Wednesday 15 February 2012

Should there be a Hippocratic Oath for Parenting?

Before becoming parents most of us have lists of the things we will and won’t do when we welcome children into our lives. But we can’t possibly predict how we will react in all situations because the possibilities are infinite.

And beyond that, as technology evolves there are possibilities that we can’t even predict. Fifteen years ago we didn’t imagine the extent to which our future children would live their lives online. Social media sites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have revolutionized the way that people interact and those children who are just coming of age in this digital revolution will never know any different.

I am amazed by the power of the world wide web to form connections between people. Without it we wouldn’t have met Mac’s dad and consequently wouldn’t have Mac. In fact, without the internet I would have never even met Tracy since I met her when a girl I had dated started dating a new girl and the new girl introduced me to her ex-girlfriend whom she had met online (did you follow that? It is surprisingly more common in lesbian circles than you’d imagine). But the downside to the internet is that the words we say to each other through that medium exist forever. Our lives leave a digital footprint and we can’t always predict the ways that those footprints will impact our future.

And that brings me to the point of this (non-Monday) post. This video has gone viral. No doubt you have seen it circulating on your Facebook newsfeed. The Reader’s Digest version is that the father of a girl named Hannah finds that she has posted a letter complaining about her parents on her Facebook page. In response, her father reads the letter on camera, lectures her on how spoiled she is, then takes a gun and shoots her precious laptop.

Haven’t seen it yet? Press play and join me below. 

So? Thoughts? The video now has 24,386,304 views and 196,473 comments. There are some who criticize the father’s handling of the situation but the majority of respondents are giving him a large, digital, standing ovation. The sentiment seems to be that in the post –Toddlers-and-Tiaras world, kids today are too soft and too spoiled. Finally finally! some parent is saying enough is enough and using his kid’s own medium to deliver the message.  Comments include “This is amazing. You have made my day, sir. Clapping*. You are the best parent in the world!” and “~claps~ BRAVOOO.. also though.. i think you should shoot her phone because she can get on facebook from there.”

But let’s examine exactly what is going on here. Hannah’s father is angry that she embarrassed him by airing private family business online. So, to retaliate, he embarrassed her by airing private family business online. In addition, he destroyed property in a very violent way.

Now, my child is still a baby so discipline has yet to enter into my parenting skill set. But my guess is that teaching a child to be respectful while disrespecting them is unlikely to be productive.

As he read Hannah’s public letter I tried to imagine myself as her parent. I would be embarrassed, certainly. And I would likely be angry. But I couldn’t shake the feeling of sympathy for her situation. Hannah is acting out but in her own mind she is very justified. She feels overworked and underappreciated. How many of us feel that way in our jobs or in our relationships? The difference is that, as adults, our brains are developed enough to know better than to air those feelings on a public forum.  At only 15 Hannah does not yet have an adult brain and it is up to her parents to help guide her as it develops.  She needs someone to listen to her complaints (her parents walking with dirty boots on the floor she just cleaned? I’d be pissed off too!) equally as much as she needs guidance (like teaching her not to refer to Linda as “the cleaning lady”).

But what she doesn’t need is to be publicly shamed. Particularly not with a video that has been uploaded to Youtube and will follow her to college and beyond. Technology is evolving faster than we understand and our ability to process the ramifications is lagging behind. In the olden days when our relationships with family members played out face-to-face and over the phone the angry words we said to one another might sting, and the worst of them might even hurt us to our core, but they were never immortalized into digital archives. If every angry word I said to my parents, or they said to me, during my teenage years existed online, up for public consumption, I fear we would not have the relationship that we have today.

I hope that Hannah’s father is able to see where he went wrong here and apologize to his daughter. Apologies can go a long way in a troubled family. I hope that they are all able to learn from the many mistakes that have been made and can grow and heal as a family.

