Laptop Destruction, or How to Be a Dad with Poise

You have probably seen the video that’s everywhere on the Internet and featured on many news outlets …

Earlier this month, a 15-year-old girl posts a profanity-laced complaint about her parents on Facebook, thinking only some of her friends would see it. But her dad does discover it, and responds by making a video for the daughter and her friends (and eventually all the world) to see.

“Are you kidding me?” the dad says in the video. He reads her message and responds to it point-by-point, adding his own comments about her lack of gratitude and respect. He tells her, “You’ve got it easy, but it’s about to get a whole lot harder.” She’s lost all privileges until college, etc.

Then he finishes by destroying her laptop with nine rounds from his .45 pistol.

Please be warned … the video contains profanity.

People have had strong reactions to this dad’s approach to “tough love.” Some say the daughter’s message warranted that kind of response; good for him for holding her accountable and teaching her a memorable lesson about real-world consequences. I heard one man say with a chuckle, “I would have used a 12-gauge.”

And others, while admitting that kids today need to hear those points, are appalled by the dad’s actions. He went too far; he’s being a bully and doing permanent damage to the relationship.

We all have our opinions, and although we’ll never know the whole story of the relationship, this dad may be burning bridges with his daughter at a key point in her life.

More importantly, dad, this video should quickly turn your thoughts to your own fathering. How do you handle it when your child shows disrespect or loses her mind in some way? How can you be a good dad even during those “Are you kidding me?” moments with your children? Haven’t we all said and done some things in the heat of a battle with a child that we later regretted?

Let’s keep these four thoughts in mind:

1. Keep practicing the basics. For me, it always comes back to the fundamentals, because they are grounded in solid research. In just about any situation, we can ask ourselves, Am I showing love to my child—truly doing what’s best for him? How does this challenge provide opportunities for me to teach my child and help prepare her for life? And am I being a consistent model—conducting myself in a way that I would want my child to emulate?

2. Especially when it seems like your kid is out of control, focus on self-control. If you try to exert strict control over your teenager, the chances are good that you’ll drive him away or turn him into an enemy. Instead, realize that your child will occasionally put you on some emotional roller-coasters. Expect that, and don’t go ballistic on him. Demonstrate self-control; be a calm father.

3. Keep a long-range perspective. Remember the end goal of your fathering: a responsible, well-adjusted adult. Ask yourself, What do I want my child to remember about this day—and my behavior—five or ten years from now? That perspective may help you relate to your children with an extra measure of patience, calmness, and acceptance.

4. Be ready to say, “Sorry.” We all overreact sometimes. A genuine apology should be a natural and quick response. Be an agent of healing. Recognize when you’ve hurt your child and take the initiative to go to her and say, “I was wrong. I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?” (Practice those words out loud, so they’re easier to say when you need to.)

Here are more Action Points you can use:

  • Revisit your household rules for Internet use, email, social media, YouTube, etc., and discuss those as a family. Remember: “There’s no place like home.” Agree with your children to never take complaints public—online or otherwise.
  • If your kids are older, watch the video with them. Ask for their thoughts about the daughter’s comments and her dad’s response.
  • Identify an area of life where your child needs some instruction or greater maturity—responsibility, a work ethic, money management, etc. Come up with a plan to invest yourself in building up your child in that area. Beware of any storms brewing. Commit to lines of communication now that will head off the storm. Restate your expectations and show mercy as much as possible. These are kids.
  • Ask your wife to help you identify when your tone of voice becomes harsh when you’re talking to your children—and what effect it has on them.
  • Count to ten! Give yourself time to think through the most positive, reasonable response. Understand your own temperament. Even words can create lasting impressions—and wounds. Write out your thoughts; record your videos … and then sit on them. Maybe get feedback from another dad. Think carefully about the long-term impact of your actions.

Many of you dads out there also have great experiences and wisdom on this. Please share your thoughts below.

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