By ReShonda Tate Billingsley
I’m a good parent. Not a great parent. Not a perfect parent, but I do my best to train up my three children (ages 12, nine and five) so that they can become productive members of society. Doing that requires a desire to be their mama, not their friend, and the diligent, on-going effort to get all up in their business.
For all you new-age parents who say I’m violating my daughter’s privacy, you might want to stop reading now, because I’m really about to piss you off. In my house, the only people that are due any privacy are me and my husband. I make it clear that when they get their own place and pay their own bills, then and only then will I respect their privacy.
Which is why I recently did what I do nightly–pulled up my oldest daughter’s Instagram account to check it. (In case you don’t know, Instagram is a social media picture-sharing website for teens and tweens). We talked extensively about proper etiquette in the cyber world. So imagine my surprise when I see my bright, intelligent child smiling as she held up a bottle of Vodka with the caption ‘Wish I could drink this Vodka.’ Before you do-righters chastise me for her having the liquor, she got it out of my husband’s bar to take the photo because she thought “it was cute.” She knew better but did it anyway and “didn’t see anything wrong” because she “wasn’t drinking, just posing.”
She had been warned against acting up on social media countless times but obviously, it wasn’t getting through. So I took it to her level, implementing my motto of “Get tore out where you show out.” I made her hold up a sign saying, “Since I want to take pics holding liquor, I am obviously NOT ready for social media and will be taking a hiatus until I learn what is and isn’t appropriate to post. Bye-Bye ” I made her post the picture to Instagram and I put it on my Facebook page as a warning to other parents to monitor their kids.
I never expected that photo or my choice of discipline to go viral. But with over 10,000 shares in just a few hours, that’s just what happened. I heard from parents that, to my surprise, had never looked at their child’s social media accounts, parents who were too afraid to publicly embarrass their kids, yet were at wit’s end on what to do with them, and parents who had never even heard of Instagram, yet found out their child had an account. Ninety-seven percent of the feedback was positive. The other three percent did everything from call me a ‘parental bully’ to tell me my child would ‘commit suicide’ to telling me I ‘sucked as a parent.’ Usually, that kind of stuff bothers me.
But not this time.
When it comes to my kids, I don’t play. This is a new age. We have to meet kids where they are. Punish her by taking away her phone? Did that last week. Make her write an essay? She loves writing so that would be a thrill. Ban TV? She loves to read so that’s no big deal. Talking? Sure, but my talking obviously wasn’t sticking. So, since she showed out on line, she was punished on line. My daughter actually begged for a spanking instead, which she would’ve taken, gotten over in no time, and not realized the seriousness of her actions. Now, if and when she ever gets back on social media, she’ll think long and hard before posting anything crazy.
Some said the public humiliation would have long-term effects, that she would hate me forever for this. You have to know your child. I wouldn’t do this on my middle child because I don’t think she can emotionally handle it. But this one, she’ll be just fine. Yes, I got the ‘you’re ruining my life’ rant, but after a few hours, she was trying to figure out how she can start an organization at her school to raise awareness about social media responsibility. In fact, she said her friends weren’t talking about her. They were talking about her “crazy mama.” Call me crazy. If it means steering my child on the right path, that’s a badge of honor I’ll proudly wear. And to all the naysayers, talk all you want. I’d rather you talk about me now than talk about my child later.
ReShonda Tate Billiingsley is the national bestselling author of 25 books, including the upcoming The Mommy Chronicles, about raising kids in the new millennium. Visit her website at www.reshondatatebillinglsey.