I just watched the video where a dad, Tommy Jordan, frustrated, angry and hurt about his daughter’s rebellious and rude post on Facebook, shoots his daughter’s laptop. I was asked by a parent in our community to give my thoughts on the video, and I’m grateful that she asked. It’s a topic that affects most of us, so here are my thoughts, and the tips on parenting that can be gained from a discussion of what happened.
Here’s the Cole’s Notes of my opinion of his behavior:
1. Like too many parents, he is in a very frustrating situation that should not be tolerated.
2. He’s the parent, and therefore needs to take at least 50% responsibility for creating the situation (I see him taking 0%).
3. There are assertive ways to draw appropriate boundaries, which serve to strengthen relationships, not aggressively establish who is powerful, while alienating our children who we’ve relegated to powerless. As parents we are called to be great leaders, not just aggressive dictators.
Now for the longer response.
First, I have empathy for a VERY frustrated dad! Unfortunately, one of the reasons that his post went viral instantly is millions of parents can relate to feeling that their children are way over empowered. His daughter’s snarky remarks were totally out of line, and the fact that she posted them publicly on Facebook after all that he was doing for her, would trigger anger in most of us.
Unfortunately, our society has way too many models of people blowing up, and acting from that rage and anger. Although he was calm, he was definitely angry. It would have felt amazing to shoot her laptop out of self-justified anger. However, it was a reactive move that amongst other things cost the father money and made the time he’d spent fixing the computer in the first place a complete waste of time. The bigger issue though is what did she take away from it all.
Ultimately, Hanna, the daughter learned a lot from that incident. Some of the lessons, like the importance of being respectful, and not taking fights into the public arena, are goals we all want our kids to learn. Other lessons she learned are much more dubious. Like, if you are having a conflict with someone, and they cross a major line, it is fine to jump across the line too, take the conflict public and act from a reactive state, not a loving and reflective one.
No doubt about it, Hanna has MAJOR entitlement issues. Tommy is clearly an upstanding citizen, but somehow, he had a disconnect. He is her father, and it is his job to teach her right from wrong. In the video, and what I’ve read since, he has failed to take the ultimate responsibility that all parents have, and that is for raising her that way! She did not become over-entitled in a parental vacuum! He and his wife had over and over again allowed her to do and say things that were not respectful.
The reason our kids aren’t responsible and respectful anymore is because we as a society are catering to our kids needs and not setting firm, (not aggressive) limits. Allowing our children to repeat mistakes over and over and then shooting their laptops when we blow up is not responsible parenting, despite how out of line she was. It is responsible (although not always easy) to ask in the midst of such an emotional situation, “Wow. How on earth did I raise a girl who thought this could be okay?” That question would have taken him down a completely different path.
No doubt about it, Hanna needed to be reined in. No doubt about it also though is that Hanna is a product of parents who are, like millions of others nowadays, confused about assertiveness and how to educate our kids, including setting firm boundaries. The parents who raised Tommy did not have this issue, and hence he wouldn’t have dreamed of being so disrespectful.
The tragedy of the video is that although Hanna didn’t ask to be born to parents who struggle with appropriate guidelines with their kids, she is taking 100% of the blame for the way she has been raised. Tommy seems like a reasonable man, and I think that if he fully gets that he has offloaded his parenting issue onto Hanna, he’ll make a different choice, one that has him loving guiding her instead of reactively blowing up possessions that he bought her in the first place.
Just before ending, I want to post a comment that Tommy posted on his Facebook page (it is open to the public at http://www.facebook.com/tommyjordaniii/posts/299559803434210).
Modern” parenting raises ill-prepared kids who can’t do anything and have no skills because they’re protected from even LEARNING them until 18 years old, at which time you want us parents to throw them out into the world, send them off to college, and expect them to be productive members of society? You can take your “modern” parenting, and shove it. Jeezus people. Half of you think chores at 15 are too much! God forbid we make them actually WORK too!
Although Tommy does see that she is a product of a modern issue, he doesn’t seem to see that he is an active part of the problem. The very act of shooting her computer plants him firmly in the camp of modern parents who don’t set appropriate limits and then overreact. Traditional parents who have appropriate, firm boundaries never have to deal with inappropriate actions like Hanna’s.
I will end with acknowledging what a huge issue Tommy has addressed through his video. Millions of people, not just parents, are now discussing the serious issue of how we are raising our children. That’s good for all of us, including our children.
Our kids are actually suffering greatly by our lack of limits, and most of us instinctually know that. Setting firm and nurturing boundaries on our children’s behavior is very possible to do, and many modern parents have found a way to be the guide that their children need. Yet even more parents struggle with how to appropriately set limits.
I hope that Tommy’s video inspires millions of people to be the positive role model that they can be for our children on how to assertively deal with conflict. The world will be a much more peaceful place if we take this event and use it to discuss the difference between assertiveness and aggression. The most successful people in life are those who have mastered the art of being assertive, and that teaching can begin in the home.
Far too few people know how to firmly ask for what they want and need in relationships, hence the crowd of people cheering Tommy on. That fact is also reflected in our high divorce rate. He’s right that a boundary needed to be made, and with some education, he and millions of other parents can learn how to draw a line in the sand without a gun or any other aggressive means. We have so much power within us, and when we appropriately set boundaries, we not only raise happier kids, but we pass on the gift of assertiveness to them as well.