In Defense of an Idea…

First, a video… you may have seen it, or at least heard about it, recently.

Second, my response to it. Some of these thoughts relate to comments that I read over at the linked article, but hopefully without the explicit context, the idea comes through.

I actually knew Tommy, we used to hang out about 12-13 years ago, when a friend of mine from ROTC was his roommate. And he know his IT stuff then (as one of the managers for the local ISP, back when a local ISP was actually a viable thing). At the time, he spoke highly of his daughter and his love and hopes for her. He was willing to do just about anything, and provide just about anything, for her. Like most parents.

Based on the context given – that something similar had happened before and a warning was issued – I fully agree with the spirit of the act. Personally, I would have done the deed a little differently, but I’m not a gun guy. What some people don’t really think about, though, is that kids can be sneaky. Deprive them of something, and they will find a way to get back to it. He couldn’t just take the computer away. Unless he physically removed it from the house, there would always be a chance she could snoop for it, and anytime she would be left alone she could try to sneak access.

The fact that it reached that point, however, falls back to point out a societal shift in values. We have, collectively, turned from raising free-thinking, active, motivated  people to complacent, instant gratification junkies that get huffy if they don’t get what they want when they want it and throw a tantrum if you tell them “no,” and it starts when they are young. There are no manuals for children. While there are plenty of handbooks and general guides, each child is different. Each situation is different. They learn by pushing the limits to see how much they can get away with, and the first establishers of limits are the parents.

Do I think that Tommy has done/is doing a bad job raising his kid? Meh. I’m not him, and I haven’t seen the home situation so I can’t really make an opinion. (That whole “don’t judge someone until you’ve walked in their shoes” thing.) The only failure, if you can even really call it that, is being a product of the current generation and providing his teenage daughter access to all kinds of shiny. But that’s part of the rub. Teenage. They get huffy and stupid over the oddest things, and create all sorts of melodrama over what should be nothing (like the chore list: twenty to thirty minutes to finish the items mentioned).

Some of the commenters have gotten all frothy, suggesting: “You took away her laptop so now her grades will suffer in school since so much is going that way.” Um, how do you figure? Yes, there is a lot of work moving that direction, but I haven’t seen too many high schools that are running a Blackboard style environment where regular online work is required. And how does taking away a “personal” laptop indicate that she won’t be able to complete the other required scholastic activities. Need to write a research paper? There’s a thing called a library. They have books, and something called a reference section. The paper needs to be typed? One of the parents types it after she has already hand written it, and she has to learn how to proof and edit her own work without the auto-correct or grammar indicators. Knowing Tommy, he probably has enough parts available that he could set up a dummy box with just enough resources on it for her to do basic assignments for school (say, Office), and anything requiring the internet is done under adult supervision – as it probably should be anyway.

There was also another commenter that mentioned that he should buy her another computer. I think they missed the point entirely. The computer itself was irrelevant – it was just the tool that was used to relay her teenage frothy-ness. Yes, it is natural for kids (teenagers especially) to grumble about their parents. As pissed off as you may get at your parents, however, they are still your parents. Their house, their rules, and until you start supporting yourself you don’t get much of a say in the matter. Yes, it sucks, but the parents job is to teach you how to fend for yourself, not how to go stomp-stomp-pout-pout-I-don’t-wanna often enough to get your way.

Yet another response suggested that he was violating her privacy by going around the “block” to see her Facebook wall. Again, um, how do you figure. See previous statement about parent’s house = parent’s rules. And it’s the internet. Also called the “world wide” web, remember? If it’s on the internet, it’s not “private.” Private is writing it in a diary/journal/notebook that is kept in the bedside stand. Posting anything on the internet is  potentially pouring gasoline on your future self – it doesn’t go away. Anything out there will be archived and available to search engines years from now. It wouldn’t surprise me if in the future, employers do internet checks on prospective new hires (especially for management), and what has been posted in the past could haunt you (people have been fired today for similar things). A parent’s job is to monitor their child’s activities – not  authoritarianly control them – but monitor and educate, and I’m not just talking about activities on the internet here. She failed to learn the original lesson, and I think it took escalating the consequences for it to actually sink in. Sometimes it happens like that.

The real world doesn’t work like that, and more parents need to realize that, and understand that just because your child wants something doesn’t mean you have to give it to them.

I hope that other parents can actually think about this, not as the isolated incident that people are wanting to address, but as a reaction to a culmination of points that have been passed though – and understand that they, too, are probably walking in similar shoes. To other soon-to-be parents (or anyone planning to be a parent in the future), think about what you can do to be proactive early so you won’t have to feel that you’ve been pushed to the same limits.

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