The Dad Who Shot His Daughters Laptop: 7 Reasons The Majority Are Wrong

Today’s post is a guest post by the novelist and essayist, Jane Devin. We’re delighted she stopped by to bark and walk in our back yard and welcome her any time she wants to wander in. If you haven’t already, buy her book, Elephant Girl. It is nothing short of amazing.

Earlier this month, a YouTube video of a fed-up father who shot up his daughter’s laptop after she posted a disrespectful letter about her parents on Facebook went viral on the internet. This is the video:

On YouTube

A few words up front: I was not a perfect parent and sometimes not even an adequate one. I don’t know Mr. Jordan or his daughter well enough to speak to their true characters, intentions, or their family dynamics.

What I do know is what Mr. Jordan chose to make public. First, his 15 year old daughter wrote a scathing post against her parents which many people, including me, thought made her sound like an entitled brat. She posted it on Facebook and her dad found it through their dog’s account (seriously). Second, Mr. Jordan decided to teach Hannah a lesson by posting a video to her Facebook wall. After going off on his own diatribe, which I found not too horrible (hey, parents are people, too — our feelings get hurt and we don’t appreciate being disrespected,) Mr. Jordan decided to put several rounds of bullets into his daughter’s computer. That’s where his family drama became ugly for me.

A majority of parents (and by my count mostly women), lauded Mr. Jordan with praises like, “It’s great to see someone actually parent” and “The brat got what she deserved – I bet she won’t dare act that way again”. It takes a lot to shock me, but these kind of comments did. Here’s why:

1) If it was any other authoritarian relationship — say, employee/employer, teacher/student — people would have been up in arms over the destruction of property in order to teach a lesson, not applauding the act. If someone provided a computer to their employee or student and then shot it up when they found them abusing it, most of us would think they were nuts, even if they did pay for what they destroyed. We wouldn’t be praising the “lesson” they were teaching.

2) The “lesson” that it’s somehow okay to destroy someone’s property when you feel disrespected, even if it’s something you bought as a gift, teaches that destruction and revenge are appropriate responses. It seems to me that a lot of people who grow up with that lesson are the same ones who do things like slash the tires of their boyfriend’s car when they find out he wasn’t faithful.

3) The definition of vandalism is “deliberate, mischievous, or malicious destruction of public or private property.” The law may have given the father the right to control his daughter’s use of property, and he could argue that the property was ultimately a gift he bought and then reclaimed, but the spirit of vandalism remains. He deliberately and maliciously destroyed something even he admitted was his daughter’s.

4) Discipline and revenge are not the same thing. That’s why comments like “finally, a parent acting like a parent” stunned me. Since when is an act of vengeance the same as discipline? While I understand people’s frustration with kids who are spoiled or act “entitled” I fail to see how shooting up a child’s possessions can, in any way, be considered good parenting or intelligent discipline.

5) The public doesn’t know, can’t know, both sides of the story. The dad said his daughter was grounded for three months before for doing something “similar” and “stupid.” To those who say the girl was previously spoiled and therefore needed a harsh reminder of her place, I’d counter that a three month restriction seems pretty drastic and not lax at all. A quarter of a year is a long time in the life of a teen — and there are few teenagers who don’t repeat their mistakes. And that list of chores? How long did they take in reality? Did the girl also work at her stepmom’s business, as she claimed? Was she given adequate time outside of school to be a kid? We don’t know. While the girl’s letter was nasty — I especially took exception to the “cleaning lady” bit — maybe she had her own and possibly legitimate reasons for being frustrated.

6) Like Hannah’s father, I also left home at 16. I was mostly self-supporting by the age of 14. I don’t think it made me a better or more responsible person, and I would not wish that kind of necessary but early independence on any teenager. I have no problem with a 15 year old having a part-time job, but unlike Hannah’s dad I don’t view it as a requirement. I think a child’s primary job is to go to school. I think learning social skills and having friends and activities is also important. There’s plenty of time and occasions in life to go to work at Burger King for minimum wage. At 15, I think a job should be a choice, not a condition of living happily under your parent’s roof.

