First, Bean Dad (as he would become known) posted a Twitter thread about teaching his daughter a lesson. The thread was flippant, snarky—and about a child not knowing how to use a can opener.
I was, frankly, surprised that Bean Dad took a beating on this because his approach to his child is essentially the foundational belief system in the U.S. about child rearing: The world is dangerous so I better pound on my kid before the world does so she/he is prepared for the Real World.
In far too much of the U.S., that pounding is literal—corporal punishment—but the pounding takes many forms such as grade retention and “no excuses” policies and practices in K-12 schooling.
Gradually, the clever thing to do about the Bean Dad trending on social media was to interrogate the phenomenon as an example of everything-that-is-wrong-with-Twitter. While a valid take, I think, it is also careless to set aside how this thread (whether it was hyperbole, as he claims, or not) is one small but ugly picture of how we mistreat children in the U.S., both in our families and in our institutions such as formal schools.
Let me offer an analogy.
One of the most important moments in the U.S. for the safety of children was recognizing the dangers of lead paint. This moment also is a powerful illustration of the need to target the external danger and not the child.
Instead of teaching children a lesson about lead paint—somehow toughening up those kids so that when they did consume lead paint, they would survive the experience—we used the power of public policy to remove lead from paint—to eradicate the danger, instead of pounding on the children.
Bean Dad quipped about his own compulsion to prepare his daughter for the apocalypse—some sort of version of The Road where the child is always alone?—but there seems never to be any consideration, as Maggie Smith concludes, for a better world: “This place could be beautiful,/right? You could make this place beautiful.”
A child is not an inherently flawed human that must be “fixed,” corrected, or improved. A child is a developing human that must be nurtured, and nurturing requires love, patience, and safe spaces.
If nothing else, we must all check our impulses to be Bean Dad so I offer here some reading to reconsider the many ways we fail that calling:
Rethinking grade retention
Rethinking corporal punishment
Rethinking growth mindset
Resisting deficit ideologies