14 Feb 2012

The Author

Alise is married to her best friend and is the mom to four incredible kids. She loves knitting, writing, playing keyboards in a cover band, and eating soup. She also loves making new friends and you can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook or at her blog. Alise is the editor of Not Alone: Stories of Living with Depression and is currently compiling stories for the book Not Afraid: Stories of Discovering Significance, both with Civitas press.

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Online Parenting
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This week, a dad disciplined his daughter. And at the time of me writing this piece, that discipline has been viewed over 14 million times.

Personally, I understand Hannah’s father’s frustration with being disrespected. There is nothing that gets me upset as a parent more than when one of my children disrespects me or their father. It hurts any time that I see one of my children behaving in a way that is contrary to the manner that I’ve raised them, but there is a much deeper hurt that comes from being disrespected by one of them. If I found a letter like the one that Hannah posted on Facebook, I would be profoundly upset. And if it happened more than once, I would be losing it big time.

As a result, I get why people are supporting the father. We’re tired of seeing kids disrespect adults without consequence. We’re tired of seeing kids sporting entitlement attitudes. We’re ready to see parents take back parenting and expect more from their children. We’re ready to see kids learn the value of hard work and respect. These are important lessons and we applaud parents that teach them.

That said, I have concerns with the way this situation was handled. In the digital age, one of the things that most of try to instill in our kids is the notion that the internet is forever. When our children post words or pictures or videos online, there is no way to get that content back. Even if it’s something safe, we have no idea how it might be used by someone else. That is a truth that can’t be emphasized enough when talking with our children. Colleges and employers are more and more likely to check your Facebook page or your Twitter feed or your blog for information about you as a person. Digital footprints are indelible.

But this dad (who is apparently an IT professional) has used the very public medium of YouTube to shame his daughter. He could have had this conversation with her at home. He could have read her letter to her aloud. He could have told her how to address the woman who works for them with more respect. He could have even shot her laptop in front of her. Instead, he wanted to be able to embarrass her in front of her friends the way that he felt he had been embarrassed in front of them. But this has gone far beyond her friends, and her shame has been made public.

Parenting in the midst of social media is new, and we need to be careful about how we do it. We have become accustomed to sharing every thought that we have with our followers and friends, so it’s natural that when we’re annoyed with our kids, we want to share that too. We want to blog about our bratty tween or post a quick tweet about our spoiled elementary aged kid or post a video where we teach our 15 year old a lesson.

But this isn’t our right as parents. Our kids deserve to be treated with dignity and when we malign our kids in public, we contribute to the culture that says that cyber-bullying is okay. We teach them that our immediate feelings of frustration can make us internet celebrities. We teach them that to be right, you just have to get a lot of likes or retweets or views.

Fourteen million YouTube views might FEEL like success, but it’s just fame. And being famous for humiliating a 15 year old online isn’t the way that I want my parenting to be remembered. The fact is, the only way Hannah’s dad is going to know if his discipline worked is further down the line when she displays behavior that is more in line with his values.

I hope that he makes a video for that moment too.

21 Comments
21 Comments
  1. I have not seen the video; it breaks my heart just to read about it here. I think you’re dead-on, my friend. We have to do better than teaching shame.

    • It sucks, because I think the important lessons that he likely needs to teach got lost in (now) 22 million youtube views. I’m all about parenting as part of a village, but this might be too much.

  2. Hi Alise, great piece. My wife Brandee & I believe in respecting our kids and being “un exemple” (they’re in french immersion). We both grew up in homes where we revered our parents and showed respect in all situations, regardless of our personal opinions and feelings. We chose teach the concept of honor in a way closer to that of Jesus, honoring them first, instilling the principles and watching them return to us as they get the idea for themselves.

    As far as the public shaming thing – I’ve been hoping it’s just a stunt – because that’s just wrong, and a perfect way to push your child to never want to trust you again.

    • I hope that it’s a stunt as well, though from the follow-up and everything, it seems to be legit. Regardless, I’m surprised how many people think it’s okay to take to the internet to do our parenting. I think that was my biggest issue with it.

  3. My dog keeps pooping in the house. I told him that if he did it again there would be dire consequences.

    I plan on posting the video I made of me shooting Charley’s doggy dish. Maybe then his butt sniffing, nad-licking buddies will show some respect!

  4. As a parent I feel it’s my honor to model God’s grave and love. I can’t comprehend how parents who claim they feel the same way seem to celebrate this video. You can discipline and give consequences without degrading your child. Shooting this video may have made the father feel better, but did it actually make her respect him, which seemed to be the issue in the first place?

