A father of two young boys from Orlando recorded and shared a "positive reinforcement" parenting tactic in response to a string of viral videos where parents beat up a stuffed animal to manipulate their children into eating their food.
Christopher Duett's response video provided an alternative technique to get his own 2-year-old son Warren to eat. It went viral on Monday.
In contrast to the other videos that show parents inflicting aggression and violence onto a stuffed animal to stun their children, Duett, 35, showed Warren that his toy penguin enjoyed the food and let him pretend-feed the stuffed animal so that he would try it himself.
Duett, who also has an 8-year-old son with his wife, told BuzzFeed News after watching the original viral videos, he was compelled to "show that there are other effective methods to having a child comply without the potential of causing any damage to their emotional development."
Duett said he had never tried the technique before, and that he wanted to demonstrate that the same results could come from a method that didn't instill any fear or trauma.
"I just wanted parents who were influenced by the other video to consider the approach that I used," he said.
Duett is referencing a video purportedly filmed by the uncle of a toddler. "When kids don’t wanna eat... this is what you gotta do," user @rudyhernandez_ wrote with laughing emojis. The video showed his apparent nephew's parent pummeling a stuffed Mickey Mouse to shock the child into eating.
"I couldn’t understand why so many people could find such a tactic humorous or acceptable behavior for a parent to engage in towards a young child," Duett said.
The video has been watched nearly 16 million times and retweeted nearly 115,000 times since it was shared last Wednesday.
People initially thought Mickey Mouse getting a beating was funny.
But the comments quickly grew polarized. Some called the video "disgusting," an example of childhood trauma, and "actual child abuse." Thousands of strangers online are still fighting over it.
BuzzFeed News has reached out to @rudyhernandez_ and his nephew's parents.
Duett said all he could think about was the "potentially impactful" consequences of the emotional development of the child in the video.
"The initial videos are problematic because they create the illusion of effectiveness," he said. "But what’s going on behind the scenes of that is that a child of that age is laying the foundation for learning empathy and emotional association and they are observing behaviors and will mimic them."
This specific technique is also not new to the social internet. In late May, a mother on Facebook shared a video trying something similar on a young child after she apparently was inspired by other parents. "I had to try this....OMG IM DEAD," they captioned the video, laughing. It's been shared over a million times.
BuzzFeed News has also reached out to the Facebook user Vet Fikes for comment.
A video posted to YouTube in November of last year, titled "How Mother give food to her child," gave similar parenting advice.
The comments are full of users tagging each other to encourage trying it for themselves.
Duett told BuzzFeed News he hopes his video will shed a more patient and positive light on how to get children to comply.
"Parents will undoubtedly watch those videos and try what they’ve seen to have their children comply, but ... it’s potentially harmful to the child’s emotional development and creates an excuse for parents to engage in counterproductive parenting techniques," he said.
People are still debating it.
And some are thanking Duett.
As one user wrote: "Being nice and giving your child positive reinforcement works better then scaring the shit out of them?! How sad that you had to make a video to prove that point in this time."
"I’m far from a psychology expert but a little bit of reading and common sense can easily help any parent understand why it’s wrong," said Duett.