Bean Dad: The Worst Dad of 2021 Was Also the Best Cautionary Tale

Bean there, done that.

by Rebecca Jane Stokes

There’s an old saying that goes like this: You can give a child a can of beans, but you can’t will them into knowing how to use a can opener. Okay so that’s not an old saying, but it’s certainly a lesson one man learned all too well in the earliest days of 2021. That’s right, we’re talking about the worst dad of the year, John Roderick, otherwise known of course, as Bean Dad. Or was he the worst dad of the year? Let’s discuss.

For those of you who missed the saga, let’s review what actually happened to earn Roderick this unfortunate title. It began, as most unfortunate things these days do, on Twitter.

On January 2nd, 2021 Roderick, a well-known musician and podcast host, shared what he thought was an instructive and humorous thread on parenting. The internet read Roderick’s take, and was, well, horrified. Rodderick shared with his followers that his 9-year-old daughter came to him in search of food in a series of now mostly-deleted tweets:

“So, yesterday my daughter (9) was hungry and I was doing a jigsaw puzzle so I said over my shoulder ‘make some baked beans,’ She said, ‘How?’ like all kids do when they want YOU to do it, so I said, ‘Open a can and put it in the 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!”

Reading the words “teaching moment” you might think that Roderick at this point stopped his puzzle and taught his daughter how to use a can opener. You would be wrong. Instead, according to Rodderick, he told his daughter no one would be eating until she figured out how to open the can. It took her six hours, but eventually, she succeeded and gained access to the baked beans within.

While Rodderick thought he was sharing a funny parenting moment, people who read the story disagreed. This may have been where the tale ended had Roderick not made the decision to continue tweeting. Sadly, he did, saying in a now-deleted tweet: “The only thing people are touchier about than parenting style is dog ownership.” Unsurprisingly, his critics were unmoved, and a new name was born: Bean Dad.

For some people, the Bean Dad thread triggered memories of past abuse. Others pointed out that hunger and stress can affect a child’s ability to learn. But Roderick’s story was mainly so poorly received because he framed it as a so-called teachable moment. If that were the case, where was the teaching?

Our children learn by imitating what they see us do. He could have taught her how to operate the can opener with a demonstration. He could have taught her how to warm them on the stove or in the microwave. He could have taught her the value of asking for what you want directly, but he didn’t. Arguably, what he taught her instead was to fear and mistrust her father.

For taking to Twitter to mock his hungry young daughter, and then for not backing down, Bean Dad has been gifted with the mantle of Worst Dad of the Year, deserved or not. The backlash was serious enough that Roderick quit Twitter the same day as the scandal. In his (mild) defense, he also posted a lengthy apology which he said, among other things, “What I didn’t understand when posting that story, was that a lot of the language I used reminded people very viscerally of abuse they’d experienced at the hand of a parent.” So, he may have been wrong, but at least, he knows he’s wrong.

He has since rejoined, but his pinned Tweet makes it clear he’s wisely giving social media a wide berth so don’t expect any hotter takes anytime soon.

Because of his evisceration on Twitter, and subsequent apology, the saga of Bean Dad was more about being accountable for saying dumb things than it was about actual parenting. So, the cautionary tale here is clear: Making fun of your kids, even if you’re not serious, doesn’t work. Ever. Don’t make fun of your kids. And, making jokes about your kids in public never goes well, either. We’re not here to bury Bean Dad, but instead, to wish Roderick the best of luck with his pursuits, while also, remembering to never, ever find ourselves in a situation where we, as parents, are about to become the next Bean Dad.