Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Shooter’s Parents

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I saw this interview on the Today show with author Andrew Solomon about his new book, Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity. His book is about families who have children different than themselves, such examples include autism, deafness, child prodigies and schizophrenia. What’s catching the media’s attention is an interview with Dylan Klebold’s parents, I doubt you’ve forgotten, but Dylan was one of the teen killers in the Columbine massacre that took place in 1999.

The author shares in the interview how he was interested in meeting the parents to see if it explained what had happened and if he could detect what was off in their household. But what he found instead were loving, courageous parents who had no idea this was going to happen and if they had known, they would have done something about it.

This really struck a nerve with me. I know what I’m about to say may upset others, but I feel terribly sad for these parents. And my sadness doesn’t take anything away from all those families who lost their kids in the masssacre, I can’t imagine their pain and wished it never happened. But it feels like society doesn’t allow the parents of these killers to grieve too. I feel like society automatically blames the parents.

I still remember after the movie theatre shooting that took place in Aurora earlier this year when a crowd of news trucks and reporters were outside the home of the killer’s parents. Not knowing a thing about this family or their circumstances, I felt a deep ache for them. I knew everyone wanted to know what kind of parents could create such a “monster”. But I on the other hand was thinking something else... what suffering must those parents be going through. They have lost a child, this is not the child they cuddled and tucked into bed, or the child they watched go on a first date. They must be going through unimaginable hell too, yet society is ready to spit on them and hold them responsible for their child’s violent acts.

I appreciate in the Today interview where Soloman points out that there was a time where many conditions were blamed on the parents. For example, he shares that autism was thought to be caused by a cold mother and schizophrenia was caused by mothers who wished their children didn’t exist but Soloman explains that we have dropped all these ideas except when it comes to crimes, we still blame the parents. He shares that after spending hundreds of hours with these parents he believes they had no clue these acts could happen.

I hope this can be a message to society that we need to stop blaming parents and instead offer support and compassion, just as we do for the victim’s parents.

In this interview, Solomon shares how Klebold’s mother prayed for her son to kill himself in order to stop the killings. He did. And now she has to live with the fact that she prayed for her own son to take his life.

How does a mother do that?

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Today Interview
November 8, 2012

Book on Amazon:


  1. For me, giving support for those parents is denying support for the victims. I really cannot imagine it without screaming, thinking that we want to give them the easy way out.
    After all, since they raise the bloody murderer, why shouldn't be hold responsible for their child's murder ?
    I cannot believe at all that they did their best to raise their child.

    My childhood ex-friend has now problems with alcohol, and maybe drugs. Yet, her mother prefers smoking and spending all the money in useless stuff instead of giving her children healthy diet and finding a psychiatrist for her younger daughter (that same mother has a now 9 years old child).
    Now, that same ex friend believes that she can get the easy way out and wonders why the consequence X happen and why the consequence Y happened.
    Her mother didn't love her daughter no matter what my mom wants to make me believe. That mother didn't try hard to raise correctly her daughter and wonders why her oldest daughter became like she became (dropping school without even a diploma, drinking and maybe doing drugs).
    I gave up with those both because they always tried to find an easy way out.
    Exactly like parents of teen-murders try to get the easy way out for their teens murders.

    I really have no reason to offer them the slightest compassion.
    Not after those teenagers did murder other people. Victims didn't ask to die that dread day, they didn't choose to die.

    Offering compassion to parents of teen-murders = denying that there are victims who didn't ask anything but living and making believe that murdering is a non-issue. It's more than an issue, it means not being a human being.
    After all, why Klebold’s mother (IMO, she fakes her child's love, especially after that teen murdered without any reason) would cry because "she prayed for her son to kill himself" ? Klebold did the only reasonable action he could do after he took away lives of victims who didn't ask anything but live. The non-mother has no reason to cry because her child killed himself after he murdered other students and teachers.
    There is no reason to cry for that murderer because he is not there any more and cannot kill anyone else, thanks Godness. A mother whom teenage is a murderer does not love her child and is a non-mother. Because if that non-mother really loved her son, she would had given limits and consequences to her son, brought him to a psy(-chiatrist -chologist) when the son had symptoms of mental illness, the non-mother would had really been there instead of having better do than taking care of her son.

    No, sorry. I really cannot buy into such a lie. Or it means that you ask us to accept murders.
    It's really beyond any reasonable request and any decency the victims deserve. Such a murderer should deserve a decency he denied to his victims ? No way, he does not deserve such a decency.
    It means we can use any excuse to deny what happened. I cannot buy it, I cannot accept it and I cannot even consider it as a remote possibility.

