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Was Bad Parenting to Blame for the Sandy Hook Massacre?

Or was Adam Lanza's mother doing the best she could to cope with her mentally ill son?

by
Paula Bolyard

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December 1, 2013 - 10:06 am
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From the recently released report by the Connecticut state attorney’s office in Danbury on the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School:

[Nancy Lanza] was concerned about him and said that he hadn’t gone anywhere in three months and would only communicate with her by e-mail, though they were living in the same house. … The mother did the shooter’s laundry on a daily basis as the shooter often changed clothing during the day. She was not allowed in the shooter’s room, however, even to clean. No one was allowed in his room. The shooter disliked birthdays, Christmas and holidays. He would not allow his mother to put up a Christmas tree. The mother explained it by saying that shooter had no emotions or feelings. The mother also got rid of a cat because the shooter did not want it in the house.

When I read this, my first inclination was to think that it was a case of bad parenting — Adam Lanza, who shot and killed twenty children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, was obviously a kid in need of discipline. There was clearly a breakdown in the authority structure in the home. My husband and I would not have tolerated our children dictating what we were “allowed” to do in our own home. Indeed, we probably would have had to suppress our laughter if they had ever attempted to launch such a coup d’état. When one of our sons went through a bedroom door-slamming phase, out came the screwdriver and down came the bedroom door until he understood that there would be no door-slamming while he was living under our roof. If one of our kids had ever tried to use the silent treatment as a weapon he would have been met with the loss of privileges and electronics — the car, the computer, the internet, the cell phone.

It seems like these behaviors would be easy enough to solve with a little tough love, right?

Except that Adam Lanza wasn’t like my kids.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
I don't buy the argument that the article presents. Lanza's mother was a bad parent.

I'm a gun guy; I own more than a dozen firearms and have a gunsafe. If I had a known mentally ill, reclusive, violent crazoid living in my house, I would not teach him to shoot nor would I give him the combo to the safe. Hell, my girlfriend doesn't have the combo.

How dumb do you have to be? Oh do de do, I think I'll take my violent, mentally ill son down to the old gun range. Umm, NO. And then when I get home I'll give him free access to firearms. Umm, NO.

Yeah, Lanza's mother had a bad deal with him. I get it. But she didn't help herself or 26 other people by being stupid.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm not going to comment on Mrs. Lanza's parenting skills, or failure to avail her son of whatever resources were available. I don't know enough and I wasn't in her situation.

However, she had someone in her house she knew could potentially be dangerous -- he had major mental health issues and was getting worse. At that point it was incumbent upon her to make sure her firearms were secure. If Adam knew the combination to the gun safe, she needed to change the combo (or the safe.) A loaded pistol in the nightstand drawer does you no good if you're in the kitchen, lock it up with a biometric safe.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Here's what I know about this. People can handle what they have experienced before in life. When something happens that is so far outside the boundaries of normality, NOBODY can handle it. Some people may get lucky, but it's just that, luck. Maybe Lanza's mother wasn't a very good parent, but my God, who on earth could possibly be prepared to handle a one-in-ten-million situation? Nobody, that's who.

But events like this are chocolate fudge to the statists, because they can exploit them to the millionth power to grab more power for themselves, by demanding the the state be handed even more control over peoples' lives. It absolutely won't help, because it is impossible to differentiate between the tens of millions of odd people in the world, and the 100 who are insane mass murderers plotting their horrors.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (122)
All Comments   (122)
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Adam Lanza did not suddenly appear in his mother's house one day, full grown and 20 years old, making demands and setting the rules. Adam Lanza was the result of 20 years of bad parenting and neglect. Strict discipline and heavy medication could have saved all those lives. Do not tell me that he was uncontrollable; anyone can be controlled with enough medication. And behavior can certainly be shaped with rewards and punishments. There are very strict programs where children are required to earn every little privilege by displaying self control and appropriate behavior and these programs work wonders. But it is so hard to watch a child go through something like that. And it is so much easier to mainstream the child, give him lots of freedom, medicate him lightly and hope things will get better. That is exactly how you end up with a 20 year old pointing a gun in your face. If Nancy Lanza had made the hard choices to keep him heavily medicated and strictly disciplined and confined she (and many others) would still be alive.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Though Adam Lanza had no history of violence, he was known to have anxieties, which is typical for people on the autism spectrum. They are prone not only to anxieties but depression too. With a history like that, I don't understand why a parent would want a gun in the house. I'd be afraid that my anxious & depressed loved one would turn the gun on himself...which is essentially what Adam Lanza did. Sandy Hook is as much a suicide as it is a multiple murder. Nancy Lanza should never have brought guns into the house with a son like hers.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sane folks don't allow access to firearms by emotionally disturbed people.To RBJ: A gun locked in a safe is of no use in a home invasion. Your gun must be available to you at all times. Fourteen guesses as to how one does that.
The author's emasculated version of discipline is disgusting. Slamming doors is an act of defiance and is violent. It needs to be dealt with violently. Unintentional misbehavior may be dealt with via additional chores and/or the withdrawal of privileges. Intentional wrongdoing requires corporal punishment. This is a simple matter; a dad who wasn't there; as far as we know, no uncles, either; a weak, unthinking mom, who couldn't cope- or wouldn't; probably the latter. The kid was the shooter; but mom was his accessory in mass murder.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Thank you, Ms. Bolyard, for replying to my earlier comment. I had noticed the footnote saying that witnesses were not mentioned because of fear of retribution or harassment. And that struck me as interesting just on its own. Both mother and son are dead, and the official report states categorically that there was only one "shooter" who ended the affair by committing suicide. Who is left to harass or seek retribution from someone speaking the truth about the relationship between mother and son?
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
New fogey,
I can't say for sure, but I imagine, judging by the rhetoric surrounding the gun debate and the sheer awful tragedy and the emotions that go along with something so horrific, there are always going to be people who make the whole thing worse by inserting themselves into the situation. God help all of the families involved.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
There's no shortage of leftists. They are always in favor of suppressing truth.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
No good answers? How bout this one.

