A couple hundred people emailed asking for thoughts on the viral video of the father shooting his daughter’s laptop on Facebook. My perspective may be different, but here goes. I love firm discipline. Discipline is something you do for your children, not to them. Discipline demonstrates love because you put your child’s long-term growth ahead of your own convenience in the moment. But discipline takes emotional strength and the best discipline is self-discipline. What this father did was NOT discipline.
I felt profoundly sad watching this video. This father and daughter do not have a trusting relationship. There’s a reason for that. Both father and daughter need to grow up. But when the father acts like a child, it is no wonder his daughter does as well. The daughter’s posts on Facebook were clearly disrespectful. Rather than go to his daughter privately like a real man, he made a public video to shame and embarrass his daughter–and himself–in front of the entire world.
The father could have actually talked to his daughter. He could have listened to her. He could have shown humility by acknowledging that she has some legitimate issues. But he didn’t. He refused to talk, refused to listen, refused to problem solve. He refused to resolve the conflict face to face. He refused to give a firm, appropriate consequence. And he refused to restore the relationship with a teenage girl who desperately needs a close bond with her father.
Instead, he acted like a coward and an emotional bully. Like a small, petty boy who didn’t get his way. But before we collectively pull out the daggers and feel superior, let’s practice some humility. The truth is that I was just like this father not many years ago. I was that man. I did the same exact thing. I was a scared man who ran away from difficult interactions. Because I didn’t have tools and was emotionally immature, I used fear and intimidation to get my kids and wife to behave the way I needed them to. You may be that man, that woman. But you do this in private, behind closed doors, with verbal and emotional weapons instead of bullets.
When our kids are frustrated and angry inside, and that results in a meltdown, how many of us respond by yelling, threatening and perpetuating the cycle? How many of us can’t handle our child’s tantrums, so we throw our own? “I am telling you right now, mister, you better stop it right now before I take away all your video games!” “I don’t have time for this!” What we are really communicating is that I am the needy one. I need YOU to control yourself and your emotions–because I can’t control mine.
When your wife is frustrated, overwhelmed or upset, how often do you respond, “Oh, honey, there’s no reason to be upset.” You dismiss your wife’s legitimate emotions because YOU can’t handle them. I did that. Guilty.
But consider the flip side. Are you so anxious and dependent emotionally that you can’t say no and disappoint your child, because you can’t handle them being unhappy? This leads to resentment. “After all I do for you and this is what I get in response?!” You are trying too hard to make your kids happy, and now they feel entitled…when we need to realize that struggles and failure are the building blocks to competence, confidence and joy.
It’s easy to say this guy is just a jerk. But he’s not very different from most of us. We don’t have the skills and tools to handle conflict, to stay present when others are emotional. So we shut them down, dismiss them, ignore them or hide behind our childish protestations. “Well, if you would just behave the way I need you to, then I could control myself.”
I couldn’t handle Casey’s emotions so I would provoke him. When I got in his face, I would “perceive” that he was smirking…precisely because I was about to lose it and I wanted an excuse to behave worse than him. Or I’d yell, “One more word, young man, and you’ll be grounded for two weeks!” knowing he was so upset he’d reply back. And then I could justify my own tantrum because HE said one more word…when in fact I was supposed to be the grown up and lead him by example to a calm place.
So, yeah, this daughter was disrespectful and this father responded like a child. But is this really any different than most of the interactions that happened in our homes this week, behind closed doors? I don’t do guilt. But I do want to prick your conscience. Because until you are honest with yourself, and humble yourself, and admit that it isn’t everyone else’s issue…nothing will change. And I know you don’t want things to continue as they are with the yelling, meltdowns and tension.
So use this as a wake-up call and get the help you need. See a counselor or a good therapist. Let us help you with our resources–dozens of hours of practical strategies that really work for less than the cost of a couple visits to a therapist. Be bold and call or email–we are here to help you change your family tree.
Keep enjoying your kids!
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