What Memes Mean: Facebook Parenting And The Backlash Against Wuss Culture

Each Wednesday in What Memes Mean, Kirk Bozeman questions the significance, humor, and subtexts of viral videos, memes, and other Internet fads.

If you haven’t seen this video yet, you can view it here.  Please (sincerely) be warned, the language is very, very crass.

I’m not a parent, so I’m a little unsure how to approach this – parenting is the most notorious of all subjects in which the uninitiated give unsolicited advice.  And I’ve also (obviously) never had a daughter who consistently libeled me through social media and tried to hide it–a situation which is the root cause of the video above.  In the clip, the girl’s father – in a strange, albeit creative, response – sets up a camera, reads his daughter’s latest rant to the world (in order to make a point), answers her, and then proceeds to destroy her laptop (which he had purchased for her, so technically it’s his to destroy)… with a handgun.

Most of the responses to this vid which I’ve heard have been negative, people taking issue with the way the situation was dealt with or the seeming indulgence of the parent in dealing with it.  But I’ve also heard some positive responses, all unanimously centering on one idea: “Now this daughter knows her father isn’t all talk, he means business!”  Further, if any of the negative responders made a positive note at all, it was something along those lines: “At least he actually did something.”

Much has been made about our “wuss culture”, and these positive responses seem to have this in mind.  Many feel we are in an anti-dodgeball, grade-inflating, no-whippin’ era, a time where we coddle the young and tell them that their every move should be praised, ignoring their misbehaviors for the sake of inflated self-esteem and causing permanent damage to their imminent adulthood.  This stereotype wouldn’t exist if there wasn’t some reality in it, which I believe is why the video rings true for many viewers.

Evidently people are tired of a culture of kid-coddling.  We don’t want our children to grow into entitled, spoiled adults, having no work ethic and unable to handle conflict or failure, and we, in part, blame the parents and teachers without backbone who refuse to challenge and discipline.

And I see no problem with this as an idea, but the problem I do have is this: our culture as a whole doesn’t seem at all sure about how to even begin to go about fixing the issue, this video being case-in-point. I can think of a number of completely legitimate, tough-love style ways a parent could deal with such a situation that doesn’t involve passive retaliation, potential humiliation, and handguns. This conversation on how to solve the problem of wuss culture desperately needs to be pushed forward.  (Part of me wants to say it’s simply an pure issue of moral decay — bravery and self-control are issues of morality, mainly — but again, more conversation.)

And as a side note, remember that the anti-dodgeball culture is itself a backlash against things like Columbine and cutting.  It’s a desire to protect kids from bullying and abuse, and comes from a legitimate aspiration for children to grow up with a healthy self-image.  What may have become coddling started as basic parental protection, and should never be completely abandoned.

The virality of this video is evidence that we are tired of raising children to become a wuss culture, but that we have no idea how to go about fixing it.  Hopefully this is a gap the church can step into — we, frankly, ought to be some of the best out there at this sort of thing.

About Kirk Bozeman
  • http://www.diannaeanderson.net Dianna

    This is an angle that hadn’t occurred to me, so thanks for that.

    The problem I see with this is that our ways of getting rid of “wuss culture” tend to be borderline abusive – this as a case in point. The argument can easily be made that this man’s actions are abuse by proxy – “I destroy your stuff now so you’ll know what will happen to you when you cross lines in the future.” And the fact that we’re (as a culture) praising what is, ultimately an abusive action really shows how we don’t know how to react to “coddling” and could easily end up destroying people in our attempts not to “coddle” them.

  • http://www.alienman.blogspot.com Brad Williams

    There is plenty of room between ‘abuse’ and ‘coddling’. What struck me in this video was how very similar the language of the daughter was to the father’s. He was as over-the-top in his response as she was in her post. But for me, the biggest offence in this video was the fact that he made the reprimand public. He could have, as part of the punishment, destroyed her laptop. I have no issue with that. However, I think it would have been better to have her record her own apology to upload to Facebook, especially including one to the “cleaning lady.”

    “The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:20). The church ought to teach that to parents, and she ought to teach that the goal of parenting is not to simply get our children to kow-tow to our authority, but to understand that we are charged to raise them in the admonition of the Lord. So instead of taking their sin as a slight to our pride, we ought to ask how we can communicate that this behavior is an affront to the Lord, not simply a personal slight.