Keep the freak away from the GUNS
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sorry, not buying it. I am sick of hearing everything blamed on "mental illness".

If this guy was so bad, why would his mother keep guns in the house where he could get to them? This makes ZERO sense.

And where's the father in all of this?
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Just for the record, I'm not saying we shouldn't make changes to the system so that people we know to be dangerous are off the streets. My point is that we cannot jump to conclusions about who is to blame in this case -- or any other case -- when there are severe emotional/mental health issues. It's too complex an issue to just say that if the mother had been a better disciplinarian, a better parent, it wouldn't had happened.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Situations like this become a canvas where people fill in the gaps to make valid points. You make valid points and so do the people who emphasize the deficiencies in how our laws deal with people who are crazy as do the people who emphasize the mother's lack of common sense with respect to guns. We will never really unravel the complexities of this case.

People who struggle with difficult children need our support. You are absolutely correct.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Avoiding institutional collapse begins with the family. All institutional structures are made of living stone, and it is the work of the family to produce such stones worthy of sound institutional construction. A family who fulfills its duty by offering to the community good stones are honored by the community and by God, but the family who supplies bad or corrupted stones are not honored for they have put all institutions at risk of collapse. The good work of the family lays the foundation of society and its negligence foretells community upheaval. How necessary is it to teach and train the family in the production of holy living stones. It is the first requirement of our social compact and a sacred duty. When the manufacturing product of the family is good, holy living stones can be built up into durable and stable edifices, public and private, and the purer the living stone the more stable the structure, but a mixture of good building blocks and bad building blocks will weaken the structure. Let us return to the manufacturing of good building blocks for strong institutional construction – this is the purpose of the wisdom of God revealed in his holy Word. Article VIII to the US Constitution restores the marriage covenant for the making of holy living stones.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Asperger's Syndrome, or now the Syndrome Formerly Known as Asperger's, has a tremendous range of affect. Some Asperger's patients are easily startled or provoked to anger and many are not. Asperger's patients may be affected very slightly, like my own son, or very markedly, as Adam Lanza appears to have been.
Some people are a bit odd but are only that. They are responsible, courteous, and while they may struggle they also achieve important goals. My son hopes to be a police officer; I dunno if that will work out but he would likely make a very good security officer of some kind.
He shoots well; I taught him informally at first and he's had professional training in the use of firearms. We took up shooting together because it's a very physical activity that we both like and because it requires him to take responsibilities.
As his dad, I want him to find a meaningful success in life. I'll always worry a little about him. His issues are not reasons to stop him from seeking an appropriate and satisfying job.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Respectfully disagree. Shooting is not a "very physical activity"; it requires very little physical effort. Emotional disturbance so marked and destructive that it has been diagnosed and treated should preclude access to firearms and certainly will prevent employment in an armed capacity. Ninety percent of security officers are not armed, and are minimum wage recipients. There are plenty of useful ocupations which do not require the use of firearms. For the disturbed such should be their aiming point.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
I don't buy the argument that the article presents. Lanza's mother was a bad parent.

I'm a gun guy; I own more than a dozen firearms and have a gunsafe. If I had a known mentally ill, reclusive, violent crazoid living in my house, I would not teach him to shoot nor would I give him the combo to the safe. Hell, my girlfriend doesn't have the combo.

How dumb do you have to be? Oh do de do, I think I'll take my violent, mentally ill son down to the old gun range. Umm, NO. And then when I get home I'll give him free access to firearms. Umm, NO.

Yeah, Lanza's mother had a bad deal with him. I get it. But she didn't help herself or 26 other people by being stupid.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
It is very rare for someone with no history of violence to commit murder, but apparently it does happen. Theoretically, any member of the President's team of bodyguards also could suddenly go berserk and begin mowing people down. Some possibilities are too remote to worry about.

The young man was not insane; he was autistic. Typically, an autistic person is logical, grounded in reality, but extremely strange, alienated, and intolerant of many normal situations. She was trying to reach him in one of the few ways she could.

Had she known he could be violent she should have had no guns in the house (save, perhaps, for one that was on her person at all times in case she needed to kill _him_), but apparently she didn't know he was violent. I suppose she should have taken the better-safe-than-sorry route, but again, you could say that about anyone (including the President's team of bodyguards).

As I understand it, one trigger was that he found out she was preparing to institutionalize him. That was what was needed, and it is too bad he found out, but trying to take the guns away first might itself have triggered the meltdown.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
And he was so sane that he figured that killing mom would preclude his incarceration? Mom believed him to be dangerous when she hid the kitchen knives, and was thoughtless in not securing the guns. Thoughtlessness is not the optimum state of human mentality, right?
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
"one trigger was that he found out she was preparing to institutionalize him"

Yup, the other trigger was on an un-secured AR15...

When you've got someone who needs "institutionalizing", locked in their room playing kill kill kill all day long, and you have to email them to communicate 'cause they wont talk to you face to face, MAYBE its time to lock up the guns
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Damn right....

Some things are so blazingly obvious, it takes a PhD and a six-figure income not to see them.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
No, all it takes is political correctness.

"We must not judge!"

No, apparently not even when the conduct is so completely stupid it boggles the mind.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
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