Parenting is hard work.
I’ve experienced frustration, despair, blinding anger, crushing disappointment, and overwhelming feelings of failure during my experience with parenting…and those are just within the last two weeks. I don’t even have teenagers, yet — just a very strong-willed, emotionally dramatic and close-lipped 10 year-old and a demanding, exhausting, verbose 4 year-old. I feel like I’m beating my head against a brick wall more often than not, except the brick wall talks back. I try so hard to be the best parent — to raise them in the way that will lead to them being happy, successful, productive adults, I mean — but I quite regularly feel like nothing I try even matters.
That’s why I can sort-of understand the bunches (seemingly millions) of parents cheering on this guy:
However, understanding isn’t the same as agreeing.
The first place I saw this video was on the Facebook page of a friend who genuinely didn’t know how to feel about it, and was asking for input. The input she received was overwhelming supporting this father. After that, it blew up my entire Facebook feed, with a large number of people reposting it to say he was awesome and to lament “ungrateful, entitled brats.”
It’s not unusual for my opinion to seem to be a minority one; I’m an outspoken liberal feminist in rural Indiana. What surprised me this time, though, was that I seem to be a minority even among my fellow outspoken liberal feminists. I find myself unable to support or cheer on this father, even if I can understand the feelings of hurt, helplessness and anger that probably led him to record this video, fire several rounds into a perfectly good laptop, and then post it for all the world to see.
I assume the teenaged girl was being at least partially hyperbolic and exaggerating in her rant. I don’t believe the chores she was expected to do, as defined by her father, are unreasonable . . . although I would consider it a little ridiculous if she really was expected to make and take coffee to her parents on a regular basis as she seemed to suggest. I even applaud the father for requiring his daughter to do chores; it teaches responsibility and generally helps stave off an attitude of entitlement.
The question is — was this video really a parenting technique?
I remember being 15; everything about my parents seemed specifically designed to make my life a living hell. I railed against them to my friends, in my diary, to their faces. I was dramatic, ungrateful, and I vented all the time to anyone who would listen. There wasn’t a thing in the world anybody could have said to me — but especially not my parents — to make me respect them. Oh, they could have managed to make me shut my mouth about it, I’m sure. But they couldn’t have made me respect them on the inside. And from my experience, that’s part of being a teen. In fact, I’ve even read at least one article that indicated hating your parents is an important part of growing up. You can make a kid fear you enough that they will never express disrespect . . . but you can never force them to respect you.
Was the young lady ungrateful for what she had? Absolutely. Her father was clearly hurt by her disregarding the time and effort he had spent upgrading her computer, for example. But how many of us can honestly saw we understood and appreciated how hard our parents worked for us before we became parents ourselves? Surely not me. I had no idea what it took to raise a family until I had one.
I’m not excusing bad behavior — just trying to put it into a reasonable context. But let’s discuss what that behavior really was. The 15 year-old girl posted a rant on her Facebook page, which was set to private and from which her parents were blocked. In effect, was this really any different than venting to her friends? She aired her frustrations in what she believed to be a private place, accessible by only her friends, and in a place she did not intend her parents to see it. Yes, there are complexities to the internet, as evidenced by her father’s ability to get hold of the rant anyway. But are we really going to say this girl had no right to say anything bad about her parents, to anyone, ever? Don’t all of us have a right to express our feelings in a safe environment, even if those feelings are totally unreasonable or unfair? Hell, I’m a hard-working adult who is entirely grateful for the opportunities and gifts I’ve been given, but ask my friends and they will tell you that I quite regularly bitch to high heaven about little things in my life I consider injustices, whether they truly are, or not. It’s human nature.
In any event, what was the point of this father’s reaction? Will it cause his daughter to start respecting him more? No — probably the opposite. Will it make her more grateful? No — probably the opposite. Will it make her less likely to vent to friends? Um, no — probably the opposite. Will it prevent her from fucking around on Facebook? Well, yeah, since her laptop has gone to Technology Heaven with other victims of technology abuse, like the fax machine from Office Space. Will she be scared shitless of her Father? Um, yeah. I’m scared of him, and I don’t have to live with him. Who DOES that? Who just busts out a handgun and shoots things to prove a point? I’ve tried to understand it, and I really can’t envision any scenario in which that is not physically threatening, especially when coming from a person in a position of authority over you. If my boss caught me playing Words with Friends on company time and decided to have target practice with my Dell to make a point, it would be the textbook definition of a hostile work environment. Why should we hold parenting to another standard?
What’s the end goal of parenting? Is it to get our kids to do what we want through (almost) any means necessary? If so, this video is a Parenting Technique and probably accomplished its parenting goal. I don’t think that’s good enough, though. I think the goal of parenting is to produce a happy, well-rounded and secure individual who can be a productive member of society and has the tools needed for success at life. Does this video make any progress toward any of those goals? No. This video was not about punishment, nor discipline, nor teaching his daughter a lesson. This was about intimidation, humiliation and about making it clear “who is in charge.”
Dude…of course you are in charge. Your daughter is fully dependent on you for food, shelter, clothing — TO LIVE. Do you really think you need to wield a gun and rip your kid a new one in front of the entire world for her to know that?