2021's First Internet Villain 'Bean Dad' Reminds Us That Shaming Kids Doesn't Foster New Skills
A dad on Twitter required that his 9-year-old daughter teach herself how to use a can opener before she could eat dinner, a lesson that lasted six hours.
We might not even be a full week into 2021 yet, but the internet has already cancelled a man who's been coined "Bean Dad." On January 2, John Roderick, the father of a 9-year-old girl and co-host of a podcast called Omnibus, shared an extensive Twitter thread about his recent attempt to "teach" his daughter to use a can opener by requiring that she either figure it out or go hungry. And the masses quickly responded by pointing out that is not a healthy or effective parenting strategy.
The Eyebrow-Raising Way the Dad Attempted to Teach His Daughter a New Skill
In the since-deleted thread, the dad shared that his daughter came over to him while he was doing a jigsaw puzzle. She said she was hungry, and he told her to "make some beans." When she asked how to do it, he responded, "Open a can, and put it in a pot." To that, the 9-year-old replied, "Open a can how?" Describing himself as 'incredulous,'" Roderick replied, "With a can opener!"
But he soon realized that because most cans have pull tops, he had never taught her how to use a can opener. "I felt like a dope. What kind of apocalypse father doesn't teach his kid how to use a manual can opener?" wrote Roderick.
But instead of correcting his mistake and showing her how to use it, he said, "How do you think this works?" and challenged his daughter to figure it out on her own. As he watched her struggle, "grunt and groan," the dad admitted, "I should say that spatial orientation, process visualization, and order of operation are not things she ... intuits. I knew this would be a challenge. But it was a rainy weekend." And therefore, he let his 9-year-old take six hours to figure it out. When she finally got it, Roderick wrote that she was proud, and he was proud of her too.
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In his conclusion, he wrote, "I know I'm infuriating. ... I suffer from a lack of perseverance myself, and like all parents throughout history, I'm trying to correct my own mistakes in the way I educate my child."
How Twitter Responded
Twitter users quickly pointed out to the dad that his strategy is not only ineffective but potentially damaging. "You know, I was reading this thinking about my own father, who was very much like this. As a child he would always force me to me 'figure out things' that I just didn’t know, like it was a 'teaching lesson,'" shared a user under the handle chocopuffin_. "I stopped asking him for help and never asked anyone. ... My father thought it was FUNNY for me to struggle. It was an abusive power trip."
Chiming in, a user named Dr. Debra Elaine wrote, "Trouble is, a teaching moment requires a teacher. Right? He literally says he went back to his jigsaw puzzle. Doesn’t sound like teaching to me."
And Lauren Thompson shared, "As a teacher, this whole f***ing thing set my teeth on edge. This is how you teach a child to be afraid and ashamed of needing help. This is not teaching independence but teaching that others can't be trusted to help, which is very different and very toxic."
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Roderick initially fired back in new tweets. "Somehow, my story about teaching my daughter how to work out how to use a can opener and overcome her frustration got over onto a version of Twitter where I’m being accused of child abuse. It’s astonishing. My kid is fine everybody," he wrote. "The best part about being ratio'ed by these parenting concern-trolls is that they keep harping on how depriving my kid of baked beans for SIX HOURS is child abuse. Six hours is the length of time between meals. Lunch at noon, dinner at six. They’re literally saying CHILD ABUSE."
But after users dug up and pointed out racist and antisemitic sentiments among the dad's tweets, Roderick deleted his account.
The Takeaway for Parents, According to Experts
While wanting to help your child feel self-reliant and proud of accomplishing tasks is a worthy cause, this sounds like "the commonly blurred line between controlling and good parenting," notes Stephanie Macadaan, a San Francisco-based licensed marriage and family therapist.
Teaching kids become independent and self-confident needs to be done in tandem with creating an environment where they feel safe, secure, and loved, points out Niro Feliciano, a licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist, and anxiety specialist in Wilton, Connecticut. "We do not want to create unnecessary anxiety or worse trauma which will create issues and wounds they will carry with them well past childhood," she says.
What's more, feeding a child is meeting a basic need, points out Feliciano. "We practice tough love with screen time, playdates and other such non-essentials," she says. "We don't do it with food or situations relating to basic human needs like food, clothing, or shelter. That most certainly will compromise and confuse the parent child relationship, compromising trust, security and bonding and can lead to situational anxiety, self-esteem/worthiness issues (if the child is struggling and feels incompetent), and even trauma."
Instead, Feliciano explains that a parent should patiently help their child try to use the can opener, then instruct them on how to prepare the beans, assuming that's what they want to eat.
The bottom line, according to Macadaan: A "teachable moment"—especially involving a basic need—only works when a parent is doing it in a way that feels warm, attuned, and supportive. Only then, will it reinforce positive relationship dynamics as opposed to the adversarial kind that "Bean Dad" seems to be intent on fostering not only with his kid but the whole internet.