Free-Range Kids

Dad Made 10-Year-Old Son Run in the Rain to Teach Him a Lesson

"This right here is just old-school, simple parenting. This ain't killing nobody."


Danil Chepko /Dreamstime

A father made his 10-year-old son run to school in the rain after the boy was kicked off the bus for bullying other kids.

Dad made a video of his son'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. (Dad did not cause the rain, obviously.)

In 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.

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—publicly judging other people's parenting—seemingly the entire world has weighed in on social media. Some praised 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."

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.

Thornhill also mentioned that unlike his guns, he can't keep his kids locked in a safe. This prompted other comments 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."

Thornhill told The Post that his son was diagnosed with ADHD and several commenters pointed out that when kids get more chances 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 being cruel and derogatory with the goal of hurting someone, and just doing your best, as a parent, to help your kid be better. So I don't think the dad was bullying, at least as far as I (or anyone) can tell from a two-minute clip. Many parents will say they would never do something like this with their own kids, but who cares? We're all different people.

Was 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 he later regretted (or that someone else disliked) cast the first comment.