This week a “parenting advice” video went viral and is currently running at 13 million page views. It involves a father from North Carolina who reads a disrespectful Facebook post from his 15-year-old daughter complaining about having to do chores.
After reading her post, he decides to plug her laptop with eight hollow-point bullets from his .45-caliber pistol.
There are two camps in the comments on this video. Camp one is the beleaguered parent group who are saying, “Good job, Dad!” On the other side of the debate is the mental health community who are planning on treating this emotionally scarred kid for years to come.
As I began my parenting journey in the late 80s, a parenting poem by Dorothy Law Nolte was making the rounds and became pretty popular. But the words are still true all these years later:
When I first saw this video, I was reminded of Dr. Nolte’s poem. Unfortunately, this dad, Tommy, has just taught his daughter how to handle conflict – the wrong way. Pull out a gun and use violence. I anticipate that the next time this daughter has a huge conflict with her parents, she’ll be doing some property destruction – and it’ll probably be something that her dad and mom truly value.
This is the lesson I’ve learned while parenting seven sons in a blended family. If I yell at them, they yell back. If I treat them with respect, they’re respectful. It’s a pretty simple parenting principle, but as a parent I’m the leader in our household, setting our family culture. And, it can have pretty broad consequences as what is done to one will be done to others. For instance, my husband, Steve, one night had it with our older son who insisted on breaking the house rules by having his girlfriend in his room with the door closed and locked. The guilty son insisted there was no girl in his room and wouldn’t let us in, so Steve kicked in his door, removed the door, and told him he could “earn” the privilege of a door back by his behavior. Yes, he had a girl in the room. At the time, we felt like breaking a door in was appropriate action to make sure that this son understood that we were serious about this house rule.
Within a few months, this son had a conflict with a step-brother and demonstrated his anger by kicking in his door. Later, another brother had a conflict and punched a hole in his brother’s wall to make his point. Unwittingly, we had set a precedent of making points by breaking things. It was a powerful lesson for us as parents. Children do as we do, and not as we say, especially when involved in conflict.
This point stretches me. My first impulse is to yell at bad behavior when I see it. I want to make my point loud and clear. But, my parenting goal is more than to correct bad behavior — I want to teach productive ways to resolve conflict. Do I really want to create a culture where my children yell at me every time they think I’ve done something wrong? And if I don’t want them to make their points by blowing holes in my laptop, I’d better look for better ways to express my feelings than blowing holes in theirs.
I’ve tried very hard to do two things with my own children:
1) Communicate with them – even on the tough issues, and
2) Give them options for problem solving that don’t involve violence.
This Dad might want to take a deep breath and talk with his daughter once in a while. Privately.