I’m sure nearly everyone has seen the following video that has gone viral on Facebook and everywhere else, it seems. If you haven’t seen it yet, take a look here.
Initially, I had a fairly positive reaction to this video. I liked that the dad decided enough was enough and addressed the problem. I even liked (and in fact, still do applaud) the fact that he made a public response that her friends were sure to see. I thought it absolutely correct to take her laptop away, and to make it crystal clear that her actions had some very real, very unpleasant consequences. I totally relate to this father’s choice to shock his child into attention, because clearly she went way beyond the bounds of acceptable behavior.
It’s funny, because sometimes the obvious is not so very obvious until someone points it out, or reacts in a way you didn’t expect. And that is exactly what happened here. After posting this (quite funny) video on Facebook, to which there were several like-minded responses to mine, I also had the following response:
I understand him being angry that his daughter wrote those disrespectful things on her Facebook. Kids need consequences and redirection when they screw up. But he took it too far. Maybe instead of trying to embarrass his daughter, he should have turned off the camera, pulled up another chair and had a conversation with his little girl. What she did was wrong, but maybe she vented all of that on her Facebook because when she has tried to be honest with her father, she’s met with his sarcasm and cruelty. Gosh, that burned my biscuits right up! Haha
A day or so later, I read this blog post by one of my nephews, who addressed it from a perspective that I had not thought of until he waxed particularly eloquent on it. (By the way, read his post – Good Parenting or Too Far? – it’s good.) Sadly, it is probably the crux of where we as parents mess up the most…disciplining with love. So as I watched parts of the video again, and read through Johnny’s post about it, my own perspective on it became much more clear, and (inevitably) lead me to some self-examination regarding my own parenting pitfalls, which are many.
The thing is, I do think this father had good intentions, but I think (now) that his approach was wrong. I know he loves his daughter, though that was not really evident in the video. What was evident was his frustration with her, his anger at her disrespect, his irritation at her attempt to embarrass him (and her mom, and her stepmom <–which leads to a post best saved for another day). He had every right to feel all of these ways, but he is also the adult, and as her father, he had an opportunity to make a real, lasting and significant impact on her (and her friends), and he squandered it in favor of retaliation. Sure, her friends are laughing…at him (because frankly, he was funny) and at her (because her Dad got her publicly). But they didn’t learn a damn thing that was valuable.
Do I believe that the consequences he doled out were appropriate? Absolutely, and that includes making a public statement to her and her friends on Facebook. But I don’t think he did it the right way. He never – not once – stated that he loved her. He never – not once – made it clear that, no matter what she did, he would continue to love her. He never – not once – said that he understood she was angry and frustrated. He never – not once – indicated that she was important to him. You may say these things are implicit in the “tough love” he doled out, but they are not.
He sought to embarrass her, and he (likely) did. What he also did was (likely) kill any kind of heart connection with her…possibly ever again. She clearly did not trust him or respect him before, and it doesn’t seem likely, especially in the wake of this response, that she will again. Frankly, I wouldn’t. What daughter would EVER trust her father if he made public sport of her like that? Especially if he had not courted her heart from the beginning, and ensured that their heart connection was strong and enduring.
When I became a parent, it became crystal clear to me that if I wanted to have any influence over my child(ren) at all, I need to court their heart(s). Continuously. I need to make sure they know, even in the midst…especially in the midst…of discipline, that there is nothing that will make me not love them, nothing that will make me love them less, and nothing that will make them unimportant to me. Nothing at all. Ever. I love them because they are mine.
I wish the dad in the video had chosen to make that point publicly. I wish he had chosen to discipline with love rather than punish with shame. I wish he had seized this teachable moment to really teach. What a powerful testimony that would have been.