Last month, a dad named Terrel Rico Relz Crawford posted a video on Facebook of himself dealing with his daughter’s temper tantrum. The video, dubbed “The Walmart Tantrum,” has now been viewed over 20 million times and is getting a positive reaction from parenting sites like Scary Mommy and Romper.
Much of the positive feedback centers on Crawford’s parenting philosophy (which he expounds upon at great length in the over-six-minute video). “I don’t beat my kids,” he says. “I take stuff from them. I make them sit down.” He’s referring to the fact that, when his daughter began to have a tantrum in Walmart, he took her outside, telling her, “I’m not taking you back into Walmart until you stop with your mess.”
Crawford is receiving further praise because, as he states in the video, his mother used to beat him when he misbehaved, and he is advocating for a non-violent approach. Which is certainly laudable, but I can’t help but notice one glaringly obvious issue with Crawford’s parenting: he’s filming it.
In the world of social media, in which everyone has a Facebook page, a YouTube account, and a blog, it’s sometimes hard to find the line between public and private. So let me be abundantly clear: a child’s temper tantrum is private. While, as adults, we’re able to make choices about what we share online and what we don’t, our kids don’t have that luxury.
Tantrums are a developmentally appropriate (if annoying) way for small children to express their frustration in a world in which they lack control. Does Crawford’s daughter deserve to have her tantrum (and the discipline she receives for it) broadcast to tens of millions of strangers? Of course not. This is an intimate moment of losing control. Crawford (or anyone else for that matter) wouldn’t want his own moments of weakness broadcast to the world.
But Crawford isn’t alone. YouTube is full of videos of parents talking to their tantruming children. And while Crawford’s video may be the most detailed in terms of illuminating his specific parenting philosophy, all these videos have one thing in common. They’re all about what a great job the parent is doing.
In video after video (many receiving hundreds of thousands of views), a parent or caregiver speaks calmly and lovingly to a tantruming child, while pointing a camera at him. “Stella, it’s not okay to scream,” one mom tells her distraught daughter, in a calm and level voice. “I need to take the iPad to work,” another mom explains reasonably to her screaming toddler. See? all these videos seem to be saying: My kid’s a freaking nightmare and I’m a total saint.
But how does filming your child in a moment of extreme emotion, and then posting it on the Internet qualify as good parenting? The answer to that is simple: it doesn’t. The message it sends to the child is a clear one: I care more about documenting this (and racking up “likes” and “shares”) than I do about listening to you. (In fact, in one of these videos, the child accidentally slams her head into a wall and the mom just keeps right on filming.) A tantrum is a time when a child needs his parents to be mentally present, not filming for the benefit of others.
Sure, the parents in these videos sound calm and collected. They seem to be really listening to their kids, reasoning with them, and setting clear boundaries. But they’re also filming. It stands to reason that all this “good parenting” is for the benefit of their fans, not their kids. Why else would they choose to post these videos online, instead of just keeping them saved somewhere, to pull out when their kid is older so they can see what a little menace he was? (If they must make videos at all.)
Not to mention the fact that these videos are embarrassing! And now they’re out there in the world (being watched over and over again by strangers), forever. Everyone remembers the “Charlie bit me” video (in which baby Charlie bit his brother’s finger and laughed about it), even though it was posted over ten years ago. And those two boys (Charlie and his brother Harry) are still being interviewed about something that really ought to have been just a funny family anecdote.
Our children are our greatest joy, and we want to share them with the world. But what does making these kinds of virtue-signaling videos about our kids, in lieu of actual parenting, say about us? And what does it mean for our children and their privacy? Nothing good, that’s for sure.
Social media isn’t going away. But there’s a difference between sharing your parenting ideas on your blog, or making a video of yourself talking about your strategies for dealing with tantrums, and actually filming your child in a moment of distress. As parents, we are tasked with protecting our children. And that includes their privacy. Parents like Crawford might be excellent parents (or they might not) but we really don’t need to know.