Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Troubled Boys Need Strong Parents as Anchor

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Troubled Boys Need Strong Parents as Anchor

Article excerpt

That the adults in Littleton, Colo., were that oblivious -- it seems almost as much a relief as an outrage.

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold for some time were in effect wearing neon "I'M SICK, STOP ME" signs. The parents didn't see them.

So if the parents are to blame, it allows the rest of us to go back to whatever we were doing before April 20.

"Until next time," noted James Garbarino, professor of human development at Cornell University and author of the new book Lost Boys (Free Press, $25).

Senseless killing, we keep saying. But to Harris and Klebold it made perfect sense. Why?

"If we don't understand that kids do this because of righteousness rather than evil" we'll get nowhere. Garbarino said recently, after the reports of the diary and the shotgun barrel, when TV seemed to be fixated on whether the parents could be prosecuted.

Given half a chance, we focus on the parents, Garbarino said. "A number of things need to be said."

One. "People need to appreciate that the consequences of being a less than perfect parent have so much greater consequence than in the past."

Two. "People get discouraged in trying to help their kids. They sometimes give up and cross their fingers. It's hard to know exactly what went on."

Three. "Every parent has to be very assertive to know the world the child is living in." How this melds with privacy is a tough call. If, when a parent tries to talk to a kid, the situation is explosive and confrontational, then "it's costly to inquire, and they may back off."

Four. "The neglected piece. We need to focus on character education and kindness training for [the kids in] the in groups," Garbarino said. The behavior of popular kids toward social lessers is "certainly one of the dynamics at work."

No one can empathize with the killers. Yet it would be extremely useful to know how they became what they did. …

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