Hello. Childless adult man here. As I have no direct experience with parenting, my advice in that area is hardly the best you could hope for. But I have learned — in a few cases, the hard way — some best practices for being online. And it puzzles me that more than a year after some guy acquired the derisive nickname “Bean Dad” by trumpeting his controversial parenting style for clout, others with kids in their care still court the wrath of the internet by moaning about them.
Below are some recent tweets from a foster parent evidently frustrated by the needs of an 18-year-old and 11-year-old living under their roof. Understandable! Both ages present unique challenges, particularly with the compounding element of an inadequate foster system. Anyone with children of their own — biological offspring or not — would be able to commiserate. But the reason these posts drew outrage (I’ve cropped out the person’s name because anyone who would want to yell at them either already has or will look up the account shortly) is the cold analysis of their relationship to these vulnerable youths, and supposed failures on the kids’ part.
Again, saying something like, “My family is having a hard time right now,” or “I’m struggling to get through to my 18-year-old,” or even just “Any tips for helping an 11-year-old adopt to a new living situation?” would have been met with sympathy and support. But no. There is a kind of parent — this individual is by no means an outlier, just a handy example — who cannot stop themselves from shitting on their kids, describing them only as financial and emotional burdens and misusing the language of mental health to argue their own victimization. They express their difficulties with parenting in a way that reads as loveless, whereas other parents easily communicate, even when griping at their responsibilities, that it isn’t a soul-sucking office job.
Worse still, this way of leveraging kids for content — to build an online identity, no less — is available for those kids to find, either now or later. We are coming due for a generational reckoning: teens and young adults discovering all the nastiest, most hurtful things their parents wrote about them for a large audience. And for what? Likes? Approving replies? If you think it’s impossible to talk to them now, good luck explaining these narcissistic plays for engagement.
We all have shameful thoughts in moments of strife, and it’s not even necessary to keep them to yourself: A close friend or therapist can lend an ear while reserving judgment. The public, however, doesn’t hold back. If you’re going to share the lives of your children with them, it had better be with an overt sense of love and compassion, or you’re going to Main Character jail. Oh, maybe you’ll get off easy the first couple times, but one quote-tweet is all it takes to bring on the firestorm. I’m not saying it’s an ideal system — only that with a little more self-awareness, you’ll never set it off. Let the kids handle the reckless posting. You’re supposed to be the adult.