And now back to Mac and my hopes for my own parenting. I know I have a list of the things I hope for him as he grows but I suppose I should also have a list of things I hope for myself as I grow into a parent.  I hope that I will listen to his frustrations even if I don’t feel like he is justified in having them. I hope that I will teach him how to be respectful while also showing him respect. I hope that when I make mistakes (which I of course will) I hope that I will be able to recognize them and apologize. And, if I continue to blog about him as he grows, I hope that I will remember that some stories are not mine to tell.

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  1. Interesting points Kris! I think he was bang on in making the video, even if he did go a little too far. He threatened last time to take her computer away (which he gave to her, a privilege, not a right) and I think he really hit her where it hurts, it wasn't the first time she had pulled something like that, it was a repeat offense.
    A little drastic, sure, but I think by posting his own version of a rant about her, she is going to see how it feels. Personally, I would probably have made the video and emailed it to her or something and just threatened to put it online, but in the heat of the moment, I can see how he would just have posted out of anger.
    In regards to her complaints, I am 100% sure that the truth lies somewhere between Hannah's version and her father's. Hopefully they can get move past this ordeal and grow as a family.

  2. I can see your point Sara. But it all seems a little too "do as I say not as I do" to me. And the public humiliation part just makes me feel so sorry for her.

  3. Great post... I could not agree more. When I initially heard about the story, I couldn't help but look at it from a psychogist perspective. A human brain isn't fully developed until age 25. I don't feel that his method was fully just. I think back to when I was 15 or even 18 and I remember the stuff I used to post... nothing I would post now at 25. This girl needed to vent the only way she knew how and did not deserved public humiliation.

  4. Thanks for posting because I just ignored this screenshot when it showed up on my FB feed. I agree that fighting fire with fire in this case was not the mature thing to do. Like you said, our adult brains should be able to practice restraint in such instances of anger/frustration/etc. Just imagine if every time I got made at my husband, I posted it to FB! We'd certainly be in trouble.

    Also, totally agree with you that we're lucky our adolescent lives aren't on permanent record somewhere, able to be brought back to remind us what insensitive people we were at the time. I can't imagine reading what I thought about my parents or sister (and then posted it online out of emotions) back then because I love them so much now!

    It's going to be tough to teach our kids restraint in this sense. It may not be ok to say "i hate you" to us, but you know they're going to one day. But we need to teach them that they shouldn't post it to FB (or whatever social media is popular at the time) because those words cannot never be taken back.

    Thanks for sharing!!!!!!!!!!!! Really well written too!

    1. I can't even imagine what social media will look like when our babies reach that age!! Hopefully we can teach them that some things stay private.

  5. Hmmm.... here are my thoughts:

    To effectively discipline, a parent has to alter their style to suit each child. The father mentions in the video that he had already been through this issue with his daughter and she had been warned, grounded, etc. I think she got the message this time. I don't know if any other way would have gotten through to her, but I say that not knowing any of them in real life or the whole history.

    You said that the dad was upset that the daughter aired her families dirty laundry in public and yet he did the same thing... I don't think that is what he was mad at at all. I think he was mad at the blatant disrespect for him, his wife and other members of the family and family friends... I think he would have been just as upset if she said all those things to his face in the privacy of their home... he just happened to read it on FB and therefore used FB and her computer as punishment.

    The daughter embarrassed herself online and while I don't think eye for an eye is ALWAYS a good parenting style (adults are supposed to be more mature), I think this dad was fed up, hurt and above all trying to reach his daughter in a way she would understand.

    I have no doubt that this dad posted the video out of frustration, but I also have no doubt that this dad loves his daughter very much... we all struggle to discipline in a way that is fair and will accomplish our goals. While shooting a laptop and making public videos may not be for everybody, this guy knows his daughter better then us and I'll leave judgments out of the equation and just applaud the guy for trying to do what is best for him and his family :)


    1. Rachele you are very right about his frustration. You can see it in his face and the slump of his body. I'm sure that was one of his worst parenting days. I would hate to have my worst parenting day put online for all to see. But then again, I (hopefully) wouldn't. I really don't think we can teach our children to be respectful while not showing them respect in return.