7) Another viral YouTube video was that of a judge who was shown spanking and yelling at his then-teenage daughter for being disobedient. He had told her not to download music from the internet and she did. The majority of parents condemned the judge for his abuse, which was blatant and easy to see. Almost no one in that case called the girl a spoiled brat or praised the judge for his parenting skills. Yet Mr. Jordan was lauded for shaming his daughter publicly by posting his video on Facebook and YouTube — an act that will have consequences for her years into the future — and for taking a gun to his daughter’s property in order to prove that he was the man in charge. The hallmarks of domestic violence are not always physical. The six signs of an abuser are: Dominance, Humiliation, Isolation, Threats, Intimidation, Denial and Blame. Again, I do not know Mr. Jordan outside of what he has made public, but I see all six signs in the behavior exhibited in his video. He asserted his dominance, humiliated his daughter, promised to isolate her through restriction, threatened her with promises that her life was about to get “a whole lot harder,” intimidated her by showing her his power, denied that she had any right to complain, and then blamed her for his own overreaction, which was to put several rounds of ammunition into her property. I do not see much of a moral difference between the physical abuse of the judge and what Mr. Jordan did. Both men showed a lack of self-control and used their power wrongly. To condemn one while praising the other is, to me, hypocritical at best.

I believe in discipline. I don’t believe in destruction. I believe that good parents have a right to demand respect. I don’t believe respect is achieved through acts of violence. I believe children should know that their parents are human and can get angry and have hurt feelings just like anyone else — but I think it’s a parent’s job to model an appropriate way to deal with frustration. The use of a gun to make a point is never appropriate. Ever. That many people think it is — that the majority of comments praise Mr. Jordan — doesn’t make him, or the majority, right.

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About Jane Devin

Jane Devin is a culture critic, essayist, and author. Her memoir, Elephant Girl, is available in paperback and Kindle versions on Amazon.com. In 2010, Jane ended an extended road trip across the U.S., which was blogged on Finding My America. She also blogs at The Huffington Post. You are welcome to follow her on Twitter or fan her on Facebook. She can be reached at jane [at] janedevin.com.
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25 Responses to The Dad Who Shot His Daughters Laptop: 7 Reasons The Majority Are Wrong

  1. Bon says:

    amen. modelling violence is not great parenting, it’s people’s vengeance fantasies writ large.

  2. merrycricket says:

    You said it far better than I could! I was puzzled at the majority of responses on the video. I guess that’s how emotional and psychological abuse can continue unchecked. Most people just don’t seem to recognize it.

  3. Elizabeth says:

    Very well stated.

    When I initially saw this video I thought about the ramp it up factor. When you are in this type of destructive pattern in a relationship (even a parent child relationship) you always have to find something more shocking than the last thing in order to get the same impact. So next time she does something he doesn’t like where does he go for shock value? It just feels like dangerous territory for me.

  4. Evy says:

    You put into words everything I had been thinking. Violence and revenge are not good parenting – ever.

  5. Fran says:

    I couldn’t get through the video I was so put off by the father’s need to validate her grievances with his rebuttals. He should consider reading Parenting with Love and Logic.

    DISCLAIMER: I am not and never will be a role model for parenting. I am glad you brought this up for discussion and consideration. I hope the debate remains respectful among those offering different opinions. I pray that we, in community, can support one another and seek opportunities to learn and improve.

  6. Dingo says:

    Here’s a counter to your arguments from a father that had no problem with what this father did.

    1. Parenting isn’t any other relationship. It stands apart. No employer can make you sleep under their roof, they will not wipe your butt when you’re a baby, and most importantly, they can fire you. You can’t fire blood. You can kick them out, you can ground them, you can take away their laptop and shoot it, but you’re still blood. So, this can’t be judged on the merits or lack of merits of any other kind of relationship.

    2. Here’s were your ignorance of their relationship and the rules of their house come into play. Here are a couple of things that you don’t know. Was the laptop really hers? My oldest son knows that everything in his room and the clothes on his back are on loan to him until he’s 18. At that point, he will own all of it. Until then, he owns nothing. This is a question that needs to be answered before you can make any judgment calls on what she does and does not own. For instance, there is a woman working off a debt to his family (probably for IT work) by cleaning the house. His time is worth money. If he spent half of the previous day fixing the computer and spent over a hundred dollars on software, then, unless the daughter can pay him, the equipment could be considered his as barter, even if he doesn’t have the same ruleset that I have with my son. So, if that is the case, this isn’t revenge, this is destruction of a lent piece of property, and a proper escalation of the previous punishment of three months without FB.

