Interview

Laptop Shooting Dad: What Parents Can Learn

Photo by Charles Mok on Flickr

Photo by Charles Mok on Flickr

 

By BRIGITTE ROZARIO

Tommy Jordan, a father in North Carolina, United States, recently made a video that has gone viral on the social networks. On the surface it looks like a tiff between dad and daughter but really, it is about a breakdown in communication.

The video shows Jordan reading out what his 15-year-old daughter posted on her Facebook page. She complains about the chores she has to do in a very public “letter” to her parents.

Jordan is obviously frustrated and annoyed with his daughter’s Facebook post. In the video, he counters each point in her letter and then decides to shoot her laptop and, speaking into the camera, tells her she’s not getting a replacement until she earns enough to buy one for college. He then posts the video on her Facebook page to teach her a very public lesson.

This video has become a topic of conversation all over the world – some parents agree with his actions and some think it’s a bit extreme.

You may think this is just a reality TV-inspired situation about another “crazy” American family, but think again. A breakdown in communication between parent and child can happen in any family. You may not resort to shooting the computer, but you may very well take it away from your child and publicly embarrass him or her.

This week, ParenThots gets the opinion of three experts to find out their response to the video, how a parent and child can move on from this point and what to do to avoid a breakdown in communication and a meltdown in the relationship.

Developmental psychologist and lecturer with Sunway University Elaine Yong believes that there isn’t a proper channel for the members in this family to discuss and voice each other’s opinions. Due to this lack of open communication, the child vented her frustration on Facebook to obtain sympathy from her friends. And, the father in turn vented his response by uploading such a video to “teach the daughter a lesson” via the same channel.

“As a teenager, his daughter is going through an emotional phase in her development. Teenagers are bound to be rebellious, emotional and begin turning to their peers for social support,” she adds.

Jamilah: ‘This relationship must have been strained for quite some time.’

Professional trainer and co-author of The Groovy Guide to Parenting Gen Y and Z Jamilah Samian believes that communication must have broken down years ago for this father and daughter.

“One of the most beautiful and enriching relationships that a man can have is with his daughter. As I watch this video, I imagine the happiness and excitement the father must have had when his daughter was born 15 years earlier. Having fathered a daughter must have been one of his proudest moments!

“However, what we see here is a result of what transpired during the past 15 years; an accumulation of everyday incidents that both must have been unhappy about. This relationship must have been strained for quite some time,” says Jamilah.

She is taken aback by what the daughter did (announcing her frustrations in a disrespectful manner on Facebook – a public forum) as well as the father’s response to it.

Both Yong and Jamilah agree that the father should not have reacted emotionally.

“I would expect the father to have been more mature and to have had the foresight to know that by doing what he did, he would only make things worse. He appears to be full of revenge; not a healthy response at all,” says Jamilah.

Yong believes the father’s actions may backfire and may further cause his daughter to alienate herself from him.

Trainer, family life educator and The Star columnist Charis Patrick says that while the dad’s anger and frustration is understandable, that doesn’t mean what he did was right.

“The angry dad has reacted in a similar way as his angry daughter. What he did definitely does not help to solve the problem but has instead made it worse. He has just burnt the bridge to reach out to his daughter by destroying her most loved item – the computer,” says Patrick.

She questions the quality of the parent-child relationship from the beginning and wonders what could have happened cumulatively to result in such tension between both of them.

“If we listen carefully, the trigger seems to be about some basic responsibility around household chores. However, my guess is it’s not so much about the chores. The girl probably does not fully understand why she has to do it, why she has to be the one and she also does not feel appreciated even when she gets the chores done. She may feel that her parents are merely task-oriented and over time she has decided that her parents do not care or love her but just want her to get all things done according to their way. Her feelings may be valid but what she feels and experiences may be far from the truth,” says Patrick.

Patrick … work at rebuilding the love bank account.

She suggests the following steps to rectify the situation and rebuild the relationship:

* Both parties need to take time to cool down.

* When ready, both parties need to apologise (it may be verbal, via writing or through gestures or deeds). This may be the biggest challenge.

* They need to practise empathy and tune in to how each other may have felt leading to the emotional outburst.

* Parents and daughter need to have a discussion about what is expected of her, explaining the “why” behind the “what.” Package in a well-thought through reward and consequence system to motivate the behaviour.

* As it is, the emotional bank account of both parties may have gone bankrupt. They need to work at rebuilding the love bank account by spending time with each other, and saying and showing that they love each other.

Yong … establish an open channel of communication within the family.

