How to be a Bad Parent – in One Easy LessonFebruary 10, 2012
I almost never do this, but I am going to react to a video posted online. I am doing this because over a dozen of my friends posted this on Facebook and most of them (excluding my good friend Ken and one other person) paraded this around as an example of great parenting. It is not.
This is the opposite of great parenting.
Here is the video. Watch it and come back for my “expert” analysis.
There are at least six things wrong with what he does here…and what is behind what he does.
1. He is Escalating the Confrontation. In family therapy terms, he is “stair-stepping” emotionally. This means he is reacting to her emotional fit on Facebook with a video that shows an even more dramatic display. Believe me, a handgun trumps an opinion expressed to friends every time. If you want to show a teen they are being disrespectful, you come down a notch emotionally and refuse to enter into their histrionics. Police officers will tell you that domestic disputes get out of hand when one person feels they have to “top” the emotions of the other person. What does the daughter do now in this family? Either she will do something even more dramatic than the dad, or she will feel cowed by his antics and shut down completely. My guess is that he has not earned her respect but her loathing.
2. He teaches “do as I command, not as I model”. He tells her to refrain from profanity and his speech is laced with profanity. This is like the parent who keeps preaching respect while showing no respect. I understand that parents aren’t perfect either. But this dad just wants to be the “boss” so much that he thinks his profanity is justified because “she started it“. My guess is she is simply mirroring what Cowboy Dad does every day; and he doesn’t like having a mirror held up to his soul.
3. His Anger is Not Focused: Generally in working with anyone, you must stick to one (or at the most, two) things that anger you. If he had just stuck with the “why did you have to shame us publicly” message, that would have more powerful. But he brings in the cost of the software, the language used, the disrespect for Linda, the “cleaning lady”. (It appears Linda is one of his clients who is paying for his services by cleaning their house. Why on earth does he allow Linda to clean this girl’s room in the first place?) He is one of those parents who stores up the grievances and then lets them all out at once.
4. A Handgun? Seriously? Telling the world that mom wants him to take a shot for her? This is what we tell our friends we wanted to do to the laptop. Adults don’t do this. Felons do this. No wonder this is such a wonderfully respectful family. This says to the kids “when you reach your boiling point, shoot something.”
5. If you strip out the profanity, his daughter actually does have some valid points. At least, she has every right to express her anger. What she does wrong is tell the world on Facebook and lace it with angry invective. If this is dad’s approach to dealing with his children, I can see why she feels she needs to take this to the masses. She isn’t right by any stretch of the imagination, but I can understand her. A good parent needs to keep the conversation going and enact consequences when kids won’t listen. Take away the laptop. Ground her until she moves out. But keep talking. The old adage “keep talking, I’m reloading” makes for a funny bumper-sticker. It is not good parenting.
6. In all Mr. Gun-toting Cowboy’s stream of anger, what he really is telling her is “don’t disrespect me”. I have a gun, I am in charge and you will tow the line. I have seen parents take this approach a lot and I can guarantee you it only alienates children. A good parent models respect by showing it, not by demanding it. As an example, look at the book “To Kill a Mockingbird”. Can you imagine Atticus Finch demanding his children respect him? When Jem and Scout sneak out to watch him on the steps of the jail (without permission), he seeks to understand, not to alienate them. The whole town respects Atticus because he has shown them respect. It is the father of the supposed rape victim that demands respect. And he never gets it. I wonder why?