    3. See #2. You’re making assumptions.

    4. It is discipline. If it were pure revenge, there would be no point outside of the destruction of the father’s own property. He wants to teach his daughter a lesson, yes, but not out of spite. He wants her to be a better person. With this act, he wants to teach a couple of lessons (respect, consequences for actions, and integrity). And, he hopes for one thing, her to get a job and start displaying a worthwhile work ethic. He cares enough to do this, not for revenge, but because he wants his daughter to be better.

    5. As long as she has clothes to wear, food to eat, shelter from the elements, she has nothing legitimate to complain about. Unless, there is real abuse. Strangely enough, that wasn’t in her letter, so I doubt it’s there, since she thought it was only viewable by her friends.

    6. This is subjective to your life. It has nothing to do with hers outside of your own regrets. I started working when I was 14, yet it has nothing to do with this story.

    7. That was physical violence. If you don’t understand the difference between physical violence and destruction of one’s own property then I hardly think you’re qualified to make any kind of judgement call whatsoever on this story.

  7. Heather says:

    Absolutely. I was shocked and appalled at the video; there’s about a hundred ways he could have taken away the computer from her, permanently, without telling her that it’s okay to destroy property just because you’re angry.

  8. Jane Devin says:

    1. You missed my point. This behavior by any other person “in charge” would have been viewed as abominable.

    2. You missed my point. Even if it was a gift, even if he took it back, (he called it hers several times by the way) the lesson that property destruction is an okay way to express anger is a horrible one and was, in fact, vengeful. Also? Parents do a lot of things for their kids. Personally, I invested thousands of dollars and much time on my daughter. I never expected to be paid back. I figured it was my job. Her job was to become a decent human being. I didn’t figure I’d help her reach that goal by destroying property.

    4. Talk about making assumptions.

    5. Really? Children in orphanages generally have that. Foster kids have that. Kids in emotionally wrought households have that. Kids who don’t feel loved have that. Kids who aren’t wanted or regarded with respect may have that. I think your criteria for what a child is entitled to feel/complain about is rather narrow.

    6. It was the father who used his “I left home at 16” reasoning for wanting his kid to get a job. It has everything to do with his feelings.

    7. Again, you missed the point. Destroying property is a destructive act, not a constructive one. And it’s the act of someone who reacts violently when pissed. Hardly a good lesson in life or in parenting.

  9. Rufus Dogg says:

    The overriding lesson learned here by his daughter is that love is conditional. “I will love you only if you bend to my will and if you don’t, I can make you. I can break you.” That’s not parenting.

    Parenting is not a quid pro quo relationship.

  10. Susan says:

    Imagine how the dynamic would change if the dad took the time and energy it took him to make this video and get it on youtube and went and had a talk with his daughter? Talk about dysfunctional..communicating family grievences by social media. The father is guilty of exactly what he is condemning the child for. Also not modeling self control or maturity, I wish that family good luck, they are going to need it.

  11. Rufus Dogg says:

    The ramp-up factor was the first thing I thought of too. I had a conversation with my 26 year-old son about this shortly after the video came out and we recalled some moments when we had our share of stand-offs when he was 15, 16, 17… It never escalated to this level of violence, but some points along the way were pretty tense. He was stubborn and I was right…. but there always had to be a way for each of us to each back down without losing face. He needed to gain ground, I had to lose some.. that is how life works… even though it is the hardest lesson a parent learns.

    While you are in the middle of it, it feels like you are losing but you really aren’t. You learn to let go of the “I hate you!” tirades because they pass. You let go because you are the parent. You let go because it is the process your kids use to work themselves through the frustration of growing up.

    We don’t need kids raising kids. This father is a kid who doesn’t know the difference between a real battle and a boxing match with shadows.

  12. Jane Devin says:

    “The father is guilty of exactly what he is condemning the child for.” Exactly, Susan. Good point.

  13. Rufus Dogg says:

    Several times a day, I want to ram into that idiot who cut me off on the freeway, gore that client who dropped that drive-by email into my inbox at 4:59pm, choke that bank employee who wouldn’t cash that check cause I left my ID at home or slap that Walmart cashier who is talking above me to her friend working one lane over.

