December 17, 2009 (Original publish date) • By Dennis Beaver
A large number of lawyers are regular readers of this column and occasionally contribute interesting story ideas. The following e-mail was sent in from “Hal,” an attorney in Sacramento:
“In August 2009, you wrote about a couple whose 22-year-old son, Tyler, had serious, longstanding anger management issues. Whenever stopped for speeding — or criticized by neighbors for loud music coming from his car — instead of being mature and cooperative, would get into tremendous arguments. His hostility finally landed him in jail, charged with resisting arrest over a simple speeding ticket.
“You gave such a detailed description that it could have been my client’s son you were writing about, down to his being kicked out of university for threatening students during political discussions. His parents are typical of what I have seen in my 40 years of law practice in the Sacramento area. He is a spoiled, enabled and clearly dangerous young man, just like my client’s son, now sitting in jail.
“As with the young man you wrote about, my clients have kept their son from facing the consequences of his actions, never even getting a taste of the trouble which lay ahead if he kept up the same behaviors.
“Your column ended with a psychologist’s prediction that if Tyler did not get help he would do something which would result in serious injury or death to himself or others. I felt your article was so powerful and relevant for several of my clients, that I sent them copies.
“My client’s son is again in jail, but this time along with his 17-year-old brother — who has never been in trouble before. I would like to discuss this with you, as it is a story worth telling your readers, and hopefully some parents will see themselves.”
‘Son, please slow down’
I phoned my colleague in Sacramento. “Buckle up for a story which I wish I didn’t have to tell you,” said Hal.
“It began one September Saturday afternoon, when Kenny, my client’s 22-year-old son, was driving his mother’s new Mercedes sports car home to the family’s gated community. While waiting for the gate to open, his 65-year-old neighbor, John, pulled up behind him in a golf cart. He had spent the afternoon at the nearby golf course. John lives three houses down from Kenny.
“Once those gates open, Kenny drives far in excess of the 25 miles per hour residential speed limit, and has been warned by other neighbors of the danger his driving presents. When John reached Kenny’s house, both Kenny and his 17-year-old brother, Ted, were standing on the sidewalk, with Ted apparently getting ready for a jog.
“According to Ted, John told Kenny that he was driving too fast and wanted to speak with his parents. But Kenny got into a screaming argument and followed John to his house, where an actual fist fight broke out. It was unclear who hit who first, but Ted doubted the elderly man threw the first punch.”
As I would learn from Hal, things got even worse when Ted joined in, landing a violent blow to the back of the neighbor’s head which knocked him unconscious. “I was trying to help my brother,” he told the police later that day.
“John suffered a concussion and his face looked like hamburger. Both boys were charged with felonies and even today months after the event, are still in custody. While the 17-year-old will be released soon, Kenny will likely spend six months to a year in jail and the family is going to be sued, big time,” Hal believes.
Message to parents
“For years I have told Kenny’s father that the kid needs serious help, but instead of listening to the family lawyer, when he would screw up, they would buy him a new car! And I have a number of clients — professional families or politicians who think their kids can do no wrong. Or maybe it’s guilt in always being away, not being home, not being a good parent, and buying the children off.
“All these boys needed to do that afternoon was to just walk away from a justifiably upset neighbor, just go inside their house, but instead were as stupid as stupid can be,” he said.
“By failing to properly punish bad behavior when children are small, kids can grow to become, as the psychologist you quoted said, self-centered, feeling entitled, above others, and may never understand that behavior has serious consequences,” Hal, one lawyer who cares, concluded.
Parents can “yes” their children all the way to failure.
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.