Unwise Facebook Parenting for the Troubled Teen

This video, apparently made by angry father Tommy Jordan, has “gone viral” and had more than a million views in under 72 hours, with a torrent of commentary. Most of the commentary seems to express either enthusiastic support or simple shock. I suspect it will get a few million more hits before it dies down or the father pulls it down.

I am assuming this is real and not a staged prank. Assuming it’s real, I am sympathetic with Mr. Jordan.

Unlike some, I am not fazed at the use of a gun. Not only am I one of those who believes the right to keep and bear arms is sacred, but it would have been more disturbing had he used a hammer or run over the laptop with a car. The gun is a distraction at most, although I certainly hope Mr. Jordan has taught his children proper use and respect for that fine firearm of his.

Nevertheless, however justified Mr. Jordan’s anger may be, if he’s wise he will take down this video and apologize–yes, apologize–to his daughter.

I suppose he may get angry at that suggestion, and I’m sure some of you reading this will also be angry. Certainly a lot of people, including some teenagers, are cheering this whole thing. But when tempers cool, here are some things to contemplate:

1) This teaches your child that destruction of valuable property is an appropriate way to express anger.

2) It also teaches your child that if you’re angry, you should retaliate–and retaliate not just in a moment of unthinking anger, but in a cold, calculating, planned manner.

3) The level of public attention this has received now vastly exceeds the level of the offense. Mr. Jordan almost certainly did not intend that, but that has been the result, raising this from teenage misbehavior to International Incident. (I know that was not the intent, but it’s what happened. Whoops.)

4) Teenagers can be selfish and lazy and bratty, but Mr. Jordan may wish to contemplate that there are millions of rebellious teens who do things like get pregnant, use drugs, get involved in crime, run away from home, even wind up in jail or commit suicide. None of those are funny, all of them are real, and they happen to parents of every race, religion, income level, and every part of the country (and world).

Mister Jordan spends much time berating his daughter for how good she has it. In this, he is right. But he may also want to thank God that his problems with his daughter amount to no more than whining about chores, some foul language, and complaining about what awful parents she has. Your girl could be strung out on drugs, pregnant, or in jail Mr. Jordan–maybe all three. Or just dead. And if you think I’m joking, give me a call and I’ll introduce you to some people I know who have had those very things happen to them. You and that girl’s mom need to get some perspective here, because you could have things a lot worse too, and I doubt you’d trade a whole warehouse full of laptops for that little girl.

Now here’s the funny thing: I might have done something very similar to this. I don’t think publicly embarrassing a teenager who’s done something like this is beyond the pale. But as a parent you need to be a little more creative. If my teenager had done something like this, and I was going to post a YouTube video like this, here’s what I would do:

1) Everything you said about how hard you had to work when you were a kid? Good. I’d say that. I left home at 15 and had my first job before that myself. Go ahead and say those things. But you don’t call the kid names or call her lazy. You just make the point of how easy she has it by comparison, and how hurtful it is to have her take that for granted.

2) All that stuff about the “cleaning lady?” I’d say every word of that the same, but I’d also add some extra: she gets to spend the next few weekends at the “cleaning lady’s” house helping her fix up her house. Try doing some cooking and cleaning and even some yard work for that “cleaning lady” and maybe she’ll learn a little more respect for people who are having hard times, and that you don’t treat that with contempt.

3) The laptop? I’d show myself on camera carefully putting it in a box, taking it to the post office, and mailing it to these people, or some other charity. Then I’d tell her if she wants another laptop, she can have it when she buys it for herself.

That would have been funny, it would have embarrassed her without frightening or humiliating her, and it would have illustrated the difference between a temper tantrum and reasonable consequences for bad behavior.

Seriously Mr. Jordan: I would go to your daughter, hug her, explain to her that what she did was wrong but that what you did was not the right way to respond to it. You should not be afraid to tell your child when you’re in the wrong. Then, I would work on a better relationship. Most definitely, I would keep in mind that kids may be selfish and unappreciative, but that’s a pretty normal thing: just about every parent of a teenager puts up with that. But you probably want to be more creative and thoughtful in your responses to it in the future.

(This item cross-posted to The Moderate Voice.)

  • http://gamepursuits.net/ipb/index.php?act=idx Sandi

    If this is true, I do agree with your response.

    However it reeks of someone trying to make a popular YouTube video and name for them self.

  • http://www.deanesmay.com Dean Esmay

    Yeah that’s why I hedged a little bit myself. If it’s a stunt, it’s going to make a lot of people screaming “yeah whoo whoo!” look extra foolish. Although they look a little foolish now in my eyes. This is the reaction to an overdramatic teen girl posting some angsty stuff on Facebook? Uhm… yeah. Anyone out there ever been a teenaged girl, or know one?

  • Elizabeth Reid

    I commented on a thread on this elsewhere, and said pretty much the same thing, particularly the part about donating the laptop vs destroying the laptop. Shooting the laptop seemed just as bratty as anything the daughter had done, and just as much a symptom of taking your good life for granted. For heaven’s sake, if you don’t think your daughter should have a laptop, by all means take it away from her, but don’t destroy it in a fit of pique, give it to someone who could use it.