    But I don’t because I have learned to control my impulses and vengeance fantasies. This idiot has learned no coping skills. And he is learnin’ his daughter the same set of stellar skills…

  14. Rufus Dogg says:

    I can only say that those who are good at parenting are busy parenting. Them that ain’t get on Facebook and cheered him on.

  15. Doc Sheldon says:

    Jane, as always, you offer a sane and well presented argument… one which a reasonable person would probably embrace at first glance. But I am not a particularly reasonable person, when it comes to discipline. I believe that all of our actions and inactions have consequences, and that learning that is one of the important lessons we can impart to our children.

    Tommy’s daughter behaved like a spoiled brat, to say the very least. Having already acted out on at least one other occasion, and suffered the consequences for it, she leads me to believe that she hasn’t yet grasped the connection. That failure to correlate actions and their consequences is classically symptomatic of issues that could haunt her for her entire life, if not dealt with now.

    A psychologist would probably immediately call for months of analysis and treatment, which may or may not be needed. I dare say that most teens, myself included, occasionally trod on the muddy side of the bank, even though we’d already suffered the consequences of doing so before. Teens pushing the limits? Hardly unheard of. In fact, many psychologists would attest that a failure to push the limits is often a sign of serious developmental issues. so any talk of treatment for Tommy’s daughter would be premature, in my opinion.

    That said, if this episode still doesn’t get her attention, perhaps some professional evaluation might be in order. But before anyone else is brought into the picture, what say we let Dad have his shot at waking his daughter up to the realities of life? Before she’s out on her own and still thinks she can get away with that kind of crap without any consequences.

    Because I “know” you somewhat, it doesn’t surprise me that you are concerned about what you perceive as a violent action, when a father pulls out his .45 against a laptop. And I (only guessing here, mind you) suspect that you aren’t especially fond of guns, in general. I can understand and respect that. But let me ask you a question… if Tommy had instead, simply driven his tractor over the laptop, crushing it, would your reaction still be the same?

    In Tommy’s shoes, I might have acted the same. And since I usually have a gun around, I might even have made that the tool of choice for destroying the laptop. But I do know one thing beyond a shadow of doubt:

    If I did the same, my daughter would never feel threatened by the violence of the act or the use of a gun. She knows me, she knows I love her and she knows I’d kill anyone that tried to harm her. She might be furious with me for destroying her laptop, but she’d never doubt my motives or have any fear of me.

    I don’t see any reason not to give Tommy and his daughter the benefit of the doubt, that their relationship is just as deep and lasting, regardless of the father-daughter spats that often occur.

    So as much as I love ya, Jane, we’re just going to have to disagree on this one. The bottom line… neither of us is knowledgeable of the dynamics between them… so conclusions really aren’t appropriate, in my opinion.

  16. Jane Devin says:

    As I said at the beginning of the post, Doc, I don’t know the family well enough to judge them for anything other than what they made public — which is this video. And yes, I would have been equally appalled by the use of a tractor as a weapon as I was a gun. Destroying property is not, in my opinion, good discipline or a reasonable lesson. The father could have simply taken the laptop away. He didn’t need to shoot it up in order to show he was the boss.

  17. Doc Sheldon says:

    See, that’s where I guess we differ. To me, a gun is a tool, unless I decide to USE it as a weapon. In this scenario, a tractor or a hammer would have been a tool as well. None of the three are “weapons” when applied to inanimate objects. I suspect old Dad was using his .45 as a symbolic type of punctuation… finality. The laptop isn’t just put away for a couple of months… her education is important enough to warrant a permanent destruction of a laptop… good trade, in my book.

  18. Jane Devin says:

    Doc, your argument would seem to be that shooting the laptop was somehow necessary in order to teach the daughter a lesson. Her education was somehow dependent upon her father permanently destroying property? I vehemently disagree and don’t see the logic in that line of thinking.

    And are we really going to argue semantics? A gun as a tool? Sure, if it’s a tool of destruction.

