The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal - Why Satisfying Is Not Often Smart
February 13th, 2012
09:29 am

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Why Satisfying Is Not Often Smart

One of the best pieces of advice I received was, “The satisfying thing is usually not the smart thing.” And I think that’s exemplified in this father’s YouTube video to his daughter:

Summed up: Not-too-bright daughter writes whiny, friends-locked Facebook post about how her parents are lazy slave drivers before handing her laptop to her Dad for upgrades. Dad creates a fraught video explaining just what a callow, lazy jerk his daughter is before shooting her laptop with hollow-point bullets and explains that if she wants her own laptop from now on, she’s going to have to pay for it herself.

Some parents – a lot of them, actually – are calling him “Dad of the year.” And I understand why. Emotionally, this is cathartic, the kind of thing you’re tempted to do as a parent when your kids do stupid, disrespectful, and insulting things that stem from a lack of understanding about how good they have it. (Which all middle-class and up kids go through.)

This video is about what parents want to do, because it would be very very satisfying to see the look on your selfish daughter’s face when she realizes what a fucking bad idea it is to cross you.

But then you think, and go, “What am I really teaching here?” Note how the dad isn’t much better than his daughter – his daughter made a fool out of him on the Internet, so he’s gonna hurt her even worse. He’s not teaching her that this sort of response is inappropriate – the lesson here is that if someone wounds you, and they’re in your control, the proper response is to hit back hard.

If you’re a good parent, you think about going dumb-ass off the handle like this…. And then you sit back and think about what you actually want to teach the kid: work matters. And there’s a lot of overlap between what you do to teach “work matters” and what Sad Dad here does – if the kid’s actually that bad, then you actually do most of what the guy does in the end: you take away the computer, you explain that if you really think you have it that bad then it’s time for you to pay for more things, maybe you have her write a letter of apology to that so-called “cleaning lady.”

But when you’re punishing, you keep in mind that your child’s main fault is that she’s immature – and to teach her maturity, you have to model the correct behavior. You have to be unemotional, rational, and responsive… and not to get in front of the Internet, nearly sobbing with rage, and tell everybody, “LOOK HOW MUCH YOU HURT ME, KID, WHAT AN INCONSIDERATE CUNT YOU ARE!” when your original complaint was that she was bitching to her friends and making you look bad.

Sure, I guess it could teach her how awful this feels when the shoe’s on the other foot. In reality, one suspects it teaches her that she just needs to learn how to bitch better, because in the end, the person who freaks out with the more sympathetic position will win. He’s not teaching her to be a better person, he’s teaching her to be more sophisticated in her approach. If the kid gets Facebook again, will she hide it better? If the kid has any sort of emotional reaction, will she keep it from her Dad? You bet your ass she will.

What the Dad did was what parents everywhere are tempted to do, because it would be very satisfying. But my wife has already discussed why the dad’s reaction is disproportionate, and that’s why what’s satisfying is not smart. What he’s doing is escalating in a war of control, achieving victory but not actually changing any minds.  I find it hard to believe that the daughter will feel bad about what she did, she’ll just feel bad about what the consequences were.

I think for all the parents cheering, most of them will come to the conclusion that this is awesome to watch, but not so much to actually do.  Which is correct.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/190867.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

(144 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

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From:ultra_lilac
Date:February 14th, 2012 12:40 am (UTC)
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Teens can be bratty, ungrateful and entitled, but this video was really uncomfortable to watch.
Publicly humiliating a child, violently destroying their possessions....cutting them off from their friends. It all seemed tinged with control and emotional abuse. And I was ready to side with the dad before I watched it.
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From:vienneau
Date:February 14th, 2012 02:04 am (UTC)

Darnit...

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I was just about to share this on Facebook when I decided to finish your post first. Then I realized you were right. A lot less satisfying to not share it though.

That being said, because 22 freaking million people have watched it, I suspect there was a huge amount of residual good where parents and kids might have started talking about it. Or a bunch of kids learned that doing stupid stuff like this may have really unexpected consequences.

So I appreciate the sacrifice this dad made to his relationship to make the lives of other people better.
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From:caviling
Date:February 14th, 2012 02:13 am (UTC)
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Well said!
From:simulated_knave
Date:February 14th, 2012 03:38 am (UTC)
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A few points of clarification about some different things:

According to his responses to the Toronto Star's questions, he actually discovered it by logging onto the family dog's Facebook account. No hacking involved. He was misleading/lying to her.

They are in North Carolina. I think this provides all kinds of context.

Her post was visible to 400-odd people. Her screening consisted of excluding it from friends and people from church.
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From:ravan
Date:February 14th, 2012 08:30 am (UTC)
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I read the "update". That "father" is so full of shit his eyes are brown.