  6. Here's how I feel. (I'd never heard of this until your blog post.) I feel like that father is awfully privileged to have the luxury of destroying an expensive piece of equipment just to assuage his hurt feelings. He's obviously the sort of person who throws little adult tantrums.. why would he be surprised that his teenage daughter does the same, online? They're obviously not the sort of family that airs their grievances calmly.

    Maybe I'm being naive, but I don't see why we have to think of creative ways to discipline 15-year-olds. I don't ever remember being punished by my mother for anything. Once I was that age, she didn't feel like she had the right to "punish" me because I was my own person, you know? She treated me with love, respect, consideration; I did the same back, or made my first fumbling efforts at it, anyway. She did the same with all my siblings and we all turned out fine and there were no major disasters.

    I really feel like the best way to handle almost any relationship (parenting, romantic, etc.) is to try to let each other catch a break. Especially for something as piddling as posting an angry post on Facebook. Gosh, that'd get buried in a day.

    1. It's a very (financially) expensive lesson isn't it?

  7. The online dating comment made me laugh out loud Kristin! Feels like ages ago. And would you believe that Meghan (my partner) and I actually knew each other in person but only got together because of an online site. And it was an ex of mine who was her roommate who actually put 2 and 2 together after reading my emails and said "oh, that's pam. you should totally get together".

    Anyway, I love your words and especially your statement that some stories are not yours to tell. I wish more people remembered that and sometimes fear in the age of social media that anything is fair game.

    1. Pam that's because it was ages ago!! And thank-you.

  8. I personally see nothing wrong with what he did. I think as a parent of a very young child, you may have a hard time imagining the position that he is in.

    He wasn't yelling or screaming, and to my knowledge, hasn't beat her over the situation. THAT would be bad parenting! Had he simply tossed the laptop in the garbage, I doubt people would be as upset.

    He took his message to fb & what? It seems as though EVERYTHING is taken to these social media sites nowadays. Kids vent online, as do parents when they are having a bad day. I have personally heard vents about children not sleeping, sick children, bell canada, rogers, the weather, marriages in trouble, and a horrible restaurant (amongst others). What he did is no different!

    I say, if what he did helps him to get through to his daughter, or helps other parents find a way to vent without being mentally or physically be it! As long as no child is placed in danger, who are we to judge? Each parent must do what works for them and their family.

    1. I don't want to draw the line of poor parenting choices at anything less than beating a child. I really do try hard to remember that people parent in different ways (many equally as effective)and try to check myself before judging. Bottle feed or breast feed until your child is a toddler? I'm absolutely not judging you. Cry it out or co-sleep? I'm definitely not judging you. Feed your child organic kale or hotdogs and beans? No judgement here. But publicly ridicule your child online for the world to see? I'm probably judging you.

    2. I am trying understand where you are coming from. I wonder if maybe you are a little more sensitive to judgement and being ridiculed because of your own past experiences (I hope that isn't coming across in the wrong way).

      The way he went about things is definitely not how I would do things, and obviously, you wouldn't either. However, I fail to see the harm in what he did. Sure, he went online and shared her disrespectful facebook post. I personally wouldn't want the world knowing that I had raised such a disrespectful child, but once again, his family and his choice. He then went on to share her consequences with the 24 million people that have watched his video.

      I can agree that pulling out the gun may have been a bit much, but that doesn't seem to be what is upsetting the above posters.

      I would imagine that most of you, if in this position, would share the situation and outcome with your close friends and family. That is what we as parents do. We rely on those around us to support us and listen to us when in need. If indeed you would share, you would also be "ridiculing" and embarrassing your child to others (just not as many).

      For me it goes back to each their own. From what I am getting from your posts, you find his actions... mentally/emotionally abusive? I wholeheartedly disagree! Maybe it wasn't the most tasteful form of pareningt, but we all step outside the box and go against the grain every once in a while.

