Despite Mom's "tough love" letter posted to Facebook nearly six years ago, social media is still buzzing about it. And as you can probably imagine, the debate is heated.


Call it the forever-viral Facebook post. Heidi Johnson posted a letter she wrote to her son on Facebook nearly six years ago, and it's still making headlines and dividing the web.

Her son, Aaron, was 13 when she wrote the letter, and she wasn't all that happy with how he was acting. Teenagers, of course, can be naturally rebellious as they test boundaries and gain more independence from their caregivers. But Johnson thought her son was taking things too far and decided to give him, what she believed, a much-needed reality check.

"Dear Aaron, since you seem to have forgotten that you are only 13 and I'm the parent," Johnson starts. "I guess you will need a lesson in independence. Also, as you threw in my face that you are making money now, it will be easier to pay back all the items I bought you in the past."

Johnson goes on to tell Aaron that he will need to start contributing to household expenses, including rent ($430), electricity ($116), Internet ($21), and food ($150).

An image of a grandmother and granddaughter hugging.
Credit: Getty Images.

"Also, you will now need to empty the trash on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, as well as sweep and vacuum those days," Mom continues.

Johnson also added bathroom cleanings and meal prep to her son's to-do list.

"If you fail to do so, I will charge you a $30 maid fee for every day I have to do it," Johnson writes. "If you decide you would rather be a child again instead of a roommate, we can negotiate terms."

In a follow-up note, Mom clarified that she meant to only show the post to her friends but accidentally made it public. But she wasn't upset about it. "It's out there, and I am not ashamed of what I wrote," she wrote.

Johnson understands teenagers push their boundaries, but still defended her strategy. "He will be a legal adult in roughly four years," she wrote. "I cannot send this child into college or the workforce with the attitude of 'I'll get to it when I get to it' when a superior tells him to get a job done."

Apparently, the whole thing didn't hurt their relationship.

"And, you know what... this hasn't hurt our relationship. He and I still talk as openly as ever. He has apologized multiple times," Johnson says.

People are still commenting on the original post. Many of the comments are applauding Mom.

"I absolutely love this, and I agree that tough love should be used as a tool when needed," one person said this week. "You go, mom. Teach him something before someone does, and I promise him this it won't be so nice," wrote someone else. "Kudos to you, mom," another person commented.

But not everyone was into it.

"Does your kid even talk to you anymore?" one person asked. But Aaron himself chimed in, "Funnily enough, I do still talk to my mom."

"While I do not know everything about this situation, this method of 'teaching your child a lesson' can be very harmful to the child and their relationship with their parent," someone commented. "In essence, this letter is telling the child that if they do not comply to the demands of their parent, they will not be provided shelter, food, and are essentially in debt for their parents choosing to have and raise them."

But Aaron jumped to his mom's defense. "My mom and I have a great relationship. I hold nothing against her," he replied, acknowledging that his 13-year-old self was pretty tough to deal with.

It appears all is good between Johnson and her (now more mature) son. Every parent-child relationship is different, though most experts generally recommend against airing issues with your children on social media.

If this parenting strategy doesn't appeal to you, but you still to help your teen bridge a particularly trying phase, experts share these tips:

  • Find the source. Instead of punishing a child, try to figure out what's causing the rebellion. Perhaps they are acting out because they are being bullied in school and might benefit from therapy rather than grounding.
  • Avoid micromanaging. It's understandable to want to rein your teen in—parents just want what's best for their kids, regardless of their age. But sometimes, giving your teen the independence they crave can give them the chance to grow.