According to Yong, the parent and child need to establish an open channel of communication within the family. They can start by having more family meals together. During dinner, all members of the family can catch up on the goings-on in each other’s lives. Research has shown that frequent family meals (that is dinner and without the TV turned on) encourages better emotional adjustment among teenagers.
Admitting it is an uphill task, Jamilah says it won’t be easy trying to fix the relationship at this point. There needs to be a lot of mending efforts, but something has to change if things are to get better.

She believes that both parties do not feel appreciated or loved by the other.

“There are two magic phrases in any relationship: ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘Thank you.’ These two magic phrases are to be OVERUSED for any relationship to thrive. Often, it doesn’t matter whose fault it is. The first to say ‘Thank you’ or ‘I’m sorry’ does himself and the other person a favour. ‘Thank you’ makes the other person feel appreciated, loved and significant. ‘I’m sorry’ mends past hurts; in fact, if it is said soon enough, it might stop the wound from festering further.

“I would ask both of them to think real hard and reflect: Is there any good that your father / daughter has done in the past? I’m certain there is. It doesn’t matter how small or seemingly insignificant. Be honest and ask ‘Have I thanked him / her for the good deeds that he / she has done? Do I have the habit of appreciating the good things he / she did? Do I have a habit of saying ‘Thank You?’ and ‘I’m sorry’ when I did something wrong?

“It is the nature of children (including teenagers) to want to please adults. Usually, it’s only when they feel overly-criticised, undervalued and unappreciated, do they begin to feel resentful, and may resort to extreme measures like this.”

No parent wants to get to the point where they are in a similar situation and having very public arguments over what on the surface is merely chores. The underlying problem is obviously a lack of appreciation, understanding and communication.

Here are some tips for parents who are concerned that their relationship with their child could be heading down a similar road:

Patrick:

* Spend time to build your relationship with your child and understand him or her. The relationship will be the cushion when punishment is needed.

* Children should not just know their parents as task masters. They need to know their parents’ heart – why they ask them to do what they do. When children know and experience that the parent truly loves and cares for them, they take instructions better.

* When giving instructions, ensure that your child understands what is required, why it is required and knows how to complete it.

* Exercise parental authority but in a respectful manner. Be consistent, persistent and firm (not fierce!) – follow through with a will of steel.

Yong:

* Parents can be more empathic to their child’s issues and development.

* Parents can lay out the ground rules and share their expectations with their children. But with time, these rules need to be reviewed and adjusted accordingly as the child grows and wants to exercise more independence. If the father had explained his reasoning behind many of his past actions, his daughter might not have written a complaint letter and aired it in public.

* Establish an avenue to encourage two-way communication (talking and discussing any issues regardless of how trivial) within the family. If an open channel is formed things need not escalate to the situation seen on the video. I would suggest having frequent family meals together at least once a day.

* Parents need to allocate time to be spent with their children. About 20 minutes a day with each child to just enjoy each other’s company and follow the child’s lead can have a positive effect in strengthening the parent-child relationship.

* Use positive parenting methods and modelling. Parents have to remember that their behaviours are observed and judged by their children, too. Research has shown that children are likely to adopt their parents’ parenting styles when they move on to become parents.

Jamilah:

“We all develop relationship patterns with our children over the years. No parent-child relationship is completely free of conflict – in fact, I would say a certain dose of conflict is necessary for growth at times. Some of it is positive, some negative. Do not allow your relationship to slip into the kind that you see in this video. It’s highly toxic and adversely affects your emotions and health.

“This is also about a sense of entitlement on the part of the teenager. In this case, it’s a negative sense of entitlement whereby the teenager feels she deserves to be treated in a certain way and shouldn’t do any chores. Chores won’t become an issue if kids are grateful for what they have, love and respect their parents. A negative sense of entitlement is related to lack of gratitude and humility and an inflated sense of self-esteem.”

To nurture gratitude and humility and reduce a negative sense of entitlement, Jamilah recommends the following:

* Get your kids to volunteer. Give free tuition to underprivileged kids, help old folks, homeless or the blind.

* Express gratitude yourself.

* Forward touching stories. It opens their eyes to how fortunate they are compared to the millions starving and suffering with famine, civil wars and drought around the world. Life is so much more than “Me! Me! Me!” Just look at the people on the streets, scrounging for every little morsel of food, not even certain where their next meal will come from.

(as reported in ParenThots, Star Online, 27 February 2012)

About Jamilah Samian

Jamilah has written 470 articles.

Jamilah Samian is an author and speaker.

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