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 Dean’s World.)

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Author: DEAN ESMAY, Guest Voice Columnist

Dean Esmay is a long-time associate of Joe Gandelman and The Moderate Voice. He is Managing Editor of A Voice for Men. He also blogs on a variety of issues at Dean's World, one of the world's first blogs and one of the few that was archived as Historically Significant by the Library of Congress for the 2004 elections. You can also follow Dean via Twitter here.

  • Peoplecantthink

    Please tell me you’re joking……all you’ve done is assert what you think is right over what he thinks it right without any real basis other than personal experience and anecdotal evidence I bet.

    So really, you’re condemning his opinion and suggestion you have a moral high ground. Except no one has a moral high ground because eventually cultures and backgrounds will clash.

    Teenagers are not rational and rarely respond well to rational actions they disagree with.

    Get over the gun, he could have run it over or thrown it in a river, the method was not important, the destruction of the laptop was the key part. Because sometimes people don’t listen until something gets broken, even adults.

  • http://wwww.deanesamy.com DEAN ESMAY, Guest Voice Columnist

    Peoplecantthink: I don’t believe you truly read what I wrote. To whit:

    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.

    The fact that you did not read that leads me to believe you probably did not read the rest of the piece very carefully either.

    What this man is teaching his daughter is that when you get mad, you should throw a tantrum and break things. That is not a good lesson.

    He is also teaching her that disproportional response is appropriate; she acts like a baby to a few dozen of her Facebook friends, so he causes hundreds of dollars in damage and embarrasses her to an audience of millions (it’s approaching 1.9 million as I write this and will undoubtedly pass 2 million within hours if not minutes; it was only at 1.2 million a few hours ago). This may make her “shape up” but it is just as likely to make her conclude that she is right to hate and fear her father (and mother, apparently).

    He is also being something of a spoiled brat himself; he does not apparently know how good he has it to have a daughter who merely sulks and whines and has a little potty mouth. Try having a daughter who cuts her wrists or runs away from home and never returns, or comes home one day strung out on heroin and pregnant–or who you last see on a slab in a morgue. If you think that’s a joke you’re a fool, it happens every day to good people who think they’re raising their kids right.

    I believe this father could have taken the laptop away and taught her a lesson in a much smarter way, and he should really think about that. And if you’ve got kids, so should you.

    As someone who has made many mistakes himself as a father, I appreciate it when people try to let me know where I can do better. I hope he does too.

  • rudi

    Mr. Jordan needed to set up her laptop with her as just a basic user. Parents are supervisors and administrators, PC’s also have parental supervision.

    But the biggest problem is this family is dysfunctional, communicating over FB in staid of face to face is just stupid.

    I hope the daughter doesn’t have access to a small caliber pistol. She just learned to use a pistol to “fix a problem.”

    Lock up the PC. Let her get a job and pay for PC use at a Internet Cafe…

  • http://wwww.deanesamy.com DEAN ESMAY, Guest Voice Columnist

    One might also bear in mind that teenaged girls have kept diaries forever in which they write overwrought emotional bullcrap, and often have long overwrought emotional conversations with their friends wherein they overdramatize everything in how they hate their parents and these other girls at school and whatnot. This is normal teenaged behavior and as a parent you can seriously damage your relationship with your kid if you overreact to it.

    The girl’s actions on Facebook were inappropriate and deserved a response–but not thermonuclear retaliation.

  • zephyr

    Daddy and daughter deserve each other. (the dumbass didn’t even know how many rounds were in the magazine) Why should anyone waste time caring about people like this? (consider that a rhetorical question)

  • Rcoutme

    I raised two daughters (and two sons); one of them is bipolar. Furthermore, we were NOT TOLD by mental health providers that she was bipolar (how they missed that diagnosis, I will never understand).

    We faced tantrums and reactions far worse than Mr. Jordan faced, including threats of suicide (which can NEVER be taken lightly, btw). I thank God for the easier time I have had with my children than other parents around me. Kids get into drugs, promiscuity, alcohol, vandalism, theft and more.

    I agree with the author, Mr. Jordan needs to get some perspective.

    P.S. I like the idea of mailing the laptop to a charity–classic!

  • adelinesdad

    I don’t think I can reach much of a judgement here. For one thing, I don’t have teenagers yet, but more importantly, every child is different and every family is different. Some kids respond to different things. Not knowing the kid, and not knowing much about the family, I can’t really say whether this was the right way to handle it.

