This dad is going viral for making his son, 10, run to school in the rain — did he go too far?

Photo: Bryan Thornhill via Facebook
Photo: Bryan Thornhill via Facebook

There are endless questions and differing opinions about how to parent. What makes a good parent? Is it better to be more of a parent or more of a friend? How do you keep your kids safe? Engaged? Out of trouble? One father in Virginia has demonstrated to the world exactly how he’s chosen to tackle that last question.

“My son has finally gotten in enough trouble on the bus where he got kicked off the bus for three days because he was being a little bully, which I do not tolerate, I cannot stand, and therefore, he has to run to school,” Bryan Thornhill says in a Facebook video that he is shooting from his car as he follows his 10-year-old son, Hayden, running a mile to school in the rain.

In a separate video that has been made private since Thornhill went viral, he says that Hayden has ADHD, according to local news station WAFF.

“Ironically, since he’s been running to school this week, his behavior has been better,” Thornhill adds in the viral video. “His teachers have approved of his behavior this week. He hasn’t gotten in trouble at school this week, where last week he was just absolutely out of his mind. This right here is just old-school, simple parenting. This is a healthy way for a child to be punished because it’s exercise, something that a lot of people don’t think children should do anymore.”

Many of the 36,000 people commenting on the video agree that this is a refreshing example of healthy discipline. Others see this as a form of extreme parenting along the lines of the infamous “Hot Sauce Mom” of 2011, who recorded herself forcing her 7-year-old adopted son to drink hot sauce because he had lied about getting in trouble at school. These two parents are certainly not the only examples of people who have made headlines for the ways they punished their children; there was also the man in Ohio who punished his 6-year-old by chasing her in a clown mask, and the woman who shaved her daughter’s hair off for making fun of a cancer patient.

While Thornhill’s choice of discipline doesn’t appear to be doing his son any immediate physical harm, the question remains whether this is an effective means of teaching him not to be a bully or act up.

“When your child does something like behave like a bully, the consequence should fit the crime,” adolescent, child, and family psychologist Barbara Greenberg tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “A more appropriate response should have been for the child to do repair work. That would mean, for example, apologizing to other kids, or engaging in acts of kindness. The child’s already been suspended from the bus — that’s an appropriate response from the school. From the father, you focus in on the bullying behavior, and you teach the child empathy.”

Greenberg agrees with Thornhill that it’s a good idea to have a zero-tolerance policy on bullying and also agrees with his assertion that exercise is good for his son. Where Greenberg takes issue is that the father seems to be punishing his child by shaming him — which, in effect, makes the dad a bully too.

“If he were saying to the child, ‘I really think you would feel better and it would be good for you to exercise regularly,’ that would be a different ball of wax,” she says. “This was a one-time thing. He’s not putting a regular routine in place.”

If the boy’s behavior on the bus is a symptom of ADHD, his morning run is also not a lasting solution, according to clinical psychologist Peter Jaksa, who treats children and adults at his ADHD Center in Chicago.

“At best, punishments suppress behavior temporarily, but do not change the behavior in the long term without treating the underlying causes for the behavior,” he tells Yahoo via email. “Punishing misbehavior that has biological causes also contributes to feelings of shame and inadequacy that is common for many children with ADHD. There are healthier and more effective ways to discipline a young child, for example by restricting privileges and allowing the child to earn them back through good behavior.”

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