      From what I read, she doesn't seem to be to upset about the situation and that seems to be the main concern.


      To touch on your comments regarding CIO, I would be more likely to judge you based on those actions. That according to several experts is abuse and can cause long term emotional damage.

      One could even argue that using a public blog/facebook to post details of one's childhood online, could cause that child to be ridiculed as he/she got older. People share way too many personal details online without thinking about how it may affect others (even years down the line).

      My baby is up, so I must run. In conclusion I will say that I hope that I am never frustrated enough, that I would do this myself. His actions do not reflect the type of parenting that I hope to apply, but I do not believe that he did anything wrong. I do hope that they have both learned something from this and that they do not find themselves in this position again.

    3. I'm dubious about how a child should be grateful for "at least" not being physically abused. An upbringing without abuse is something every child deserves. They shouldn't have to be relieved every day that "at least" they are safe.

      And I'm especially concerned about the idea that we as parents need to do ridiculous things to keep us from abusing our children. We are adults and should be able to control ourselves from hurting children regardless of our "venting" techniques.

    4. I just typed out a huge response and it didn't post properly. As my child nurses, I will quickly say this:

      Screaming at your child is emotional abuse. Parents do it all the time. I'm not saying it is right, but it happens. I would much rather see something like this, than a child grow up and remember their childhood as a home with angry and screaming parents.

      I still fail to see how he "hurt" his child. Sure, he shared his daughter's actions and her consequences with more people than the average parent might chose to do. But I'm not sure if that is "wrong". We as parents share things with our support systems. This may be our spouse, siblings, a counselor, friends and/or family. By doing so, we still embarrass our child and leave them open to be ridiculed (just by fewer people).

      Again, it may not be how I would personally deal with the situation. I would prefer not to announce to the world that I had raised such a disrespectful daughter. However, I do not believe that what he did was "wrong".

      This situation reminds me of a biting toddler. Some parents choose to bite back, others prefer to handle the situation by using their words and diversion. Just because I don't agree with the method that you choose, doesn't mean that it is wrong.

      I also want to quickly touch on the comment regarding CIO. Several experts have concluded that leaving a baby to CIO, can lead to both short term and long term emotional issues. This to me is much more severe and closer to abuse than what this father did!

      Children don't come with handbooks and we as parents must learn as we go along. As my child gets older, I hope to always be a rational and level headed parent. I will try to understand and be compassionate. BUT, I do realize that I am not perfect and I may make mistakes. I may (and probably have) done things along the way that not everyone would agree with. However, everything that I do is because I feel that it is the best way for my child. I try not to judge others for doing the same!

    5. OMG! Seriously? "One could even argue that using a public blog/facebook to post details of one's childhood online, could cause that child to be ridiculed as he/she got older. People share way too many personal details online without thinking about how it may affect others (even years down the line)."

      I've been a loyal reader of Mondays With Mac for months now and I constantly think how lucky this kid is to grow up with this tribute of how much his moms love him for him to read. I wish I could write like this so that my daughter could read something like this. Why not use your real name?

    6. That last post was from me, Jenn B.

    7. Take a breath and relax. I never once said that I was talking about the person who wrote THIS blog post, I was just making a statement. For the record, I think that Macs Mom does a beautiful job with her blogs. They are always well written and provoke lots of thought and emotion. Not everything is a personal attack on someone. Just because I do not agree with her thoughts on this situation, does not mean that I think she is a bad person or that I am going to attack her. Relax

  9. The dad involved has written an update:

    1. I don't see any HARM to this child. She should feel guilty for her bad behavior. Guilt/shame is good. It keeps us from doing bad things.

      And I wanted to say that I like him even more after reading that link. Thanks for posting Dean. This is a parent who is actively parenting. If you want to judge somebody, let's talk about the parents who sit back and do nothing. At least he's doing something even if you don't agree with it.

