[This was written in response to Tom Matlack's article, Dad Uses .45 to Shoot Daughter's Laptop over Facebook.]
1) Have we lost our way so profoundly as fathers that a guy putting bullet holes in his daughter’s property is symbolic of what we are all not doing?
If this is what symbolizes what is absent in parenting then I fear the future of parent-child communication and relationship. A return to control-based, punishment oriented, patriarchal family systems is not what we should be lamenting. We’ve been there and done that. Fathers who controlled their families at the expense of having right relationship with their children – who were feared leaders left isolated from the mutual affection, love and ease of interaction that we know is possible. One does not have to demand respect through fear, maintain leadership by crushing opposition, or convince oneself that iron fisted authority is an expression of love. There are many examples of fathers who garner respect and obedience from their children through authoritative rather than coercive parenting. These are not laissez faire, “hippy”, disengaged parents who abdicate responsibility for limit setting and leadership. But they achieve the balance of raising healthy and capable children while still having their love and respect as they reach adulthood. Though I believe there are many examples of these fathers today I know for sure that they exist because I am married to one of them. Our now 16 and 19 year old children love him and they respect him and themselves.
2) Do you think there is some kind of gender abuse here with a male father using his gun to punish his female daughter?
Yes, in several ways. He talks about his threat in the past to be “shoot” her computer if she repeats a similar infraction. If we changed this scenario and said that a man told a woman he would shoot her property if she did something he didn’t like again we would be appalled by the misogyny. Because he is her father this is even remotely acceptable? He was destructive to valued personal property because she behaved in a way he disliked. Wow. What a message I would want to make sure my daughter never received, especially from the most important male relationship and role model in her life – her father. That he then uses a bullet “for your mother” shows an abdication of responsibility by the mother and a system of roles that is most concerning. The fact that it’s a gun isn’t centrally an issue to me – it’s the abuse of power that stands the hair on my arms.
3) Does anyone know if the kid’s laptop was ever replaced or needed for school?
4) Do we need more tough love and less bending over backwards to accomodate our children’s ever whim?
I think we do need more authoritative parenting. Research on effective parenting styles is resounding – children need structure, firm limit setting, and consistent follow through with expectations and discipline. This needs to be accompanied by high levels of engagement and positive regard. When we are afraid to make rules and apply consequences firmly, afraid to say no, afraid to exercise judgment and leadership even when our children show displeasure, and when we are indulgent and accommodating such that our children never learn to handle failure, conflict, disappointment or frustration, we are failing our children. But we also have to be present, involved, aware of what is happening in our children’s lives. And we have to show them by our actions how to live with integrity and personal accountability.
5) Why wouldn’t a dad feeding his baby daughter a bottle or cooking her dinner or giving her a hug go viral instead of a guy with a gun?
I wish I knew the answer to that. You might want to look at our website www.lifecache.ca where my husband and I recently posted about fatherhood. I have a few posts about his role as a father in our family. And it should be viral. The only thing I can think is that this man has touched on that capacity for our children, especially teens, to make us feel frustrated and uncertain and at wits end. Most parents have had moments of deep anger with their children. And some of why it went viral was outrage as well.
6) Dude, really you need to smoke while making this love letter to your kid? What’s with the cig?
Right, another super example of modeling. And I bet if she smoked he would be incensed.