    But, to make a more general point: respect for adults is a waning virtue, and I can understand some frustration on the part of parents who feel powerless against the culture shift, perpetuated by social media which minimizes the perception of need for familial interdependence. With that in mind, I think there is a need for parents to assert clear authority over social media. But was this over-the-top? Well, it probably is not my style, but see my first paragraph.

  • ShannonLeee

    I think shooting things to solve family problems is a good idea.

  • zephyr

    I’m with Shannon. When in doubt start throwing lead around. ;-)

  • nsmith1111

    The first thing I don’t think most people here are taking into account is that this father did not post that video expecting it to go viral. If he had any idea this would happen, I doubt seriously he would have posted it.

    Second, he made it very clear that all the parents involved discussed this matter, and all agreed to this course of action, including his daughter’s mother, even though the video makes it very obvious they are no longer together. In the video, he reiterated some of the other methods of discipline they’ve tried, including grounding her, as well as attempting to reason with her. Not only hasn’t any of the other methods they’ve tried worked, but she’s only grown even more defiant, and is spiraling out of control.

    To the author of this article. You don’t know that this girl hasn’t been using drugs, made suicide threats/attempts, or engaging in unprotected sex.

    Yes, shooting the laptop seems a little extreme to me too, but frankly, desperate times call for desperate measures, and just because he was rather calm and collected in that video, you may not realize just how much disruption, along with pain and heartache, a truely troubled teen can create–for single person involved.

    I can’t even begin to count the number of people I know personally who have ended up divorcing a 2nd spouse, specifically because they could no longer tolerate being continuously abused by their stepchildren. Wouldn’t surprise me to find out that his daughter resents her father remarrying, has jealousy issues with her baby stepbrother, and has been acting out deliberately, hoping to create so many problems, in an attempt to compel her stepmom (and baby stepbrother) to leave.

    Do I know that’s what’s really going on here? No, but you don’t know that it isn’t. Until you know all the fact, you really shouldn’t judge.

    As far those who feel that laptop should have been donated to charity? First of all, the average lifespan of a laptop is 2-3 years, That laptop didn’t look that new to me, and I know laptops. It was also an HP, and not a higher-end one at that. I can’t begin to count how many parents I know who, instead, have spent many thousands of dollars on therapy for their troubled teens, and tens of thouands of dollars on boot camps. By comparison, destroying a laptop that probably wasn’t worth more thn $200, is dirt cheap.

    If donating it to charity seems like a better solution to you? It may seem that way to you, but what most people don’t realize is just how many places the history is stored in a computer. I’ve already taken computer hard drives, wiped the free space, reformatted and installed a new operating sysetm — and was still able to pull up quite a bit of the history, including old emails!

    To prevent anyone from accessing my history, I personally “swiss cheese” all old hard drives, meaning I remove it from the computer, clamp it down in a vice grip, and use an electric drill to fill that hard drive with holes. If that sounds extreme to you, well, I didn’t invent either that process or the term “swiss cheese.” I learned about it from IT professionals, who have been doing it for many years, and that also happens to be the father’s profession as well.

    Instead of using an electric drill, bullet holes would work just as well.

  • Milonguera

    Dean,

    First, Thank you for your succinct explanation on why this man would do well to apologize to his daughter–and get the family some help!

    I am dismayed to read so many people disagree with you–but it comes as little surprise, as my friends, and my husband too, think Mr. Jordan was in the right.

    I abhor violence and think that even if the daughter has been uncontrollable in the past, the father behaved in an irresponsible if not dangerous manner. I’m with your point of view on this, all the way.

    Again, Thank You!

  • ShannonLeee

    There are a thousand ways to clean a hard drive that do not include gun play… the rationalization is way over the top on that one. The guy is in IT…he should know.

    Guns should not be used as a form of discipline. PERIOD.

    I am going to assume the man has a gun safe…..not a bad place to store a laptop.

    “exploding hollow points”

    Have a good day ya’ll…. GWB voter for sure.

  • zephyr

    “and just because he was rather calm and collected in that video”

    “Calm and collected”??? You must be joking. What we have here are idiots raising idiots. Not charitable – but obvious.

  • xyzyx

    It’s strange that anyone would make a big deal. The father was creative, and once the daughter is truly grown up she will understand and likely can share a laugh about it with her father someday — the only question being before or after she has kids herself (not all the way to their becoming teens themselves, either).