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Stephen Balkam Headshot

Dad Shoots Daughter's Laptop, Misses an Opportunity

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Tommy Jordan, the mad dad who shot his daughter's laptop, is right up there with Charlie who bit his brother's finger. They're both YouTube sensations and they both share an infantile sense of pleasure in biting back. Only thing is, Tommy's the adult here or, at least, should be.

I have to admit to having had a mild sense of pleasure watching the video the first time around. After all, I am the father of a teenage daughter and feel Tommy's pain. Who hasn't felt the urge to blast the damn computer to kingdom come when coming across an inane or offensive post from one's offspring? What a grand gesture it would be to flush a phone down the toilet or set fire to an iPod Touch for being the device that sucked one's child down a time-wasting (adolescence-wasting?) black hole. Oh, the joy of ripping the router out of the wall and hurling it out the window into oncoming traffic!

But here's the thing: Mr. Jordan actually acted on his impulse and turned a teachable moment -- one that should have been behind closed doors and face-to-face with his daughter -- into a premeditated exhibition of force, petulance and destruction of property.

What exactly did he teach Hannah? That he can "kill" her computer in cold blood, record his actions and then post them on her wall (not his) and therefore get some kind of parental revenge.

He taught her that instead of controlling his destructive urges, that it is perfectly OK to take out your feelings on someone else's possession using lethal force. He gave her a perfectly clear example of how to retaliate and to settle a score -- just like in the movies.

And now we're seeing parents praising brave Jordan for taking it to the teens. No doubt we'll see copycat videos popping up on YouTube with dads (and moms) trying to outdo the dude with the ten gallon hat and the defiant cigarette in his hand. Perhaps there's a reality TV show offer in the cards.

But let's consider another way. For other would-be Jordans out there, start by sitting down and talking with your kids. It is the simplest, yet sometimes most difficult thing a parent can do. Keep the connection with your teen, no matter how hard or how egregious the provocation. Talk things over calmly and put out the facts without resorting to anger or judgment. Hear her side of the story. Then move on to a sanction or consequence that is reasonable and related to the issue at hand. Ask if she has any questions. If she offends again, repeat until she leaves home.

Kids need boundaries and kids need to see their parents acting reasonably and responsibly when under pressure. How else are they going to learn this vital life lesson? Staying calm and dispassionate is a tough thing to do, but as Dr. Mike Bradley, author of Yes Your Teen is Crazy!, would say, if you lose it, they won't get it.

So keep your guns locked up. Better still, hand them in. I've yet to read a parenting book that recommends unloading your .45 to resolve an issue with your recalcitrant teen. And while you're at it, quit smoking. Your kids will appreciate you being around to enjoy the grandchildren.