Monday, February 13, 2012

Parenting with a gun

As regular readers know, I'm all about the incentives. And I'm also all about imaginative punishments. But the viral video (21 million hits at last count with ads activated too boot) of one father taking a gun to his teenage daughter's laptop really misses the mark. Usually, I relish these things as an opportunity for teaching stuff to kids but this one has the parent getting so much wrong it isn't funny.

That is what I told Caroline Howard today at Forbes. She writes about it in this post. The whole dispute was over this man's 15 year old writing a "letter to her parents" on Facebook basically complaining about her household chores and asking for payment. The letter itself is pretty mild stuff for a teenager. My children will regularly complain to us directly. But the thing here is that this one just complained to her friends on Facebook. She didn't show it to her parents or in public. Her father ended up finding it by trawling her computer. And that is when he let loose.

What he does, appealing to some previous Facebook issue, is destroy her laptop and then, posted the whole shebang on YouTube. Anybody can surely see that the last thing you should do to a laptop or thing is destroy it to show how valuable it is. Apparently this was with the intention of embarrassing her but I gotta say that I cannot imagine that amongst her peers she is getting anything other than sympathy. And the irony is, that given her destroyed laptop, she can't even see his whole rant.

This is not about household chores (find me a parent and child who has never had an issue over this) and it is not about unappreciative children. What this is about is communication. This father-daughter pair are telling us exactly how it shouldn't be done. And in this, you have to point your finger at the adult in this. Facebook is the means by which teenagers talk to each other. If they can't complain about their parents there, where are they supposed to do it? The fact that this was all apparently news to the father is a problem with their communication. In the Forbes piece, I wonder if the gun had anything to do with it. 

To be sure, there is a larger parental issue of how to instill values in your children. For us, we usually like some thoughtful discussion over an episode of Wife Swap. But here was one child putting down her perspective and then getting return fire. That isn't going to do the trick.

By the way, the ad showing on the YouTube video I saw was of teenagers sharing stuff with their mobile phones. Great placement Google Nexus!