After eight-year-old Connor Rushlow stood on a busy street corner in Chatham for a few minutes, holding a sign reading “I’m a bully. Honk if you are against bullying,” he turned to his mother Kandyce Burchiel and uttered two words – “I’m sorry.”
Burchiel said she wanted to use a different method to try and teach her son a lesson after other options didn’t seem to work, leading to last week’s punishment at Park Avenue and Lacroix Street.
“He’s been bullying on and off the last three years,” she said. “We have tried many different approaches of dealing with it, taking away toys; grounding; I even had him out volunteering in the community, him and I together to show him what it is like to make people happy by helping them instead of hurting them. We tried counseling through a program for children and nothing has seemed to work.”
Burchiel said Connor’s bullying recently escalated to violence.
“I got a phone call from the school, he’s been bullying another little boy the last week and then punched him on a school bus during a field trip,” she said. “That was the final straw, because now we are getting into violence, which is beyond unacceptable.”
Burchiel said she got the idea for the sign, and her son “was all for it.
“He thought it was funny at first, he was kind of laughing it off like it was no big deal until we got out there and people started honking, then he realized this was something serious. When it was almost every car honking, I think that is when it clicked for him,” she said.
Burchiel said afterwards she got a lot of positive feedback, including more than 300 comments on Facebook, but more importantly, an intriguing response from her son.
“When he got home he hugged me, he told me he loved me and he thanked me for doing this,” she said. “He realized how many people were against bullying and that it is not nice to do it. He also hung the sign in his room to remind him not to bully every day.”
Connor said he wrote a personal letter to every kid he has bullied as well.
“I wrote letters to kids that I bullied to see if they’ll still be my friend,” Connor said. “I said, ‘I’m sorry … I won’t do it again; I hope we can still be friends.’”
Connor added he understands that bullying is not the right thing to do, and he agreed that he learned a valuable lesson from the experience.