The laptop-shooting dad may have drawn tens of millions of YouTube hits from parents living vicariously through him, but Dr. Phil feels he went about the punishment of his daughter the wrong way.
In the viral 8-minute video, North Carolina parent Tommy Jordan pumps eight bullets from a .45 into his 15-year-old daughter’s laptop after she posted some disparaging remarks about her parents on Facebook. The video now has more than 26 million views, and Jordan wrote on his Facebook page that he wouldn’t change a thing about his actions.
The local police paid him a visit, but no laws were broken and no investigation has been opened. Still, Jordan’s action is open to question, according to the host of the “Dr. Phil’’ show.
“You never, ever humiliate your child publicly,’’ psychologist Dr. Phil McGraw told TODAY’s Matt Lauer Friday. “You’re supposed to be the adult, the calm in the middle of the storm, where you say, ‘OK, you choose the behavior, you choose the consequences.’ But this consequence was pretty radical.’’
Appropriate or abuse? Weigh in on Facebook
But the majority of more than 120,000 voters in an online poll at TODAY.com disagreed: 73 percent of them felt that this was an appropriate punishment by Jordan. So did many Facebook commenters. For example, Melanie Kukuk posted: “I’m 15 and I TOTALLY support what he did!!” And Jason-Davy Koren commented: "Way to go Dad!! We need more parents like this rather than the push over parents we have today who raise these zero respecting teens.”
But there were dissenters. Kathleen Koster, for example, said: “I was horrified by this father’s reaction.”
As for Dr. Phil, he was more entertained than horrified, at least at first. “Like a lot of people, (I thought) it was sort of amusing,’’ he said. “I think a lot of parents looked at it and kind of vicariously got a chuckle out of it, because how many times have we wanted to scream or tear a door off the hinges or whatever. So I get that a lot of people’s initial reaction was, ‘Hey, we’ve wanted to do that sort of thing.’ ’’
‘Wonder where she got that?’
But if Jordan is wondering what prompted his daughter, Hannah, posting on Facebook that she felt like a slave and that her parents should get their own coffee and clean their own house, he might want to take a look in the mirror, according to Dr. Phil. (Hannah initially blocked the groups “Family” and “Church’’ from seeing the posts so her parents couldn’t come across them, but Jordan logged in on the family dog’s Facebook account to post photos and came across his daughter’s posts.)
“When you step back and look at the entire thing and what kind of parenting it is, the first thing that jumped out to me is: This is a real mouthy kid, wonder where she got that?’’ Dr. Phil said. “This is somebody that’s acting without thinking. Wonder where she got that, because Dad sure didn’t pump the brakes on this before he posted this.’’
While his daughter’s actions certainly were wrong, Jordan needed to be the level-headed parent in the situation, according to Dr. Phil. He also noted that he does not know how Jordan is overall as a parent, and he is just basing his opinion on what he saw in the video.
“She has a 15-year-old brain where you can’t really expect her to predict all of the consequences of her actions and weigh this stuff out,’’ Dr. Phil said. “He got down to her level. She was disrespectful publicly. She called him names publicly. She cussed at him publicly. And then he turned around and did exactly the same thing.’’
‘What do you do next time?’
In addition, Jordan ramped up his punishment to such a public and extreme degree that he left himself nowhere to go for the next time his daughter does something disrespectful.
“It’s like when you tell your child, ‘You’re grounded for life,’’’ Dr. Phil said. “What do you do the next time? They’re already grounded for life. You’ve pulled out a .45 and blown out her laptop, so what are you going to do when she breaks curfew or when she’s driving or gets a ticket? What are you going to do now, go blow up the car?’’
Jordan’s daughter initially had a crying fit over the incident but Jordan claims everything has been reconciled and she has even been able to laugh about it. One justification Jordan used was his own upbringing, saying he would have “got my tail tore up right there in front of God and everyone’’ in a public place if he got out of line.
“What we want to do is carry forward the legacies that are good, not the legacies where our parents made mistakes,’’ Dr. Phil said. “The fact that they did that is not OK. I always hear parents say, ‘Well I turned out pretty well.’ Well, did you, really?”
While Jordan’s action to blister the laptop with bullets was extreme, it’s still far down on the scale when it comes to really damaging actions by parents. Dr. Phil noted that 100,000 children born this year will be molested by their fathers before they are 18 years old, so it’s worth keeping the laptop-blasting dad on the proper end of the spectrum.
“We need to keep this in perspective,’’ he said. “This is not the most horrible parenting thing that I’ve dealt with on the show this week. At least it didn’t involve him violating her physically or otherwise. It’s just maybe not the best parenting idea in the world.’’
After Dr. Phil’s appearance, the TODAY anchors discussed the issue on-air. Matt Lauer’s take: “The bullet thing does not bother me as much as the actual humiliating the daughter in public because two wrongs don’t make a right.”
Savannah Guthrie struck a similar note. “What was striking, I think, was his tone: It was a little scary, a little menacing,” she said. “Also I think what Dr. Phil’s point was (that) is that it was a little immature of the dad, too. It’s not a two wrongs make a right situation.”