  10. Absolutely no harm done. Especially since at 5:10 he said the last time she did something similar to this, if she was to it again there would be consequences. Finally parent who lives up to their word! It's not like he went trigger happy because she didn't get 100% on a test. It's because she repeated an offence that already came with a stern warning. The first time she did something similar to this the father punished her by taking away her cell phone, computer, no facebook "that kind of thing". Politically correct punishment I would say. Nothing outrageous or 'disrespectful'.
    Then the father - an IT guy of all people, decided to be a responsible parent and check out his daughter's account and discovered a letter that SHE posted publicly. She didn't seem to listen to her father the first time around so he decided to change his tune to beat that she could understand. And I think his message was 'bang on'.

    You are free to make your own choices but you aren't free from the consequences and who better to teach you a lesson like that then a parent?

    I also agree with Nik. Just read his response and admire him that much more. Especially: "My daughter took a horrible day in her life, had her crying fit, then got over it, accepted her punishment, and hasn’t let it (or people’s comments) destroy her strength. I don’t get any credit for that. She’s strong and able to overcome almost anything life throws at her."


  11. I'm going to go against the grain here and say that I personally think it was a childish reaction on the part of the father. I agree that he has a right to punish her but who hasn't said that they hate their parents or felt that their contributions while they were teenagers were more significant than they actually were. I remember those feelings as a 15 year old teenage girl. I think a punishment maybe was due or maybe talking to her (of course I/we don't know fully to what degree they communicate already). The letter (although unnecessarily filled with expletives) was the expression of a 15 year old teenage girl in what she felt was a safe environment to her friends. To a certain degree I feel parents should take expressions, as read in the letter, with a grain of salt that it's coming from a hormone filled 15 year old and realize that when she matures she will look back at her parents and think they did a not so bad job. The shooting of the computer seemed like an unnecessarily violent expression of discipline. Memorable? Yes. Will that violent expression make her feel slightly more uncomfortable around her father or keep her from expressing herself to him? Maybe. Again, just my opinion and that's why we as parents each get to decide how to parent.

  12. TY so much for this! Saw it on my FB but didn't bother pressing Play before. So disgusting! Parents who think this is OK are probably the same ones who think you can teach a child not to hit by spanking them. You will never earn a child's respect by disrespecting them.

    1. That's a little harsh. I certainly don't hit my children and I thought the father did a pretty good job of getting his message across to his teenage daughter who has done things like this in the past. He didn't physically hurt her, and if she is embarrassed by having her own personal letter/rant shared with the pubic, and if she is embarrassed by having her behaviour shared with the public, maybe she should think twice about the consequences of her actions and how she presents herself.

  13. Standing ovation. You can't lay a finger on kids today. Least he can do is shoot up what she cares about. Lesson learned.

  14. Forget hippocratic oaths there should be a parenting lisence. Question one: will you teach your kid a lesson by shooting anything with a shot gun?

  15. Guns don't kill laptops. Pissed off dads kill laptops.

  16. I love the idea of creating a lists for things "I hope for myself as I grow into a parent" ...may start one this wkend :) Thanks for the inspiration