  • Naftali

    He has lost his kid. He probably lost her long ago. I can’t relate to a 3 month grounding. Not even sure what it means.

    Nice of mom to get a bullet in, too. This was more vindictive than educational. Clearly the priority here is Daddy and Mommy. Now they are going to post this video on the Facebook page. That’ll teach her.

    No teenage kid has any business on Facebook, all that said.

  • Duncan

    Can’t relate to a three month grounding ?
    OK. I’ll help you out. Not me, but my sister at age 15 got 16 months.
    THAT is drug use. Previous 3 month for this kid, and the ramp up to this. Yep, about right.
    Donating the lap top…to whom ? Really.
    This sent the message. THIS is the instrament of abuse you are using and it stops right here. Right now.
    It, and you, will not inflict this apon anyone else.
    The only thing that would have made it better?
    The sound. Too high pitched for the camera.
    To much effort. Loss of round count.
    A shot gun!
    Now the lower frequency and total, emediate destruction.
    THAT would have been the show stopper.
    He did well. He was having a hard time trying to keep it together.
    Used the same medium, forum and audiance to get his message across. His went further, and garnered more support then her little rant.
    He won.
    Though, like you are saying, this round, battle.
    May have lost the war, but it was already lost, if that was the case.

  • Elizabeth Reid

    “It, and you, will not inflict this apon anyone else.”

    So you’re saying this dad was (rightly!) blaming the laptop for the problem? I’d think you’d agree with the precept that guns don’t kill people, people kill people, and yet apparently laptops post insulting things to Facebook.

    You can donate a laptop to:

    http://www.military-money-matters.com/donate-a-laptop.html#axzz1mB1SZntu

    http://www.computerswithcauses.org/laptop-donations.htm

    http://www.idttys.org/

    among others. I’m sure in any locality there are also smaller organizations that take computer donations.

  • Naftali

    16 months, to distance a kid from drug use. Fair enough. I can relate to that.

    How did it work out? Was there a life for your sister in the home, or was it all deprivation? Just trying to relate. I hope to never be up against that type of issue.

  • Naftali

    The more I think about it the more wise a 16th month grounding for drug use seems. But not in the you sinned so bad I am going to rain fire and brimstone on your head, so that you will fear crossing me again type of way. It be more like your life in the world has or is starting to go off track so we’re going to keep you at home and sever your connection to it, so that you can learn, mature and go at it again in the future. The parents would have to provide for a full fledged existence in the home, however. Do you remember anything about what the grounding was like. Was she able to have visitors? What did she do on the weekends? Is she a reader? Did she go out with family often?

  • maggie – labrat

    I don’t understand the support this man is getting. I actually feel sorry for his child. He thinks this is good parenting? I really don’t have a clue what I’ve been doing right but I have 3 GOOD teens. They listen to me, honor and respect me and we all trust each other. Are they perfect? Hell no – but I have had NONE of the bad attitude and behavioral problems I hear of from other parents. My children are horrified by the way some of their friends speak to their parents, as they have never dreamed of speaking to me that way. Not one of them has ever been grounded. I’ve never had a reason to, and wouldn’t really know how to execute one. I would never shoot my child’s laptop – that’s for sure. What kind of message does that send to a child? That man needs to grow up.

  • Elizabeth Reid

    I just found out, reading a comment thread elsewhere, that the girl had actually paid for this laptop herself. It was NOT something her father had provided for her. His excuse for not donating it was that would be ‘theft’ because the laptop wasn’t his… but he was OK with destroying it. I am even more firmly against what he did now.

  • http://www.deanesmay.com Dean Esmay

    Are we certain she bought it herself? I’d have to ask how.

    I’m merely asking for the factual basis for that particular assertion, not making any other statement beyond what I’ve already said.

    Except that I will add for Maggie’s sake that some kids are harder to deal with than others. Sometimes same parents, same household, same living situation, and one of them’s a handful and one isn’t. You don’t know until you’ve been there. This is not to say I am defending this father–I think I’ve already made clear what I think, and I’m not backing down on any of it–I’m just saying, you may want to count your blessings that you don’t have a hothead kid. Some do, and it isn’t always because they’re bad parents.

  • Elizabeth Reid

    The cite was from one of his own comments on his Facebook page where he published this. There are currently 33,000 comments on the post so I’m not sure how to find the one being referenced.

  • Elizabeth Reid

    This is the quote I’m seeing passed around, allegedly taken from his Facebook page. I can’t figure out how to find it, Facebook SUCKS at letting you search for a particular post.

    “I actually considered selling [her laptop] on eBay, but decided against it. She bought it with her money. For us to sell it and take the money, in my mind anyways, is just theft, even from my own kid.”

  • http://www.deanesmay.com Dean Esmay

    Ah. Well that is an interesting line of reasoning: it would be wrong to give her property away, so I can destroy it instead.

    I read some of the guy’s Facebook stuff and he seems to have figured out that he may have overdone it a bit, so that’s good I guess.

    Interesting counterpoint, my 14 year old son thinks the father did the right thing. Go figure.

  • Pingback: Laptop Shooting Dad Pretty Much a Jerk()