Myriad friends who are parents shared this video on Facebook. I tried commenting in one of the threads, but there’s not enough space to say all the stuff I want to say about this douchebag, and frankly, I found it to be completely disturbing how many people believe that this passes for good parenting. I got a little bit sicker every time I read some wrong-headed parent reacting with some gleeful platitude about how “kids today” need to learn respect and how this dad is doing a great job.
I beg to differ.
First of all, parents have to model respect. The easiest kind of respect to model–and the one so many parents get wrong–is self respect.
My mom, who’s preternatural about parenting (really–it’s admirable) said, often, that getting embarrassed by us was giving us power over her that we should not have.
I extrapolate that letting your kids’ behaviors cloud your judgement to such an extent as you proceed to be boobish in your actions or manner is also giving your kids power they oughtn’t have. Tell me, what is more boobish than shooting a gun at a $500-$2000 piece of equipment with recently installed software valued at $130, in a video, on Facebook?
Parents have to be parents. They cannot be petulant, and should maintain a healthy sense of confidence and humor at all times.
Like when your 4-year-old says, “I hate you,” you can’t hit her or say, “I hate you, too.” She doesn’t even know what the hell that means. You can’t tell her it’s okay, but you have to remember that you’re her guide to the world, and she needs you to say, “I know you’re not very pleased with having to pick up your toys, but you should not say ‘I hate you’ to mommy, ever.”
My friend Sue gave me a really wise piece of parenting advice: Always consider your kid’s developmental stage when explaining things or selecting a punishment.
Here are some things, because I’m still so amped up over this that I can’t form prose, plus people who give advice about blogging say that people like lists, so here’s one for you.
- Doesn’t this guy remember being 15? Seriously, we all said ridiculous things about our parents and had an inflated sense of ego and persecution. It’s part of the crisis of being a teenager. It’s normal.
- In what universe do parents get to be self-congratulatory about providing a home and life’s necessities for their children? It’s our obligation.
- Shooting expensive stuff is wasteful. The dad was so hot-headed about his daughter’s public display of normal teenaged angst, that he failed to reason the whole way through his actions.
- Putting her in a position where she has to earn enough money for a laptop quickly, when she should be doing the work of being a student, is irresponsible. Teenagers are still children, even if they have a different idea.
- What message does he want her to get from this video? That when you are wronged, you make yourself a public display of self-righteousness? That it’s okay to be wasteful and disrespectful of yourself and others if you’re angry enough?
- A parent’s job is ALWAYS to take the high road. Letting your kid’s mouthy nonsense drive you to your own mouthy nonsense, in video, on Facebook is completely insane.
- It seems to me that he has a pretty good kid if she is doing her chores, which you’ll note he never says she doesn’t, he just says she exaggerates the scope. I’d be willing to bet that dad bitches about his job just as much as anybody else. Giving a kid chores is good parenting. Not letting her express normal, human displeasure–on pain of public displays of absurdity from dad–is not.
- What’s the big deal if the daughter smears the dad on facebook? A bunch of 15-year-olds know that a kid is pissed at her parents. So what? Is her dad going to lose clients? Is he going to be arrested for poor parenting? No. Any other adult who would encounter his daughter’s note would think to themselves, “Ah yes. I remember those days. Good luck Bob, I don’t envy you your willful teenage daughter.”
- Parents need to explain (and provide) appropriate venues for bitching. She was trying to keep it from her parents, her dad sought it out. I’m sure on some level she knew that she was being ridiculous. I feel like a lot of the purpose of the video was so that everybody would know a) this dad works in IT, b) this dad knows how to fix computers, and c) this dad owns a handgun and knows how to identify exploding bullets d) this dad has $130 laying around for software updates.
Okay, okay. I know some of you are saying, “but that kid was wrong, she shouldn’t have posted on Facebook those disrespectful things about her parents.”
Maybe not. But children need to be allowed to have their own private lives that are sacred, safe, even from their parents.
Yes, I am talking about frustration and anger and lust and sorrow and romance and masturbation and all of it. Kids need to reckon all of that out for themselves.
Teenagers need this especially. They are battling with the responsibility of autonomy and the tandem frustration of helplessness–I would venture that 15 is the age at which this is most intense. And of course they’re going to get it wrong sometimes! They should be allowed to!
They should also know that they can count on their parents to listen to them if they’re in trouble or worried about something or considering doing something more adult than chores, like sex or drugs.
What kind of teenager will feel safe going to her loose cannon of a pubescent dad for advice or guidance or birth control when he flies off the handle at her for being a normal, healthy, developing teenager?
I will now propose some healthy, responsible responses to that angry, teenaged note on Facebook.
- Increase her roster of chores to match the one she described on Facebook (all floors, all laundry, etc).
- Express disappointment and sorrow to an extent that child notices. Ask child what she thinks her punishment should be.
- Explain that she will need to repay the $130 of software from a summer job, or work off that value in additional chores since she clearly does not understand the value of work.
- Restrict access to phone, friends, computer, for a specific amount of time.
- Restrict access to some other big deal event or some other activity, or if she takes lessons of some sort, have her work off an exchange rate in chores.