Killers’ parents share blame


The Charleston massacre of nine innocent lives occurred just 24 hours after my return from a Myrtle Beach trip to visit a relative. This family member is my only living first cousin. She was born in Delaware, but has been a South Carolinian for about 40 years.

As a current South Carolina Supreme Court Justice, my cousin was a friend and political associate of the Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney. She describes him as “a gentle, wonderful man who was much loved.”

Human massacres of innocent lives have become too common an occurrence in American life, and sadly the public has become somewhat numb to this repetitious cycle. The Charleston shooting is much different. Nine innocent lives were lost in a revered house of worship. The “Mother” Emanuel A.M.E. Church is located on scenic Calhoun Street near the downtown Charleston tourist area known as “The Slave Market,” where human trafficking of plantation workers once openly occurred.

I have been a regular church-goer all my life, and have visited that historic site of African-American religion during prior Charleston trips.

Aurora, Colorado, Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, and Phoenix are just a few of the venues for these human carnage episodes in recent years. The grave injuries to then-U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords and the deaths of six others in 2012 was the same year when three high school students died from the horrific actions of one classmate in Chardon, Ohio.

As with all the other gunmen, the Charleston shooter will not be named in this column. Enough publicity has already been given to this twisted individual. The Aurora gunman is currently on trial for his massacre of Colorado movie-goers. The commonalities shared by all of the shooters include their approximate ages, race, isolationist personalities and educational challenges, and — most disturbing to this counselor — the shooters lived in the insular home environment of an “enabling” parent or parents.

Consequences for grievous actions seem to be few in 2015 society. The death penalty has been abolished in 19 states. Ohio still executes death-row inmates regularly. Michigan ended the death penalty in 1846. Wisconsin was not far behind, eliminating that state’s executions in 1853.

My work as a counselor, specific to problematic adolescents, leads to extensive interaction with a parent or, on a rare occasion, parents who are fearful of employing consequences to discipline their adolescent or teenage offspring.

“Parenting via the path of least resistance” is a phrase I use often during sessions with troubled families. “Timidity to parent” is another. The parent has become the teenager’s “friend,” versus a respected disciplinarian by the often-oppositional child.

Often a teenager, usually a male, is failing most classes or has dropped out of school due to “boredom,” lack of effort, and minimal parental consequences. Occasionally a paltry attempt occurs — working for a GED — by the teenager or now-adult “child” who has sometimes spent years away from a classroom, while trying to “find himself,” and inevitably lacks the discipline or long-lost study skills to obtain a delayed diploma.

Instead of achieving a GED, the offspring often becomes a hermit in their still-provided bedroom — unemployed, addicted to video games, and mesmerized by on-screen violence. These were the exact life circumstances of the Charleston shooter. He lived a life of no consequences for dropping out of high school, being unemployed, living (probably) rent-free with his divorced mother, and having too much time to hone his hatred.

This murderer of nine innocent church-goers was not held accountable for the train wreck he had allowed his life to become. His mother was a classic enabler — a parent providing unyielding support for a teen’s poor decisions, problematic actions and lazy life circumstances.

Now, here is the controversial component of this column.

Spanking a child when he/she is acting inappropriately or having an inconsolable temper tantrum, in my opinion, is necessary to instill discipline early in a child’s life. The “parental placating” — heard often by this mental health professional while in public — is sickening. “Johnny, your mommy will buy you ice cream if you stop screaming and having a melt-down here in the grocery store aisle.” Oh please!

A swift swat to the derriere is what instills respect for a parent, and quick comprehension of consequences and emotional regulation by the child. Many schools are equating any corporal punishment by a parent, no matter how necessary, as “child abuse.” One young boy that I see blatantly tells his mother that he “will call the police and have her arrested for child abuse,” if she spanks him. He says this action is instructed to him “by his teachers at school.”

Wake up, parents and educators. Disciplining a child is not abuse; it is good parenting and also might bring some level of decorum back to our chaotic schools. Making an older child accountable with chores, expectations of school performance, and charging rent, if they are nearing or have reached adulthood, will instill accountability and self-sufficiency. An entitled adult/child — with zero goals, minimal education, no employment and the ability to live freely at home with too much free time — is a potential societal time-bomb, as has occurred with the vast majority of previously mentioned mass shooters.

This most recent horrific crime against humanity has two foes. The shooter deserves the death penalty for his abominable crime — actually I think a firing squad might be more appropriate — while his enabling parent should share partial blame for allowing this wayward drop-out to evolve into a mass killer.