Who cares where she got the money to buy her laptop, it wasn't his to use as a target. Also, that crap about "it's the dog's fault I found out"? Doesn't pass the smell test.
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From:empress_tigress
Date:February 14th, 2012 11:15 am (UTC)
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I had friends with parents like this and they frankly scared the hell out of me. To the point that I asked them to call me if they needed a safe place to stay for a few nights.

If a parent ever feels the need to use WEAPONS to discipline their child, then CPS and family court need to get involved. Something has truly broken down in that home and needs intervention.
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From:jfargo
Date:February 14th, 2012 04:14 pm (UTC)
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I just started watching it for the first time today thinking that since it was everywhere I should keep up with pop culture and see what the big deal was. I started getting sick of his attitude within the first minute. I skipped around a little about two minutes into it and when I realized that watching it would just make me sad for the girl I skipped to the shooting part.

The shooting part wasn't even that satisfying. Personally if I wanted to make a spectacle shooting a laptop I'd use a shotgun and really make it explode. His little "exploding hollow point bullets" were boring.

So not only do I disagree with what he did, I also felt bored. If I had seen this without any hype to it I would have figured it'd disappear quickly.
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From:wolflady26
Date:February 14th, 2012 09:18 pm (UTC)
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I find it very deeply disturbing that he used a gun in anger, and people are cheering him on. Sure, it was a cold anger, but it was very, very clearly rage fueling his behavior. I think that kind of violent response -- even if (at least this time) his violence was directed at a laptop and not a person -- is at least bordering on abuse, if not actually over the line.
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From:ravenblack
Date:February 17th, 2012 02:57 am (UTC)
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Wow, I didn't know that she actually *already* bought that laptop with her own money (gleaned from comments here), which is totally contrary to the impression he gives in the video. I already thought it was stupid (if he'd bought it, and was concerned about that, taking it away and/or selling it would make a much more reasonable point than destroying it which can't be anything but crazy, petty violence), but taking away something she actually earned and destroying it just criminal.

Hell, even if he had bought it for her, you don't get to ungift a gift, it's still criminal. Once it's hers it's hers.
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From:shipofools999
Date:February 18th, 2012 02:43 am (UTC)
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I think you have a good point and one well worth considering. I do think a better approach would be to model more mature behavior and that the video was giving into a cathartic impulse.

I took a look at his fb page and gathered more info from other stories. It does seem that he had reached a point where he just didn't know what else to do. He had tried other ways of getting through to his daughter and while they worked for awhile, she eventually forgot about them. This was big enough to break through, at least for now. It did lead to them talking about the issues and both of them getting a chance to have their say. Sometimes there are kids that need to have their parents lose their cool before they really pay attention. This doesn't seem to be their typical way of dealing with things.

I am not so worried about the gun because it is just a tool where they live. It is not a big deal to them. They all know how to shoot and are comfortable with guns. (and I am rather anti-gun myself so I am not just toeing the NRA policy line). I find it sad that he didn't use it as an opportunity to make a big bang. A sledgehammer or explosive would have been great. The gun had a pitiful effect. A post driver would have been better. I grew up with a father that would punch holes in walls when he got mad but I always knew he wouldn't ever hurt me. I didn't get the feeling from the video that he would even think of turning his gun on his daughter. Not saying I am right but that is my read.

With the perspective you and Zothe pointed out, it does hurt to see those that applaud this father's approach. I appreciate the perspective. From his other writings and his statement that the family is not interested in going on any tv show or doing any interviews, it does seem he does have a good head on his shoulders for the most part.
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From:moonwolf23
Date:February 20th, 2012 09:42 pm (UTC)
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I found this guy to be doing nothing more then a tempter tantrum. Sighs, really?! Oh no, my whiny teenager whines about me, does not constitute a reason to shoot a laptop or even react. what teenager doesn't whine about parents.

Cheering for the parent, just made me go WTF are you guys thinking.
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From:ccr1138
Date:March 2nd, 2012 05:53 pm (UTC)
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As a parent, I found the whole thing appalling from start to finish. First, he castigates the daughter for airing her whiny complaints online -- by airing his whiny complaints online. Second, he takes her to task for her language -- by quoting her and then using even more foul language. Third, he calls her an ingrate who doesn't appreciate what she's given, doesn't know the value of money or hard work, and doesn't treat the paid help with respect -- and then he blows away a perfectly good laptop that could have been donated to charity or at least sold on eBay for a few bucks.

Hypocrite much?

Not to mention the irresponsible use of firearms. He's obviously a "pry it from my cold, dead hands" gun nut who gives the whole cause of private gun ownership a bad name. The second amendment was not meant to justify immature asshats throwing a hissy fit with bullets. As far as I'm concerned, he should have his handgun license taken away for this stunt.
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