  17. Posting in parts since my initial was too long:
    Our parents are so lucky to have parented in a world largely without experts psychoanalysing their children. Until I had an infant, I had no idea how tiring that could be. When I had an infant I was confident that loving encouragement would be the cornerstone of parenting. When I had a toddler I realised discipline was necessary and that children don't raise themselves. Parents do. Now with a preschooler, we are starting to reap some of the benefits of having clear boundaries and consistent discipline.
    Since I don't have a teenager yet, I can't speak to that experience. I can only say that it is my intention not to ever act in the manner that this parent has but I have no judgment (except, of course for the gun involved - I have no tolerance for guns but that's a general political statement but in the gun normalised environment that he lives in, shooting it was the equivalent of throwing it out - I would much rather he had donated it to charity but that's an aside).
    We run into trouble when we have a predefined notion of how we will parent without tailoring things to your child's personality. Kids come in many forms, compliant, easy going, stubborn, fun loving, craves positive feedback from parents, enjoys riling up their parents, will do anything to impress peers. Some times which of these one's child becomes is a product of parenting but oftentimes it is not. I'm from a family of 6 children and we are all so different, eventhough we were parented by the same people and are all close in age so not much changed in terms of the parenting style.
    I laugh when I read things like CIO is abuse and experts say so. Dr. Sears says so because he sells a different view but certainly Dr. Ferber doesn't and there are so many other experts on both sides of this particularly polarising parenting discussion. What I find most amusing about this is the impression the 'experts' give that one's decision to let ones child CIO or not will determine their personality or affect their attachment. This is such bs. The decision on whether or not you let your child CIO is about whether or not you can stand it and whether it is consistent with your parenting style.

  18. part 2 of clara's post:
    If you believe that children should learn to sleep on their own and that being a parent doesn't require you to be sleep deprived then you may decide to CIO.
    If you believe that it is your job as a parent to parent your child to sleep and accept that part of parenting is sleep deprivation or bedsharing etc, then you may decide not to CIO. It's as simple as that. You just have to be prepared for the repercusions of whatever you choose e.g. having to listen to your child cry or having to wake up with your child or having your child dependent on you for sleep such that you cannot be apart from the child.
    Neither option will destroy your child or hurt them. It's like this garbage about babywearing being necessary for attachment. If you like to feel your child next to you all day long, then by all means. But, to imagine or believe it is necessary for your child's psychological wellbeing is so ludicrous.
    I shudder to think what damage we are doing to our children with our over processing. I shudder at the thought of how the rates of ppd and other parenting related anxiety etc has risen sharply as the 'experts' have moved into the field of parenting.
    This is not to say that there aren't things that cross the line but I think everything is a matter of degree. I would not spank my child but is spanking always wrong? I don't think so. I know many loving parents who have spanked their children. They remain close with their children, their children understand that they crossed the line in a completely intolerable way, they never spank out of anger and their children have never repeated the behaviour. Each family has children 10-14 and none have spanked any of their children more than 2-5 times.
    I think it's all about degree because even loving and cuddling a child can be abusive when what the child needs is clear and reinforced boundaries. I have seen so many post-modern parents who let their children run awry and don't pick up on the fact that their gentle strategies don't match the child. These are the children I most worry about.
    Sorry to hijack this blog with my comment but the post and the comments got me riled up. Parenting is an important job and so many different ways to get it right or wrong. Do your best, make your decisions out of love. There is a reason babies don't come with manuals, we are supposed to study them, bring our adult knowledge to bear and discern what the right strategies are. Listen to the 'experts' but beware of their own biases. Should anyone be surprised that Dr. Sears things CIO is evil, ofcourse not? This is not to discredit Dr. Sears, it's just to say he's an advocate for a particular model so please don't quote him as objective.

  19. 1st of all, as proof of my age... what the heck is CIO??

    Having said that let me state the following:

    1) I lived through my trios ::shudder:: puberty and no one was incarcerated- believe me, quite a feat.

    2) Each of my children are individuals and as such had individualized punishments (yes, life truly is not fair- but one rule does not work for all. My son had his rules, and what worked for one daughter may not work for the other that was born 7 years later ;society and I had changed in that time.)

    3) We are looking at this as would teens see this? Remember, to be an effective speaker you need to know and communicate in a language your audience understands and can relate to. The same is true in parenting.

    4) Si, Be careful what you post because it WILL come back. During one of your hair pulling tirades during Mac's adolescence he will show you a print out of the above list and then proceed to point out (in a very know-it-all tone)how you have failed at every one. Try not to hit him too hard w/the list - I'm sure you want to say you lived through his ::shudder:: puberty w/out incarceration too.



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