We live in a time where our lives are being painted across the Internet. I take that risk every time I post on this blog, or write a Facebook comment. Do you think before you hit “send”, all the time? Or before you post a comment on Facebook? I know this is a challenge for most adults, but what about teenagers?
Facebook was created to be a social media tool, created out of a University dorm room. For all of us that have seen the movie The Social Network, we know that the creator of Facebook initially ticked off many female students by creating a comparison system based on their photo. We know that not everybody wants their life splattered across the Internet.
But this blog post goes beyond dormitories, and hits home for many of us parents who may be watching what our teenage (or pre-teens in some cases) are posting on their Facebook walls. Recently, a YouTube video of a father responding to his 15 year old daughters Facebook post has elicited a reaction all over the Internet. I admit, at first I wanted to ignore the hype and not even watch it~ for it may not even be true, right? I debated linking you to the video from this blog post, for having it on my blog goes against everything I stand for as a parent consultant, but I have decided to link it here so its easier for you to view and then see my comment underneath. (try to stick through the long 8 minutes of it)
UPDATE: I will not be linking it as I don`t want to endorse more hits to the video and since I believe he has monetized the video now.
WOW! My initial reaction after seeing this (I only watched it 1 time) is that I am very sad for this family; for the young girl, her father, siblings, and this man’s spouse/wife. My own sadness comes from a place where I have sat where he is, in parenting a teenage girl. Parenting is NOT easy and parenting a teenager can be very hard, especially if it awakens any guilt, fear or shame from our own past or how we handled situations with our children from when they were younger. We learn so much about ourselves by being a parent, for parenting is an opportunity to grow and reflect…that is of course if we take that opportunity. I am sad for this father because he is not seizing that opportunity for growth; growth of his own inner self or the developing relationship between him and his daughter.
I could understand this father’s frustration, embarrassment and even hurt by having his teenage daughter post such a letter, but I also heard a very hurt teenager who is struggling with some strong emotions in an isolated environment where she felt she had to post it to Facebook. Teenagers are going to post things to Facebook. Let’s face it, before Facebook they would talk to their friends about it anyway, whether at school or over the telephone. As a teenager myself (before Facebook) I would talk to friend for hours on the telephone and many conversations were complaining about my parents!
Whether this young girl eels she has too many responsibilities or feels disconnected from her parents or peers, it is human nature to want to talk about these situations with the people whom we are close to. As grown women we do it! We call our mothers, sisters or friends to vent our frustrations with being a wife, mother, leader, volunteer, parent; the list goes on. This young girl did what every other woman on this planet does to gain the reassurance, confidence and support that we all need. She posted it to Facebook, because that is what people do nowadays. The difference compared to when I was a teenager, is that now when teenagers express themselves there is a larger audience. This can create some embarrassment and even shame for the people it affects, and this is what this father is reacting to.
This father is responding more to his own feelings, than to his daughters needs and feelings. He chooses to address the broader picture of posting to Facebook, rather than reading between the lines of how this young girl is feeling. Instead of speaking with her privately, he publicly humiliates her (for that is how he feels), in order to ‘teach her a lesson’. This is his way of ‘punishing’ her, for it is obvious he believes that this type of public humiliation, retaliation, anger and violence will prevent her from ever posting something on Facebook again. This blog post isn’t about punishment though. It is about treating our children and teenagers like human beings; with needs, feelings, emotions and love.
Does this husband do the same thing to his wife when she posts something he doesn’t agree with? What if your friend came to you saying her husband treated her this way? As a friend to that woman, would you say to her that maybe she should consider leaving an abusive relationship that seeks to control her? This young girl will be a wife and mother someday, and has had this man as a role model to how a man should treat a woman. That does not paint quite a pretty picture in my mind.
I know there are parents out there that believe this father is right to have done this to teach her a lesson. I am not surprised by this.
As parents, we are often left with a question in our mind, as WHAT to do when our children are disrespectful, disobedient or just naughty. So, what else is there to do?
We often react with how we were treated as a child, or just react without really thinking about it, for parents are expected to think quickly on their feet in some very heated moments. In the book Everyday Blessings by Myla & Jon Kabat-Zinn, they discuss how parents are often on autopilot. We respond to our children in autopilot mode, just doing and reacting the same way every time we are faced with an issue. Whether it is a toddler not staying in their bed or a teenager coming home beyond curfew, these are all opportunities as parents to become conscious parents. When we react in autopilot mode, this is an unconscious level of parenting that restricts our growth and inner development as a parent. We are stifling our parenting abilities when we respond on autopilot. Jon Kabat-Zinn states this unconscious parenting commonly results in “sadness, missed opportunities, hurt, resentment, blame, restricted and diminished views of self and the world, and ultimately, isolation and alienation on all sides,” (p.18). Instead, seizing moments like this one (for this father had a lot of time to think about how he was going to respond to a Facebook post), parents can break down any barriers in their own minds about a situation, look more deeply into themselves in order to be present for their children.
We all know that what worked with one child, may not work with another, and what worked yesterday to get your toddler to eat their peas, no longer works today. Our children are constantly growing and changing, so as their parents we need to adapt and change too. We have to stay present and in the moment with them. This situation would have a totally different outcome had this father remained present with his daughter in talking about the issue.
It is sad to think that this video will make its way around Facebook and the Internet, and we may never hear anything again. However, this young girl will continue to feel the hurt, loss, and frustration. We will probably never know what happens. But one day we will read in the paper about a young woman who commits suicide, or a woman jailed for murdering her husband or a court hearing for a mother who has harmed her own children and lost them to Children’s Services. We may wonder what type of upbringing this woman has had, and this is one video that will always tell the story there is a grown woman and mother hurting somewhere in ten years from now.
What are your thoughts?