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Why this mom dresses her bullying stepdaughter in thrift store outfits

If your child is being bullied, and nothing is helping, what do you do? You can become a personal bodyguard for your daughter, like this Toronto mother. Or yank your kids from school altogether like this mom in Squamish, B.C.

But what if it's your child doing the bullying?

One mother in Utah came up with her own punishment for her 10-year-old stepdaughter, Kaylee, who she learned was taunting another girl in her class for her wardrobe. According to Fox News, she went shopping at a thrift shop, bought some dresses she knew her Kaylee would be mortified to wear and made her go to school for two days wearing them.

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The mom, Ally, who only wanted her first name used, said she learned from a teacher that the victim of her Kaylee's teasing didn't want to come to school any more. When Kaylee didn't appear to take a conversation about the bullying seriously, Ally went shopping.

She's not the first parent to try an outside-the-box approach to teach a bullying child a lesson. For example, in March, another Colorado mom, fed up with efforts to stop her kids from misbehaving, wanted her 9-year-old son to wear a "bully" T-shirt to school (her 8-year-old daughter, who had been caught stealing, would wear a shirt identifying her as "thief.") The school board stepped in and said she couldn't do it, saying it was too "demeaning to the kids."

The instinct to take extreme action is understandable: parents on both sides can be at their wits end. But most experts suggest that shaming isn't a particularly effective tool. Even in response to Ally's approach, the Fox story quoted an expert suggesting that it's better to teach a bully empathy than humiliate them. Bullying is complicated (many bullies are also victims) – as schools and families learn all too quickly.

As for Kaylee, she told a local news channel that she cried when she first looked at the clothes she would have to wear. "I died. I did," she said. And at school, she says, her classmates, "[talked] behind my back."

Ally stands by her discipline choice, in the hope the experience will stick with Kaylee longer than a more traditional punishment.

"I thought this is a perfect moment for us to really teach her, this is right, this is wrong, which path are you going to take?" Ally told Fox News. "And then it's her choice."

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About the Author

Erin Anderssen writes about mental health, social policy and family issues. More

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