Earlier this month, a 15-year-old girl named Hannah in Albemarle, N.C., logged onto Facebook and posted this note:
To my parents: I'm not your (expletive) slave. It's not my responsibility to clean up your (expletive)... If you want coffee, get off your (expletive) and make it yourself. If you want a garden, shovel the fertilizer yourself. Don't sit back on your (expletive) and watch me do it...
I'm gonna hate to see the day when you get too old to wipe your (expletive), and you call me asking for help. I won't be there.
We know all this because her father, Tommy Jordan, a self-described IT worker wearing a Tilley hat and carpenter jeans, posted his own video response on his daughter's Facebook page. He sat in a chair in a field and ridiculed his daughter. Then he pulled a .45 caliber handgun and shot nine bullets into her laptop.
"Just for the record," Jordan says, resuming his seat, "… you can have another laptop when you buy another laptop."
By Tuesday evening, more than 23 million people had watched his 8-minute performance. And, heavens how the people cheered. Thousands dropped support on Jordan's Facebook page.
I wish I had more hands so I could give this video 10 thumbs up!!!
THANK YOU FOR BEING A PARENT!!!!
GOOD job!!! Kids now a days are so disrespectful and stupid!!!
But hold the parade.
Tommy Jordan may have been at the end of his rope, but what he did was completely the wrong move.
It's a classic power struggle, but you don't fight your teen with belittling and shame and the threat of violence. So say folks who have spent their lives studying family dynamics and counseling parents and teens.
"Public humiliation isn't a recommended strategy," says Carrie Cohen, a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist. "He models an aggressive and hostile approach to problem solving."
"The bottom line," says Linda Peterman, a licensed mental health counselor with a practice in Westchase, "is that the intimidation and anger and the fear that comes out of that prevents healthy communication among family members. And problems aren't solved."
"What he did was vindictive to a whole new level," says Amy Abdnour, a therapist in Tampa who specializes in adolescents, couples and families. "He's saying, 'I will win and you will never cross me again.' "
What he did, the counselors say, is further break down lines of communication and model for his daughter the wrong way to behave. Instilling fear and using intimidation and the threat of violence just creates discord.
"Parents should behave in ways they wish their children would emulate," says Jennifer Mockler, a licensed psychologist who serves children, adults and families. "He does not appear to have thought out the ways his response might negatively affect his daughter. His response is not healthy and would not be teaching his daughter an appropriate lesson."
The incident brings to mind other situations in which parents went to the extremes to teach their children lessons. The Tampa mother who made her son stand roadside with a sign that said "GPA 1.22 … honk if I need (an) education." The Leesburg man police accused of using a BB gun to motivate a teenager to do football drills in hot weather. The Enterprise parents who moved into a tent in their driveway to protest their children's failure to pick up after themselves.
The counselors all say they've dealt with parents who feel fed up by their teen's behavior. Nothing new there. Adolescents are trying to figure out who they are. Entitlement is normal. Feeling put upon is normal. Trying to distance themselves from their parents is normal.
But part of that pulling away creates tension and conflict. The solution is to foster healthy communication.
Rather than perpetuating a power struggle, what if Tommy Jordan talked to his daughter about her feelings? Rather than pulling a gun for the world to see, what if he simply took her laptop away? What if he — here it comes — bowed out, let his daughter "win" the argument?
Would we cheer?
"The payback in parenting is years down the road," says Abdnour. "When children are into their 20s and 30s and they're able to give back in terms of love and kindness and caring."
At this rate, when Tommy Jordan is old, his daughter won't be there to wipe his (expletive).
Jordan said on Facebook that he'd do it all over again, but maybe he'd wear his Stetson and chuck the cigarette. He also revealed that Child Protective Services had interviewed him and his daughter separately.
"At the end of the day, no I'm not losing my kids, no one's in danger of being ripped from our home that I know of, and I actually got to spend some time with the nice lady and learn some cool parenting tips that I didn't know."
Maybe young Hannah will change her mind.
Ben Montgomery can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8650.