Parenting for Social Change Author Responds to Violent Viral Video
You’ve probably seen links on Facebook to the You Tube video of the father who reads a letter posted by his daughter on her Facebook account complaining about how her parents treat her. At the end of the video, he stands up, pulls out his .45 and shoots her laptop.
I’ve been thinking about this video on and off, reading some of the comments and blog posts in response. At first I resisted seeing the video, and then I decided to watch it. I’m glad that I did. If you want to see it, you can search for “parenting: for a troubled teen” on You Tube.
Watching the video reminds of the way that power and control over children are embedded in our culture. I purposely used the term in the first paragraph of this article “his” because it is clear that the father believes he has the right to control his daughter. She is “his” and he is willing exert his power and control over her in an attempt to force her to change her behavior.
His frustration and anger are evident. He doesn’t know how to stop her from rebelling. He spent six hours and $130 installing new programs on her laptop the day before he found her post. It’s clear from his comments that he views her as ungrateful and disrespectful.
If it sounds like I’m defending this father, I’m not. But, I will say that it is exactly our culture’s view of parenting that sets parents and children up to be in this kind of conflict. The relationship we see played out in this video is merely one example of the ways we have accepted power over, control, and domination of children as normal and expected.
We take in messages about children and parenting that are steeped in negative views of children. We learn that children have to be controlled if they are to grow up to be responsible adults. Those messages reinforce that respect is a one-way street. Children show respect to parents, but as parents, we are not obligated to respect children.
As parents, we aren’t given any tools and almost no examples of relationships with children that are built on trust and mutual respect. In fact, all the tools we are given, that we are told we must use, involve the use of power over children and diminishment of their autonomy and rights to self-determination.
As parents, we’ve been sold a bunch of lies about the best way to parent. We must use control. We must use punishment and time outs. We must force children to do things for their own good. We know what is best for them as parents. We must not be their friends. We must maintain control and power at all times as parents. And we bought into all those lies.
As a parent, I have struggled deeply with letting go of this control. I have struggled with frustration and anger. I have lashed out in ways that emotionally hurt the children in my life. I have thought at times, Martel and Greyson are ungrateful. Martel and Greyson should appreciate what I do. I have felt some of the ways that father may have felt in the video. I am not a perfect, always compassionate parent. I have spent years trying to unlearn the messages I bought into about parenting.
Just as I am accountable for the ways I hurt Martel and Greyson, so is this father.
And, I also wish that the tools for creating different relationships with children were readily available. I wish that a radically different view of children and childhood that is empowering and acknowledges their rights as human beings were already a reality, right now.
It is not and so we all suffer.
Those with the least amount of power, the children in our lives suffer the most from our inability to create change more quickly.
I feel pain for the daughter who was the object of the abuse her father heaped upon her. I feel sick to my stomach watching him pull the trigger of his .45 and seeing the violence of those actions.
I also feel the pain of this father. Who is struggling with the lies he believes about parenting. Who might have experienced much of the same treatment as a child as I did. Who doesn’t see any other way out than to use violence, domination, power, and control.
Do I excuse him for his actions? Absolutely not!
But what I do know is that when I use my power and control as a parent to manipulate Martel to do what I want, I am on the same spectrum of behavior as this father.
Is it as violent? No.
But when I use power and control as a parent, I am buying into the same set of lies as this father. I am resorting to old habits and beliefs. I am struggling to maintain my own humanity at the same time that I struggle to acknowledge the humanity of Martel and Greyson.
We all lose in this paradigm of control and domination. And, worst of all, children lose the most.