    1. I accept that you feel different than me. But for myself, I’ve seen examples of good parents, trying very hard to raise their kids and their kids still commit crimes. If untreated mental illness along with drug abuse is involved, it is even harder to raise these kids. In one case my friend has a child with Schizophrenia who they tried very hard to keep stable with the right doctors and the right schools, but at some point, these kids grow up and become young adults and sometimes they commit crimes.

      Also, you have to remember, in many cases, the illness doesn't even show up until they have moved out of the house and are in college. This is the age when most mental illnesses occur. So in the case of the Aurora accused killer, his parents may have not even seen symptoms that later appeared while he was away in college.

      I in no way support these violent crimes, or even make excuses for them, but we have to be careful that we don't jump to conclusions when it comes to the parents. The parents didn't commit these horrible crimes, their kids did.

    2. Question. Who raise the kids ? Especially when they are in middle school or high school.
      I doubt that they raise by themselves, unless someone can prove me otherwise.

      I have never ever said that raising a kid is easy. No way I can say this.
      But when a murderer is a teenager, he is still under parental responsibility unless otherwise decided by a Court.

      So, in such a situation, we cannot withhold the parental responsibility.
      Not only legally speaking (I am studying law, I know that the French legal system is different, but a minor is still a minor and legally, considered as incapable), but also morally speaking.

      When a young adult is away for college, he is an adult legally speaking (even if morally speaking, the story is a bit different).
      But when your adult child is away, he is an adult, so he is considered as capable to consent unless otherwise stated by the Court (guardianship).
      So, good luck to oblige an adult to get medical care (unless if proven that he is unable to decide and dangerous for himself and the others).
      After all, I cannot consider someone who murdered without legitimate defence as nothing but a garbage. I cannot consider him as a human being, only a garbage.
      I am absolutely for death penalty in the case of teenage murder because those murderers are not amenable and cannot live with other human beings. Therefore, or we really lock them for all their life without possibility of parole or death penalty.

      When we deal with teenage murder, we cannot consider those "parents" (I don't believe neither their love nor their pain : it's too gross to be true) because they are part of the whole package. The teenager does not raise by himself, unless you can prove me otherwise. Also, who provides a roof, food, clothes... to the teen ?
      Those non-parents have no reason to drop some crocodile tears and claim their fake love for their teenage child who murdered. And if those non-parents prefer to deny their child's illness, they are absolute responsible for not providing their child the needed medical care.

      I resent that we can support those non-parents. It means forgetting what happened to the victims who never asked anything, and not being dead like that.
      Don't forget the victims, first and foremost.
      Those non-parents are part of the whole package. We must never ever forget it, their fake pain and their crocodile tears are not acceptable.
      Their teenage actions prove only that they cannot be good parents, no matter what you can sell me. Those non-parents want to drop crocodile tears and fake the pain because their aim is gaining sympathy while you forget the true victims. They play the victim whereas they try to cover up their neglect toward their teen.
      Exactly like my ex-childhood friend and her mother who tried to cover up all her neglect.

      You cannot live without boundaries. Not giving support to those non-parents and instead, considering that they deserve being reminded their whole responsibility even when those fake a pain they don't feel is part of my personal boundaries. Otherwise, if you cry out of fake pain from those non-parents (and even more the murderer), I can only say that I lose my sanity.
      To keep my sanity, these kind of boundaries are essential. I don't buy people who pretend to suffer like those non-parents.
      Offering support to them means we accept that they don't have the sense of the responsibilities.

      Anyway, could it be a legal possibility to put them under guardianship, not letting a non-parent of a teenager murderer to decide anything about his life ? No possibility about his finance and assets, not deciding about his health, not deciding about how to raise his children...
      Making those non-parents being minor for all their life because they didn't show any capacity to raise their child. So, they don't have the capacity to consent beyond the reasonable doubt.

  2. You can maintain a car in perfect condition and still blow a radiator hose.

    You can design a superior offense and still lose a game.

    You can write a great novel and never see the best sellers list.

    Has a great teacher ever had a failing student?

    So why should we believe that we can have absolute certainty of the outcome of our efforts in raising our children.

    We do our level best to instill in our children the values, morals and character that we would hope they carry with them their entire life, but ultimately they are an individual that will develop with potentially differing view points and characteristics.

    Now add the challenges of mental illness, self medication, and a host of other issues that these children, teens and young adults deal with to the above and try and design a road map to upstanding, contributing member of society.

