self-conscious in,” says Olsen. “The goal wasn’t to select clothes that were cheap; it was to buy things that Kaylee herself said she hated.” Also, Olsen told Kaylee that she wasn’t going to force her to apologize to her classmate; her remorse had to be genuine.

Although Kaylee cried, the next day she headed to school wearing one of the outfits under a coat that she had zipped up to her neck. “When she came home that afternoon, Kaylee said the kids laughed at her for wearing ‘pajamas.’ She also felt so guilty that she pulled her classmate aside and apologized for her behavior the previous day." To solidify the punishment, Olsen snapped a photo of Kaylee wearing the outfit (her face was blurred to protect her identity) and posted it on Facebook.

By then, Olsen decided that Kaylee had suffered enough—until she learned that she had gotten into another altercation with a second girl. “When Kaylee explained how she had spoken rudely to a friend who was picking on her clothes, I decided that she needed to wear another embarrassing outfit the following day,” said Olsen. Kaylee was also made to attend her father’s soccer game wearing the clothing and posed for another photo in the outfit (her face was blurred again), which Olsen posted on Facebook. “We wanted adults to see the example we set.”

Surprisingly, Kaylee handled her punishment gracefully. “What people don’t understand is that Kaylee genuinely learned from this experience. She actually thanked me for making her go through that,” said Olsen. “I’m keeping the clothes in case she is mean to other kids again. Hopefully one day, we’ll be able to laugh about it.”

Shaming misbehaved children is hardly news and there's no shortage of parents who turn to social media to post embarrassing photos of their kids or have them stand in the street holding handwritten signs apologizing for bad behavior. But where's the line between a parent airing their family dirty laundry and being inappropriate?

“On the one hand, it sounds like this mother’s heart was in the right place,” says Kirsten Filizetti, Ph.D. a San Diego-based psychologist. “She was trying to help this girl understand what she had done and teach her a life lesson.

“However, parents should be careful about introducing shame and guilt onto kids as a form of punishment,” she says. According to Filizetti, a better plan of action may have been to sit down with the child and understand the motivations behind the bullying, then use that knowledge to expose him or her to children who are different from them. To further the learning lesson, it may also be wise to have the kid sit down with the peer they hurt and listen to how the behavior was hurtful. “It’s less important that the bully explain where they were coming from and more important that the victim feels heard,” she says.

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