    Finally, it is very difficult to reconcile ‘self-esteem’ culture with the Biblical truth of personal depravity. We must teach our children to find their identity in Christ, not personal failure or accomplishment.

    Just my two cents.

  • http://friarsfires.blogspot.com Brett

    I think you’re on to something; we as a church are probably equipped to offer firmly held standards administered with love. After all, we have the model of Jesus both pardoning the woman caught in adultery but telling her to “sin no more.” Our failure to regularly live up to that model indicts us but doesn’t weaken it.

    Someone noted the similarity of the father’s language to the daughter’s. I agree. Tantrums thrown by toddlers are sometimes funny and sometimes annoying, but explainable because they’re thrown by toddlers. Tantrums thrown by teenagers are rarely funny, mostly annoying, hardly explainable and potentially very problematic because tantrum behavior in full-sized but immature people can have consequences it doesn’t have in smaller people. Tantrums thrown by adults are sad. I imagine the daughter, instead of learning how an adult responds to a problem, has just had another lesson in grown-up tantrum-throwing.

  • Ben Pitseleh

    I concur with some of the comments made.
    Basically, the flaw of the father is making it all public. Personally, I don’t care who sees or hears me reprimand my children. But I don’t try to make it public because it is a private matter. The flip side to that concept is that there is boundary drawing with not just the child, but her network of friends too. It isn’t a parents right to reprimand friends of their children, but it is within their full right to establish boundaries and rules for what is theirs (i.e. their child, their house, their car, and the non tangible extension into cyberspace).
    Also the comment that an adult throwing a tantrum is not pretty and the wrong model for the child. The flip side to that is raising a teenager will make you throw many a tantrum over time. Not might, will. It doesn’t make it the right thing to do, but I am not going to cherry pick somebody when they do it.
    I establish grounds for my children, and most closely related to this is what I establish for my teenage daughter (and if you haven’t raised a teenager then there is a 99% chance you have no idea what it is like). I can see myself shooting a laptop. Ok, I don’t own a gun, but I get the reaction. I probably would have taken away the laptop far before it got to that point, but I know things escalate to that point on occasion. If I felt that destroying the laptop (my laptop as the article points out the source of the funds) was beneficial to teaching my daughter a lesson then I would do it in a heartbeat. I spoil my children by giving them what I can. I will always do that. But they are gifts that can easily be removed.
    The problem with parenting these days is that society doesn’t know what a parent is. I don’t want to be my kids friend. Yes, I wan to be approachable and open to discuss anything with them, but I am not their friend. I am their father. I am in control. I write the law. Period. It doesn’t mean I am a tyrant, it simply means I am crystal clear on the hierarchy of the family. Children need to learn submission to authority and what submission means (and that it also does not mean an untouchable relationship that isn’t close). Just as we learn submission to our authority, bosses, police, and God, it all starts with learning as a child. Will they step out of bounds? Of course. They will rebel and establish themselves as their own person. That is fine, even when it is done wrong. But the ramifications of breaking the bounds from the parent are still there. It may be a yelling, a spanking, a shooting a laptop. That is a lesson they are learning. To remove a punishment or say something is wrong for a man who shoots a laptop, then you are removing the boundaries he has set in place for his child. That shouldn’t be done.

  • Adam E

    There is no such thing as public discipline. It’s punishment. Discipline is about what’s in the best interests of the child, punishment is about the best interest of the one sinned against, the victim. This father is not disciplining his child. He is punishing her: in part, as an act of vengeance for sins committed against himself.

    This is the antithesis of how God our Father treats our sins. I have sympathy for the father in this instance, but I feel especially saddened for the daughter for having such a warped example of a Fathers love presented to her.

  • Adam E

    Public discipline as relating to parenting, to clarify.

  • http://www.alienman.blogspot.com Brad Williams

    Adam,

    I disagree. God the Father does, in fact, discipline his children publicly. I agree that this father on the video should have found another way for public discipline. That is, a public confession on Facebook that her post was wrong, that it was hurtful to her friends and family, and it was disrespectful to the woman who cleans the house.


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