Suzanne Tobias

February 22, 2012

A poor decision to scold kid publicly

Every parent of a teenager understands why Tommy Jordan was upset.

Every parent of a teenager understands why Tommy Jordan was upset.

The North Carolina man’s 15-year-old daughter posted a scathing diatribe about him on Facebook, thinking she had blocked him and other family members from seeing it.

In it, she included such grievances as “I am not your (expletive) slave,” “It’s not my responsibility to clean up your (expletive),” and “If you want coffee, get off your (expletive) and make it yourself.”

Not cool. The girl did sound like an ungrateful brat.

So Jordan responded by videotaping an eight-minute rebuttal, after which he emptied his .45-caliber pistol into her computer.

And he came off looking like an angry, vengeful brat.

“You don’t have to worry about buying a new laptop battery. You don’t have to worry about buying a new power cord,” he says in the video. “Because you won’t be using any of them till probably college. … I hope it was all worth this.”

He posted the video, titled “Facebook Parenting: For the troubled teen,” on YouTube. It went viral. As of this week, it had been viewed more than 28 million times.

That’s a lot of people watching — and judging — your parenting.

Comments — which remind me of ones aimed at “Tiger Mother” Amy Chua this time last year — ranged from, “About time someone stood up to their kids!” to “You’re a horrible, horrible man, and I hope your daughter gets pregnant just to get back at you.”

Unintentionally, if not unexpectedly, Jordan became an example of the very lesson he intended to teach his daughter: If you don’t want people to see it and don’t want to live with the consequences, don’t put it on the Internet.

I posted a link to the video on my Facebook page last week, intrigued by the conversation and debate it had sparked. There again, as elsewhere, there was praise and vilification.

I pretty much agreed with the dad, I explained, right up to the point where he fetched his gun. My preferred ending: Footage of the dad clearing the laptop hard drive, reinstalling crucial software (plus a few cool games) and delivering the computer, along with his daughter’s iPod and cellphone, to the nearest homeless shelter or children’s home.

That would have seemed more tactful and mature, I thought. Less like a temper tantrum.

But as I thought more about it and talked with friends, I realized it’s the video itself, the public flogging, that smacks of childishness.

“I don’t blame him for being hurt,” said my friend Steve, a high school teacher and father of two teen daughters. “She’s young and maybe doesn’t understand the implications of what she posts.

“Then he goes and does the same thing: uses a public medium to respond to what’s really a private family issue. … It wasn’t any more mature or appropriate than what she did.”

Since the video went viral a few weeks ago, Jordan has declined media interviews, preferring instead to respond to questions in writing via e-mail. He told ABC News this week that he still believes “everything I did was appropriate.”

“However,” he added, “I also believe the freak occurrence that made the video go viral means the punishment accidentally outweighed the crime.”

Indeed, accidents happen. So do lapses in judgment — by teens and their parents.

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