Blogging about the Sweetest Things in Life

Reflections on the extraordinary moments of an ordinary Mother.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Batsh*t crazy parenting or Consequences to poor decisions; it's a matter of communication

By now you've probably seen the video of the father who shoots his daughters laptop with his pistol.  If you haven't here ya go:

The response has been enormous, both in support and in disagreement.   I found freeplayparenting's response thoughtful.  I completely agree about parenting by example and with respect,  but I still think they are missing the larger point and that is communication

You see that letter could have totally been written by a teenage me.  The only difference was that my chore list was 26 items long,  And if the entire weeks items were completed to my Step Father's satisfaction I did earn money, five dollars.  Now I'm not the youngest chick in the yard, but five dollars for the weeks work would have been a fraction of the $3 minimum wage at the time.  I lived the frustration of this teenage girl.  To this day I harbor at least some lasting resentment about my parents attitude.  When I complain about keeping the house up and my Mom jokes that I need a teenager,  I don't laugh.  And I don't plan on parenting that way.

However, now I live on the flip side of this parent/child relationship.  I respect the need for consequences in a different way.  I am a big fan of educated decisions, always have been.  I love to give my kids choices, from what they may wear to what they can do around the house to help out.  At some point they have to learn that poor choices sometimes result in crummy consequences.  This is one of the more valuable life lessons I think I can teach them.  Recently my darling daughter has learned that refusing to study her spelling words results in a low grade.  This had little impact on her life or her study attitude until we made her weekly BFF playdate contingent upon an 80% or better test.  She sometimes struggles to make the decision to study, but when I remind her that missing the playdate is a consequence of her own decision I hope to frame it differently then just a punishment from Mom and Dad.

The saddest part of this Father's video is that he's making it in the first place.  I have zero issue with him taking away his daughter's laptop.  They've apparently had a problem before and it sounds like she knew there would be consequences.  I'm way too frugal to put a bullet through a laptop, although it does send a very clear message.  But like freeplayparenting pointed out, this Father and Daughter are both sitting on the frustration train but not realizing they're riding together.  If he would take his daughter out for a dinner date (I know, it seem counter intuitive but hear me out) and have a face to face conversation about her feelings I'd lay $100 down he would get a better outcome faster.  If he would listen with empathy to her concerns he would probably find that a) much of her frustration may have already dissipated.  we all need to vent sometimes, even him.  b) her feelings are valid regardless of whether the overarching complaint is or isn't and c) there are probably ways he can improve as a parent like expressing more appreciation for her efforts.  He can also take this opportunity to point out her limited perspective, gently.

There is something moving and powerful about looking someone in the eye,  about talking face to face.  When it is your daughter whom you love dearly and want desperately to raise with great character, wisdom and work ethic don't you owe her the respect of looking her in the face instead of a video camera?  Don't you owe her the chance to express her feelings without being patronized and invalidated?  It's true she probably lives in a sheltered and self centered world due to her age, but it's a parents job to teach them through this, not to arbitrarily dismiss their feelings.

It's true that my kids are still young.  I totally understand that parenting teenagers is an entirely different experience.  Perhaps this girls letter resonates with me more then some, but I also know this Father's approach will most likely build another layer or two of wall between him and his daughter.  She's probably a "good kid" and will probably "turn out alright".  She may even grow older, see her parents perspective in a different way.  She may realize they weren't nearly as wrong as she thought they were, but this realization could easily take a decade or more.  In the mean time she will be traveling along a journey fraught with many real dangers and many bigger choices and consequences then posting a rant about her parents.  These are worst times to have her Father on the opposite side of the Great Wall of China.  I promise this Father that right now his daughter is not internalizing his actions as a result of her own behavior, but is filled with anger and resentment for him.   Next time he should look her in the eye, speak calmly, and listen carefully.  Consequences are fine, but the context in which you give them will make all the difference in the world!


  1. I so wish every child would be able to have a face to face conversation and have an educated response. I have three teenage children; two have been perfectly normal in their hormonal obsessions, limited frontal lobe development short-sightedness, and failure to understand that money does not in fact grow on trees. My oldest however, did not respond in that way; she would lie to your face about something while the evidence of the act was in front of the two of you. She felt entitled to whatever she wanted, whatever the consequences to others. She once sat in a chair in the direct sunlight for an hour and a half rather than pull weeds with the rest of us in the shade. Her self centeredness affected everyone, not just her parents. The other kids were getting stomach aches and dreaded coming home if she was here.
    I have never shot a laptop or anything else in anger, and don't believe in that, but I have felt just what he has felt, and I empathize with the hopeless frustration that can come from having no way to get through no matter what you try.We did everything, including therapy, and nothing worked. Finally we had to just let her go and make her mistakes.I still hold out hope for her to be a responsible citizen, but when success is defined as no pregnancies or felony convictions that required incarceration, it can be hard to see during the worst times that it will get better.
    At 21, she still lies on her job application and sees that as appropriate as long as she doesn't get caught. She doesn't pay her bills unless it's the cell phone, because it goes off the day she misses a payment. She's never held a job or a relationship longer than 5 months. Its the fear of that future for a child you love that can make you crazy.

  2. Love this!

    I work with AllFreeSewing and have been trying to contact you. Please email me if there is a good way to reach you. Thanks!

    Adam Kaplan