    • That was where I was sitting. My issue isn’t so much with the content (I don’t like to critique how other parents parent), but the means. I really have an issue with posting something like that out there for the whole world. I think that’s just not our right AT ALL.

  5. If, in the beginning, I am my daughters image of God then what kind of god does she serve? And why? For fear, for insurance against humiliation, for lack of a better god?

    The humility that comes from proper parenting is a state of mind that leads to service of others. This kind of humility is the kind that grows a bitter root and acidic attitude.

    • You bring up an important point. If God is a parent, we need to parent with that in mind. The same short-term result will not necessarily produce the same long-term result.

  6. Is this really in the arena of cyber-bullying? This father shows how something can go viral whether you intended for it to or not. Puts his side of the story out there and this is way more effective then her posting a letter-to-the-editor style response from her dad on her fb page. He kept it open and honest; and without inviting harassment into his daughter’s life. He exposed himself and let others know his child has disappointed him and that could be a relief to others who feel like a parental failure. I just don’t see how this is in the same arena as cyber bullying. Over the top? Probably. Will work for all teens in all situations? Of course not. Cyber bullying? Really? Humiliating? I always liked it that growing up some people thought my dad was crazy. If I didn’t want to do something without looking “uncool” I could blame it on him. This could help the young lady. If she really needs to be home by eleven and her friends want her to stay out later she can just say “you saw the youtube video didn’t you!?” No questions asked, she will get a ride home on time.

    • I think that video was a lot more about her than it was about him. His tone was condescending. He mocked her attitude (which, believe me, is a crap attitude) in front of now almost 24 million people. Yes, I think that’s in the realm of cyber-bullying. Tit for tat is simply not the way we should parent.

      Intimidation and fear might work, but I don’t think it works in the way that produces any kind of long-term positive results.

    • I agree with you, 100%, “MiCoBa.” Great point, also, about how she could–in a sense–”blame” the video, or her Dad, if she was in a situation where she didn’t want to risk feeling “uncool.” I just finished reading the book, “Grown Up Digital” and it was an awesome book about the pros and cons of the “net-generation” and something that continues to resonate is that children, such as the age of his daughter, truly don’t know the impact of unleashing privacy out on Social Media mediums, so I imagine it’s better that she learns it this way, then from the repercussions if she posts pics of herself in the nude, or exposes herself in some other socially-unacceptable manner. Nobody knows if this will do her harm, or not, and there isn’t a cookie-cutter way to parent a child. Personally, I love the values this father represents.

  7. I found that video distressing, too. And like you, I’d have been devastated and would have taken action, had one of my kids done something like that. But parental discipline is about teaching kids what’s right – and what love looks like. NOT having more dreadful vengeance! All he is teaching, is that the hardest hitter wins!

    • Exactly. I totally get why he did it, from an emotional stand-point. But I really think that we need to treat social media with far more care. And that’s my biggest frustration with the piece and the reaction to it. That we simply ignore the implications of what it means to bring our family grievances to the whole world.

  8. Bravo, Alise! I know we don’t see eye-to-eye about everything, but this piece is spot-on! I 100% agree. In fact, I wrote about this today, too:

    http://randomlychad.com

  9. Alise, nice article. I bet the guy didn’t think the video would go viral. That being said, he still is responsible for what he did. He probably thought it was creative. But it wasn’t. I’ve seen a couple of interviews where he shows no remorse. I don’t care for that. There has to be a balance between the proper discipline of our children (carried out in love) and our embarrassment of them. I doubt he realized the video would go this far, but I would like to see some remorse in protecting his daughter’s identity and shame she must now feel.

    I’m also slightly disturbed by the “fans” of this sensation. Surely there is a better way to discipline our children than taking them into the public forum, displaying our family issues for all to see, and putting our kids in the way of mockery.

    • Oh, I’m sure he didn’t intend for it to go viral, but that’s kind of the point. We never know what will happen with what we put “out there.” So we need to be careful with how we approach these things.

      And yes, I’m even more surprised by the overwhelming support that I see for this. It just seems to fly in the face of the prevailing advice that we should protect our kids on the internet. I just don’t see how you can say one and at the same time support this father’s actions.

      • I’m a little worried too that this action might create copycat actions by other parents. I saw in an interview where child services showed up and he expected them. He showed them his guns, that they were unloaded and he was counseled on using harsh language.

        I don’t necessarily think its the job of the state to step in and tell parents they shouldn’t put up videos of Internet discipline. That being said, it shouldn’t be happening. I hope parents understand this is an extreme display of behavior that is not to be praised or copied – for our children’s sake.

  10. I don’t think this is just about parenting. I think it’s really about our western culture and the justified use of force/violence to solve problems. This man is steeped in the gun culture, just look at his other u-tube videos.

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