    My daughter was warned about speeding after she got her first ticket, a whole three days after getting her license. I took away her car for a month. Six months or so later, she got another ticket. I suppose I could have taken a hammer or gun to her car — which I bought — as a lesson, but instead I chose to take away the car for 60 days and make her pay her own car insurance. I didn’t feel the need to destroy a perfectly good car in order to “educate” her and I maintain that if I had, the lesson taught would have been “look what happens when you piss me off” instead of anything truly helpful in the long-term.

  19. i am not willing to say that a short video provides me with proof of his being a good or a bad father. I won’t say that it provides me with proof that his daughter is anything other than an ordinary teen.

    Had the video ended with his having given the laptop away I think most people would see it differently. Had he smashed it on the ground it would have been different.

    I just don’t see the point in shooting it and not because I have a problem with guns. It just seemed silly to me.

    Frankly I have a bigger problem with the video because once he uploaded it he set off a chain of events that he no longer has control of. This thing is going to follow their family around for a long time and I think there is potential for problems there that didn’t have to exist.

  20. Christian says:

    Just a few observations from the video…

    1. When he was 16, the world was a far different place. It was a time when you were considered an adult at 16. Now I can’t get healthcare until I’m 26. I don’t want to take anything away form people that were out on their own at 16. Both my parents were those people, and I can only assume thats where I have learned my self-reliance (mostly).

    2. You are an adult sir, be creative. I could endure any punishment just like any prisoner can do a bit because I knew when it would end. Dear parents out there try open-ended punishments. There are benefits to this. One, only you will know when it will end and it will frustrate your child to no end. Two, your kid might get smart and realize if they modified their behavior e.g. cleaning, being polite that their punishment may get lifted earlier. It’s like life. If I behave this way things will likely be better but no guarantee.

    3. She is your daughter. She will do stupid things. She will do stupid things again. Your job is to be smarter than her, to be the puppet master behind the scene pulling the strings and gently guiding on her path.

    These are just a few observations, take em or leave em.

  21. Ruby says:

    #2 – the father admitted on his own facebook that the daughter spent HER OWN money on that laptop. plus he has changed his story (first saying he saw the rant through the dog’s account, then that he was doing “software upgrades” – read: snooping) at least twice. so how about his breaking the law of stealing and destroying property belonging to another person?

  22. Rufus Dogg says:

    @Ruby In most states (probably all) property of minors belong to their parents so pretty sure breaking the law does not really apply. But there are bigger laws here than the law of the state at play. When you give your minor child something, it is not wise to do do conditionally. All that does is teach them that all gifts come with strings attached. Loans and leases come with strings; gifts should not by their very definition.

  23. Rufus Dogg says:

    He does appear to need validation from his peer group AND his daughter’s. That is disturbing.

  24. Angie497 says:

    Actually, that is NOT the case. Minor or not, personal property is personal property. If someone is given a gift, that property now belongs to the receiver, not to the giver, even if the people involved are a parent and his/her child. And if a child buys something with his/her own money, that property is definitely his/hers.

    But even if the law said otherwise, I agree – giving gifts with strings attached teaches a lesson that nobody does something without expectation of something in return. Not just an expectation, in fact, but an entitlement to something in return.

    That may not seem like much, but consider a study done of teenagers – a majority of responders, both male and female, said that if a boy pays for a date, the girl owes him sex. And that it’s OK for him to force her to comply. As adults, we may want to say “Oh, please, that’s not even close to the same thing.” And it’s not. The problem is, these kids have for some reason learned differently. They have the idea that the person with the money has the authority to do as they please, and that if you’re given something, you have to give up something in return. Which is exactly what this man is modeling, whether he intends to or not.

  25. I’d have to agree about the world changing. There was a time when teens had no issues getting a job that could support them. Today? Not so much.

    I have two cousins who, at fifteen, started looking for work. Due to the economy being in the can, they were competing against thirty and forty years olds who had tons more experience. When they finally found work, they soon found that they couldn’t get the hours that they would need to even cover their car insurance premiums. Throughout college, they struggled to make enough to keep their tanks full.

    Originally, they had considered moving into an apartment together, but even after combining incomes, they realized that there was no way they could afford even the lowest end apartment where they were AND keep the power on AND be able to get to work.

    They ended up both staying home until they were about to graduate, when they finally found full time work. Before then, no one would even consider giving them full time work.