Posted in Fragile Life, Insight, Nuts & Bolts, Takes a Village, Teens, Tweens, Violence in the home

Parenting without Power (or a gun)

Adolescence is a period of rapid changes. Between the ages of 12 and 17, for example, a parent ages as much as 20 years.

~Author Unknown

So yes, I’m still talking about the Father who used Facebook (and a gun) to teach his daughter a lesson. This is my 5th post, in what has become a series–given all there is to reap from this incident and its reverberations around the world.

Although the use of a gun is central to my expressed concerns, I see this more as an issue of power, and more importantly–an issue of how we react when we feel: powerless.

I must confess that I’m biased. I pack a lot of personal power into my 5 foot 2, mama frame. As the oldest of 8, leadership came early. That combined with a love learning and children led me to teaching, where to no surprise, classroom management came easily. When I asked my sixth-grade students why they behaved so poorly for a colleague while behaving so well for me, one replied on behalf of the class, “We know you mean business, Ms. Salasin.”

Unfortunately, parenting a toddler was nothing like managing a classroom. I quickly found some wonderful mentors to guide me as a new parent. When my first-born approached double-digits however, things got”stickier”– climaxing on the day that he refused to practice his violin and dashed out of the house defiantly after I told him to stay.

I was beside myself with thoughts of crushing his will.

When we finally did pick up the “conversation” again, things quickly grew heated, and I actually threatened… to break his toys… before breaking into a smile, shocked at myself.  (We both shared a belly laugh then at how ludicrous and desperate I had become.)

This was a turning point for me. I knew that my “rule” in the home had to be adapted in order to remained connected to this emerging man. I didn’t want to give up my personal power, but neither did I want him to grow up without his.

Another mentor appeared. This time with a practice: Non-Violent Communication (NVC). A parent group was formed, and I began studying and applying this subtle, but paradigm-shifting orientation toward power and needs. Most parents came because their kids wouldn’t listen; I came because I wanted to be sure that I listened.

Within months, my oldest was able to use NVC as a powerful tool for communicating what he needed. More often than not, he got what he wanted because he was able to connect to the depth of his needs and share them; and I wanted to respond.  Equally instrumental, was his growing ability to understand my needs; and respond, accordingly.

Now this son is 16, and his younger brother is following in his footsteps–using communication that connects and relates. This doesn’t mean that we don’t have moments of frustration or that we don’t lash out from time to time;  but we know how to rebound and reconnect; and we practice this every day; and it has truly been amazing–particularly in relationship with a young man who is getting ready to head off to college.

I feel proud. I feel proud that my boys have grown up witnessing and respecting the power of a woman; and I feel equally proud that they know how to understand and express their own needs from a place of strength–and connection.

In our home, each voice is respected. This doesn’t mean that I shirk my role as a parent to guide and teach my sons. I am a strong guide, and they don’t always like it; but they are accustomed to it.

At the same time, I work to help them develop the skills they need to leave me… and hopefully return someday–as a friend.

Powerlessness is a scary thing. It makes a powerful woman like me resort to the threat of breaking toys. It led a man in my community to take the life of another.  Being present to powerlessness, without acting out, is the truest test of courage and love.

In desperation, we may think that we have no choice, but that’s not true. The exciting thing about needs is that they are not mutually exclusive. A teenager can have a need for autonomy; and a parent can have a need for respect; and both of these needs can met.

It’s only our strategies that are be in conflict, and with creativity and presence, strategies emerge that meet both needs.

I don’t mean to imply that there will be no conflict or pain, but that there is a way–in our homes and in our communities and our wider world–to respect the needs of ourselves and others–with strategies that support both.

The place to start is self-compassion. Had Mr. Jordan deeply connected to his feelings, he would have realized that he was sad and angry and frustrated. These feelings would have pointed to his needs for respect and consideration and even power; and in his connection to these needs, he would have felt compassion for himself in this challenging role of parenting a seemingly ungrateful child.

In the space between connecting with himself and later his daughter, he would have tended to his hurt in whatever way brought him peace. For me, it is yoga and a visit to my therapist and walk with a good friend on a country road. For someone else, it’s sailing or hunting or Tai Chi.

Fully connected with himself, Mr. Jordan would then be ready to explore his daughter’s needs–even in the face of her hurtful Facebook postings.

He might guess that his daughter was needing greater autonomy or that she might need a greater understanding of how the household roles were shared. He could respond to his daughter in a way that not only set limits but also engendered respect–not for his power–but for his feelings as a man and a parent.

I’m not saying that this is easy. As a parent of a teenager, I know how often my son needs a reality check about how the rest of us feel. I also know that this characteristic self-absorption is a necessary edge of adolescent development. Thus I endeavor to provide those reality checks without shame; whenever needed. That doesn’t mean I never get angry or use my anger to more strongly communicate my needs.

It is important to note here that there is an inherent imbalance in the parent-teen relationship. Teens make it their full time job to claim independence; while our role is only part-time. In this imbalance, we often resort quick to fixes: Shooting a laptop for instance. Videotaping it and putting it on Facebook. Or maybe something less dramatic, but equally disconnecting.

On the other side, parents hold a greater measure of basic power: the money, the home, the food, the clothes, the keys, and often size and strength (at least for fathers and daughters.)

