The father of a 9-year-old girl made Twitter very, very angry over the weekend with what he thought was a good “teaching moment.” Instead of being hailed as a good parent, podcaster and musician John Roderick wound up gaining the infamous moniker “Bean Dad,” and swiftly getting so much ridicule for his actions that he has since deleted his Twitter account. In the wake of this cancelation, we parents want to take a deeper look at what exactly he did that was so wrong — and how other parents might do better.
“So, yesterday my daughter (9) was hungry and I was doing a jigsaw puzzle so I said over my shoulder ‘make some baked beans,” began Roderick’s Twitter thread on Saturday evening, per Mashable. “She said, ‘How?’ like all kids do when they want YOU to do it, so I said, ‘Open a can and put it in pot.” She brought me the can and said ‘Open it how?’ So I said, ‘How do you think this works?’ She studied it and applied it to the top of the can, sideways. She struggled for a while and with a big, dramatic sigh said, ‘Will you please just open the can?’ Apocalypse Dad was overjoyed: a Teaching Moment just dropped in my lap!”
According to Roderick, “spatial orientation, process visualization and order of operation are not things she… intuits,” and despite this, he did not step in to help. He even told her that no one would eat until she figured it out. Six tearful, maddening hours later, she finally opened the can.
Then, as Roderick cheerfully related this story to Twitter, people swiftly informed the dad just how awful his behavior had been. This was no teaching moment, but “child abuse,” some opined.
Child and adolescent psychologist Dr. Barbara Greenberg doesn’t label it as such, but she did explain to SheKnows what was so wrong about Roderick’s approach.
“He didn’t set up the context for a teaching moment; he set up his daughter for frustration,” Greenberg told us. “It felt me like it had a little bit of sadism in it. It was sort of like he presented her with a puzzle, and she had to figure it out for six hours. And this is a child who not only didn’t know how to do something, but she was also hungry. That is not a time to teach your child to do something.”
If what Roderick really wanted to do was teach his daughter, he should not have done so when both hunger and frustration would get in the way of her mind being able to focus on the task. The stress hormone cortisol is not great at enhancing one’s critical thinking ability. A more ideal circumstance would be to make sure the girl is calm and fed, as well as open to the new information.
“He could have said to her, ‘I’d really like you to learn how to use a can opener and here’s how to do it,’” Greenberg explained. “He should have started it for her, showed her how to do it, and then let her do a little. And he would be there to cheer her on, tell her that she was doing it correctly, that she was doing it safely. … The father should be much more involved to make sure that she’s having a successful experience.”
But is that really what Roderick wanted? In this age of sharenting for the internet, we wonder if he was making his daughter’s task difficult for the sake of telling this story. He’s got podcasts to promote, after all, and who is going to read a long thread about a father calmly sitting down with his child and opening a can of beans?
Though the girl apparently now knows how to use the can opener, if self-promotion was his goal, it backfired terribly. Upon this story going viral, Twitter users dug through Roderick’s other tweets and unearthed some that seemed to joke about the N-word, homophobic slurs, anti-Semitism, and rape. The reaction to that was finally enough to make him delete his Twitter account. What a fun teaching moment this must have been for him!
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