Las Vegas Sun

November 27, 2014

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Letter to the readers:

When children go bad

Comments on a story lead us to wonder about parents’ experiences

Dear Readers,

On Friday, lasvegassun.com reported the details of the arrest of Christine Gulick and Devon Cooper, who are accused of a string of burglaries and thefts over the course of several weeks.

The pair managed to elude capture for several days, but the chase ended Thursday. Gulick was arrested outside of an apartment building on Sandhill Road near Boulder Highway; a few hours later, SWAT officers went into an apartment to end a standoff with Cooper.

The Friday story by Conor Shine says that Gulick, 38, and Cooper, 33, both have criminal records. In the online comments section, there was quite a discussion among readers writing about issues broader than this case. Some readers wondered about recidivism.

Commenter westvegas wrote, “I am seriously puzzled by people like this. I just don’t understand what makes them tick.”

Other readers expressed similar questions, and there was a discussion about contributing factors, including the role of the court system, a child’s upbringing and parenting.

A reader who identified herself as Gulick’s mother wrote:

“My daughter was raised in a middle-class home with a father and mother. There was no criminal activity, drugs, etc. She got mixed up in meth, and it went downhill from there. You can’t always blame a person’s mother, as Freud would do, for the kids’ behavior. Sometimes good parents just have ‘bad’ kids. Bad parents can also have ‘good’ kids.”

While we can’t vouch for the veracity of the commenter’s claim to be her mother, the comment is worth discussing.

Being a parent, as has been said, isn’t for the faint of heart. It is filled with struggles and challenges, but a situation like this would be a nightmare. No sane parent wants to raise a “bad” kid, much less a criminal. And having your child show up in the newspaper — complete with mugshot — isn’t something you put in the annual Christmas letter.

Parents, what do you think? Is the commenter right: Do good parents sometimes have bad kids (or bad parents have good kids)?

What has your experience been? Have you had a child end up on the wrong side of the law? What was the experience like? Afterwards, did you see anything you would do differently?

We’d love to hear from you. You can send a letter to the editor to via email or you can send it snail mail (Letters to the editor, Las Vegas Sun, 2360 Corporate Circle, Third Floor, Henderson, NV 89074) or you can fax it to (702) 383-7264.

Best,

Matt

Matt Hufman is the assistant managing editor/opinion.

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  1. Child rearing starts with love of God, religion and the relationship we have with both. The emphasis of our society on secularism at the exclusion of God and religion is the reason, in large part, children go astray and grow up as troubled adults.

    We have to reorder our priorities and put first things first again: God, religion, our relationship with both and the people we love and influence.

    Carmine A. DiFazio

  2. I have a brother and a sister. We were born in 1953, 1956 and 1959, with me being the oldest. I was small, shy and lacked confidence. My brother tried to emmulate whatever I did. My mom set the rules, dad enforced them and my brother and I followed them. It was a quiet time in society and we were easy to raise. My sister came along in 1959. My parents were older, discipline was a little more lax and their marriage had started to have problems. My sister was gragarious, outgoing and a risk taker. Attempted boundry setting and discipline was met with a hail of resistance by my sister. Society was just entering a tumultuous period of the 1960's.

    My sister was sexually active early, used drugs extensively, married early, lost a child due to violence by her drug dealing husband and has many problems, even today. My brother and I are not without issues by we are a world apart from my sister.

    What are the causes of the difference? Personality (passive versus agressive), Family (good marriage versus one in trouble) , societal state when growing up (stable versus huge change), Parental dicipline (tough and accepted versus less consistent and fought every step of the way).

    All these things, plus 'blind chance' contributed to the difference between my brother and I and my sister. It really is a complex mix of factors.

    Michael

  3. Could be simple family values and parent support, I have an extended family of about 150 aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, ect and none of them have every been in jail. My grandparents had 7 children, all graduated collage, and my grandfather was a potato farmer in northern Maine, not rich at all, I don't know how he did it. My fathers' family was very large and they all lived on a farm during the depression, many did not go to collage. Still, all of them and their off spring have been productive moral citizens. I did have one cousin who got busted for smoking pot..I think it is all about having the parents keep you busy, study, sports, active and say no to certain things. Once parental control is lost so is the child.

  4. "No sane parent wants to raise a "bad" kid, much less a criminal. And having your child show up in the newspaper -- complete with mugshot -- isn't something you put in the annual Christmas letter."

    Huffman -- in the first place your subjects are well into their 30s. They left childhood behind long ago.

    I don't know these people. But as the father of a felon I would caution all those quick to judge to be aware we have a criminal "justice" system that is predatory and self-serving. I watched my son be processed -- not defended -- for what amounted to taking charity from a stranger when he lived on the streets. I'm proud of who he is today.

    "Child rearing starts with love of God, religion and the relationship we have with both."

    CarmineD -- no it doesn't. If you want to define your family that way, and it worked for you, fine. But being Catholic and what has happened with your clergy ... well, between the altar boys and Magdalene Sisters, that's a lot of hypocrisy on a global scale.

    "Could be simple family values and parent support..."

    petef -- you said it best. For me it started getting better when I discovered my kids were worth listening to, and that respect has to go both ways.

    "The greatest tragedy in mankind's entire history may be the hijacking of morality by religion." -- Arthur C. Clarke, 1999, from "God, Science, and Delusion: A Chat With Arthur C. Clarke" in Free Inquiry magazine

  5. One time, long ago, I read a piece where Columnist Ann Landers, discussed the rare occassion of having a 'bad kid' from an otherwise perfect family. I took that to heart. And over the years, while volunteering, working, and playing, it became apparent through my collective experiences, that the 'rare bad kid' is an anomally indeed, proportional to population growth. It became even more apparent while working with at-risk youth and challenged individuals.

    With what Ann Landers had stated in mind, and based on my experiences interacting with thousands of individuals, I have come to the conclusion that there are those rare, anomally 'bad' individuals out there who are, "hard wired" from birth towards engaging in negative behaviors. They are rare, few, and far between.

    Then there are those who fall into degrees of 'badness' that have the capacity to change, adapt, learn, and move on towards positive behaviors. Overall, as long as there is life and breath, change for the good and positive outcomes CAN happen. The glass is half full in my world view.

    My heart goes out to the mother of Christine Gulick and her father. I have had countless conversations with parents like them while running a Community School. They do what is within their power, but there is still a disconnect. Hold fast to that tiny fiber called "hope," in that rope in the tug of war in life.

    All the Trusted Commenters have presented a pretty balanced point of view so far. As a society, we have to do better for those who cannot. It becomes our responsibility to do our part in doing what is right, just, and pure, as best we can. It is perfect? No. But it is within our power to make a difference.

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star