parents

How 'Facebook Dad' made me think about punishment.

When I first heard about the youtube video of a North Carolina father shooting his daughter’s laptop over some Facebook disagreement, this is what I thought it was all about: she’s on Facebook too much (because she’s, like a TEENAGER and that’s their job) and her Dad is some redneck luddite who doesn’t even know how to switch on a computer and he cracked the shits and shot it to pieces as a dramatic, intimidating form of punishment.

Cue: eye roll.

Well, I got that wrong. First of all, the Dad –  Tommy Jordan – works in IT. He knows how to work a laptop. Secondly, he didn’t take exception to her being on Facebook (hell, even the family dog has a facebook page that various family members update but that’s another story). It was what she WROTE on Facebook that pissed him off.

The short version:

Hannah is 15 and wrote a whiney Facebook status complaining about her household chores and suggested she should be paid for all the *s*** I do around the house.”

Here’s some of what she said:

To my parents,

I’m not your damn slave. It’s not my responsibility to clean up your s**t. We have a cleaning lady for a reason. Her name is Linda, not Hannah.

If you want coffee, get off your ass and get it yourself. If you want a garden, shovel the fertiliser yourself, don’t sit back on your ass and watch me do it. If you walk in the house and get mud all over the floor that I just cleaned, be my guest, but clean it up after you are done getting s**t everywhere.

She goes on to say the chores are effecting her ability to have a life. She has to go to sleep at 10pm because she’s tired. She wakes up a 5am to go to school. She says she can’t keep up with chores and school work. She sights the post: “Your Pissed Kid, Hannah”

Tommy Jordan’s Pissed Kid Hannah thought she’d hidden the post from her parents using privacy settings, but her father found the post when he was uploading photos to the family dog’s Facebook page (she didn’t think to hide the post from the dog.) We will not debate the fact the family’s dog had a Facebook page. That’s a headtrip for another day.

And this is what Tommy Jordan did after he read the “disrespectful” post. (Warning – some parts of the video are quite shocking – so if you’re not comfortable watching, we’ll detail what happens just below the clip).

Wearing a cowboy hat and smoking a cigarette, Mr Jordan sits in a wooden chair in a grassy paddock and reads from a printed copy of Hannah’s Facebook rant.  “Pay you for chores? Are you out of your mind?” he says. “You don’t have that hard a life, but you’re about to.”

The video ends when Mr Jordan points the camera to a laptop on the ground and says ‘that right there is your laptop’ and then ‘this right here is my .45.’

Hello gun. In the seconds following, he shoots nine rounds into Hannah’s laptop. Bang. Bang. Bang.

At last count the video had nearly 20 million views.

At first, I was disturbed. I am still a little bit to be honest. I mean, I don’t like guns. Or cigarettes. Or violence. And laptops are expensive.

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It was certainly an approach that had cut-through, there’s no denying that.

But it’s what happened next that made me view Tommy Jordan’s actions as a quite fascinating moment in parenting history.

What happened next?

Since the video went viral, the family has refused to speak to the media. Mr Jordan says he doesn’t want to send the wrong message to his daughter, namely “that it’s OK to profit at the expense of someone else’s embarrassment or misfortune, and that’s not how I was raised, nor how she has been raised.”

On his own Facebook page – where he’s making comments –  Mr Jordan wrote: “I’m NOT a hero… of ANY kind… at all. I’m not a super-dad, or awesome parent.”

He said “My daughter isn’t hurt, emotionally scarred, or otherwise damaged,” he writes, “but that kind of publicity has never seemed to be to have a positive effect on any child or family.”

Smart man. Wise father. That’s all true.

What he did was fight the fight on his daughter’s terms, in his daughter’s territory: online. In public.

Hannah made the mistake most kids (and adults) make online which is to believe that anything can truly be private.
It CAN’T.

You want to diss someone? They’ll probably find out about it. Even if you tweak your privacy settings, some helpful person with dubious motives that could range anywhere from ‘loyalty’ to ‘trouble-making’ will alert whomever you’ve slandered to your insults.

And as long as humans have the ability to screenshot, your privacy settings mean NOTHING.

So what did Tommy Jordan do? He fought public humiliation with public humiliation. But it’s what he did after shooting his daughter’s laptop that impressed me the most. He didn’t ride the media wave that he’d created (perhaps unintentionally but that’s the way so many online media ‘stars’ are made). He sat down with his daughter and they talked about it and he taught her some lessons.

In a Facebook post called “Attention all media” he wrote:

While we appreciate the interest you’re all putting forth to get in touch with us regarding the video, we’re not going to go on your talk show, not going to call in to your radio show, and not going to be in your TV mini-series.

Some of you think I made an acceptable parenting decision and others think I didn’t. However, I can’t think of any way myself or my daughter can …respond to a media outlet that won’t be twisted out of context. The Dallas news TV news already showed that in their brief 5 minute interview with the psychologist.

So I say thank you from all of us. If we have anything to say, we’ll say it here on Facebook, and we’ll say it publicly, but we won’t say it to a microphone or a camera. There are too many other REAL issues out there that could use this attention you’re giving us. My daughter isn’t hurt, emotionally scarred, or otherwise damaged, but that kind of publicity has never seemed to be to have a positive effect on any child or family.

Best of luck to all of you out there… and PLEASE give my phone a break.

As for his daughter’s response to the incdient, he said that after her initial “I can’t believe you shot my computer!” reaction she has “come through it just fine.”

Yes, she’s in trouble, and yes she’s grounded, but that doesn’t mean every moment of her life has to be miserable. She’s going to come to terms with the changes that will be present for a while; no TV privileges, no Internet, etc.

While the whole point of this story isn’t funny, what is funny to me is how weak some people out there think kids are. Our kids are as strong as we help them to be. 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.

Tommy Jordan, I salute you. I think what you did is an unconventional, radical yet very modern way to educate your daughter – and every other kid who has read or heard about it – about the dangers of making private things public.

What do you think of Tommy Jordan’s response? Is shaming kids via the Internet effective parenting?