It’s been nearly 5 years since it was written, but a viral letter from a mom to her son is making the rounds on the Internet yet again and sparking debate among parents about how to deal with children when they’re disrespectful.
At 13 years old, Aaron Johnson sounded like a pretty typical teenager. No one is at their best at that age, we’re all a bit clueless about the sacrifices our parents make for us, and we tend not to be very appreciative of the things we have.
Then again, it’s up to our parents to steer us away from entitled behavior. That’s what mom Heidi Johnson was trying to do when she wrote her son a note that accidentally went viral on Facebook when she posted it publicly instead or just to family and friends, as she had originally intended.
After Aaron started earning money from his YouTube channel, he began treating his mom as more of an equal (or “roommate”), she said, than respecting her as a parent.
When she posted the letter laying out the consequences for his actions, she captioned the post:
“The child is going to have a rude awakening today after the words he exchanged with me last night. Not only will be find this on the door, but his mattress stripped, and the toys and clothes that I bought confiscated. He will have three options.. Buy his own, rent his clothes at $3 a day, or renegotiate his terms of being a child. Mama’s done playing games and being a doormat.”
Mama was not messing around.
Here’s her letter, complete with an itemized receipt for his items and her services.
No one knows what it’s like to live with another person’s child or what’s best for them. And even if they did, it would still be the parent’s decision (within reason) as to how to handle any bad behavior.
While it’s not worth getting into the vitriol she experienced as a result of the letter, no one will be surprised to know there was backlash.
But she also got a lot of support.
In a follow-up post, she explained that she needed to do something that would make a lasting impression on her son and that she loves her child dearly.
Of course, his reaction was roughly what you would expect at the time. He crumped the note and stormed out of the apartment.
But Johnson said that walking off anger is what she’s always taught her son to do. However, it was going to take more than one walk.
“He was still livid when he got home. He decided to stage a ‘sit in in my room, where he did laugh at me and repeat, ‘Really? What are you going to do? You can’t take my stuff, etc.’ He was asked to leave my room, and when he could be respectful, and I was more calm, we would discuss it further. He went to his room, and after about an hour, he had removed some electronics and items I missed that he felt he should have to earn back for his behavior. He apologized, and asked what could he do to make things better and start earning items back. He earned his comforter and some clothes right back. I did leave him some clothes to begin with, just not the ones he would want to wear everyday. He also had some pillows and sheets, just not his favorite ones.”
Tough love? Sure. But within reason.
And it’s clear by her son’s reaction that mom knew they could come to an understanding – he just needed a reality check first (you know, like most 13-year-olds do).
Despite the reconciliation, the pair realized there was still work to do to come to an agreement about responsibilities. Johnson presented Aaron with a contract stipulating what chores he was expected to do and when, as well as the consequences of breaking the contract.
Despite the flack she got for her approach to discipline, her son stepped up. Some of the online comments even helped him think through the issues in play. (Now THAT’S the sign of a well-adjusted kid!)
Johnson reported a few weeks later that things were going well:
“The bigger point is, the message was received. I think a lot influenced his very sudden change in heart. Not that I didn’t think he would come around, but he came around even quicker than I expected. We spent a long time talking about how I don’t ask that much from him, or require anything well beyond his age capabilities; but he also read a lot of your responses, and that affected him as well.”
Now that the letter is once again making the rounds, even Aaron himself has commented on it. And it appears family members are trying to take his side – but he’s reiterating that mom was right.
Regardless of what you think of the letter, it’s clear that things worked out for the best.
Johnson’s approach might not be the best for every parent, but even her own son is happy to admit it was just what he needed at the time.
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