    God help us all!

    Pappa Bear

  3. As a family member of a victim of the Columbine shootings, my heart breaks for the parents of Eric and Dylan. My heart also breaks for the parents of the Aurora shooter, the parents of Jared Loughner (shooter of Gabby Giffords, etc) and the countless others who watched their children self destruct before their very eyes. To have no sympathy for those parents is to have absolutely no idea what it means to be mentally ill. And that is what this blog is all about. Those shooters were wrong. What they did was horrible. But as a society we need to do a better job of accepting that the mentally ill are all around us. And the severely mentally ill are capable of such acts of violence. Just as you do not get to "choose" not to have cancer, you do not get to "choose" to not be mentally ill. It happens. Brains malfunction. Psychosis sets in. AND IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH PARENTING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. You don't choose to have mental illness. You choose to treat it or not.
      This is a choice that a parent can and must do.

      I highly doubt that their teenager were mentally ill, as only 1% of crimes are committed under the influence of mental illness.

      My supposedly absence of knowledge about mental illness goes against the fact that I suffer from ADHD, which is a mental illness.
      So, you wrongly assumed about me.
      Oh, of course, I am not a parent, but I am still a person who suffers from mental illness. It does not allow me to kill anyone, mental illness or not.

      I am sorry for your loss.
      But putting everything on mental illness, even the worst crime, does not make any favor to people who suffer from mental illness. It only perpetrates more stigma to people who suffer from mental illness.

    2. Giulia-I understand that you feel the parents should be responsible for getting treatment for a child's mental illness and I agree with you, but we don't know the facts on these cases, nor do we know what the parents observed in their homes.

      I have a personal friend who lost her son to suicide and I have listen to this mother tell me through tears that she had NO IDEA her son was depressed and never in a million years could she have thought he would take his own life. I knew this vibrant young boy and I too never saw that he was capable of this. The reality is that sometimes those with mental illness keep their symptoms hidden from those they love the most. I can no more blame these parents for what their kids did than I can blame my friend for her son’s death.

      You said that you doubt that these kids were mentally ill, yet you make no mention that one of these kids was on medication used for mental illness and another showed signs of suicidal depression in his journal that was later found after his death. In the case of the shooter of Gabby Giffords, this man was found to have Schizophrenia and in the case of the Aurora shooter, he was seeing a school psychiatrist. These young men may just be the 1% you are talking about. We don't know the facts, so we should be careful not to judge the parents so harshly.

      And yes, having a mental illness doesn't allow anyone to kill others, no one has made this claim. We all agree that what happened was tragic and wrong. My point was to not put the blame on the parents for something that may be beyond their control.

      My intent of this post was never to increase the stigma, the cases we are talking about are extremely rare and not the norm, most people with mental illness go on to have very productive lives and contribute wonderful things to this world.

  4. I too feel deep sorrow for the parents of children who have committed horrific crimes. If the sins of the father should not be visited upon the son--should it not also go the other way?

    It is my opinion that as a society, and as communities, we share the burden of criminal acts. Lack of understanding about mental illness, or any sort of diversity of any stripe, directly and indirectly causes pain in individuals and rents in society.

    The only way to stop these things for the future is to not perpetuate hate, but bring forth understanding and compassion.

  5. I could spend hours talking about mental illness ..and the pain those affected by it and theirs family and love ones go through it everyday is unimaginable ,so don't judge what you haven't been through or don't even care about it.

  6. People who never had a close one with a mental illness will never understand it !!
    They will judge you ,your kids ,your family and friends ,because they have no idea what its about ,unless they educate thenselves .
    That's what society needs !

  7. I'm just catching up on your blog, and couldn't let this go by without commenting. I had the exact same reaction with the Aurora and Tucson shooting stories, but didn't feel comfortable expressing it because of the intense feelings people have toward the killers. Thank you for saying what I didn;t have the courage to say publicly.
    A guy I went to high school with just posted on facebook about the KC football player that shot and killed his girfriend and then himself "Why would an NFL player kill his gf and himself? I just don't get it. Got everything he could ever want. Making millions of $s a year". I had a lot of things I wanted to say back to the posting, but just left it alone. I could never presume to understand what that young man was going through and what led him to that tragic choice. Lord, help us to react with compassion and not judgement!

    1. Thanks for sharing your feelings on this, I totally understand you not wanting to say anything, especially over facebook, I’ve found myself keeping quiet on more than one occasion there.