Despite how many applaud Mr. Jordan’s definitive line in the sand, most have come to realize, through deeper reflection, that his display of power was one of helplessness and hurt, not one of instruction and love.

He made a mistake, one with great ramifications, but in doing so, he provided the rest of us with an opportunity to look at where we feel powerless, and what we do about it.

Kelly Salasin, February 16, 2012

Other posts on this topic:

Part I: Rebuttal to Dad Who Used Facebook to “Teach His Daughter a Lesson”

Part II: Would Father Have Used Facebook and a Gun to Teach his SON a Lesson?

Part III: Dear Mr. Jordan & Other Parents Frustrated with Teens & Chores

Part IV. Father Who Used FB to Teach His Daughter A Lesson: A Human Rights Issue

For more about using Non-Violent Communication as a parent: click here. For the NVC website, click here.

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Posted in Fragile Life, Insight, Takes a Village, Teens, Violence in the home

Would Father Have Used Facebook and a Gun to Teach his SON a Lesson?

from layoutsparks.com

It’s Valentines Day, and I wish I wasn’t  festering over people applauding a man who shot his teenager’s computer to teach her a lesson; but I can’t help myself.

Maybe Valentines is a perfect day to rant about the nature of LOVE.

Love is not boastful.

Love is not proud.

Love does not videotape himself wearing a Stetson with a stogie in his mouth as he unloads a pistol into a laptop.

But I’m not writing about that today. I wrote about that yesterday. And yes, I know it wasn’t a Stetson, but he wished it was.

What would he have worn if it was his son?

Given Mr. Jordan’s machismo, he might have though twice about publicly humiliating his testosterone-driven offspring. The tragic results of those kind of father-son “lessons” make regular news.

Which brings me to another beef I have with those who claim that this was a case of a child learning respect. As a lifelong educator, I will now turn to the dictionary to address this gross misunderstanding of the word in question:

respect |riˈspekt|
noun
1 a feeling of deep admiration for someone;
• the state of being admired in such a way;
• due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of others: respect for human rights.

Perhaps Mr. Jordan’s daughter respects his aim, his camera presence, and even his follow through with a threat; and maybe that’s all he was after; but my guess is that he wanted his actions to create within her: “due regard for the feelings, wishes, and rights of others,” and this alas, is best taught without a weapon.

Commenters on my original post: a Rebuttal to a Father who used Facebook to Teach His Daughter a Lesson, took issue with the focus on the gun. “It could have been a bat or a set of stairs,” said one. (He also accused me of being a peace-loving pansy and a drinker of Mochachinos.)

And it’s true, both a bat and a set of stairs could have been the tool of retaliation and humiliation; but I’m moving on from that focus to the more insidious act of Mr. Jordan’s intimidation.

A gun is designed for killing.  That’s a plain fact.  And a revealing one at that.

Would Mr. Jordan still be a hero if he had done this to his son? Would others applaud him? Would they still call his action “love”? And would he be alive to claim it?

And how will Mr. Jordan feel when his daughter marries a man who teaches her to respect her husband in the same way?

Kelly Salasin, Valentines Day 2012

Link to Part I: Rebuttal to Dad Who Used Facebook to “Teach His Daughter a Lesson”

Link to Part III: Dear Mr. Jordan & Other Parents Frustrated with Teens & Chores

Part IV. Father Who Used FB to Teach His Daughter A Lesson: A Human Rights Issue

Part V. Parenting Without Power (or a gun)

Posted in Fragile Life, Insight, Takes a Village, Teens, Violence in the home

Rebuttal to Dad Who Used Facebook to “Teach His Daughter a Lesson”

When correcting a child, the goal is to apply light, not heat.

~Woodrow Wilson

La Tour, visipix.com

Is it just me or are there others who are equally disheartened by how many people have applauded the dad who shot his teenager’s computer after she used it to bash him on Facebook?  And I’m not just talking about parents of teenagers. Young people think this guy is cool.

Is this really our country? Is old-fashioned humiliation considered heroic parenting? Are we seriously claiming that intimidation is an expression of love?

I’m sorry, but this particularly obnoxious teenage apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree.  You don’t teach someone respect; they learn it.

To be honest, I haven’t read this troubled girl’s Facebook post or her father’s outrageous videotaped response–because I know it would only outrage me further; and what concerns me is not one misguided parent, but all those who applaud him.

Have we become a country that is so afraid of our teenagers that we celebrate their alienation? Do we have so much shame about own youthful abandon that we need punish someone for absolution? Or have teenagers become the scapegoat for our disillusionment with ourselves and this country?

Recently a colleague bemoaned American parenting when she read that French toddlers were capable of sitting at a dinner table for over an hour; while American children demand immediate gratification.

This isn’t about AMERICAN CHILDREN, THIS IS ABOUT AMERICAN CULTURE!

MIRROR, MIRROR, on the wall…

Kelly Salasin, February 2012

Part II. Would Father Have Used Facebook and a Gun to Teach his SON a Lesson?

Part III. Dear Mr. Jordan & Other Parents Frustrated with Teens & Chores

Part IV. Father Who Used FB to Teach His Daughter A Lesson: A Human Rights Issue

Part V. Parenting Without Power (or a gun)