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Parents on Trial in Abuse Case

November 26, 2002

Re "Tough Love, or Abuse?" Nov. 21: I am the father/stepfather of teenage boys, one of whom got seriously in trouble with the law and who was similarly out of control in our household for a couple of years. Fortunately, I was the right "dad" at the time, and my stepson has grown into a fine young man who holds down jobs and does what he's asked. But it was hell on wheels for a while and almost destroyed my marriage.

We never made my stepson sleep outside, but at one point we seriously considered sending him out of the house to live in one of those camps for troubled youth. I figured, however, that if he knew what the consequences of his actions would be he might acquiesce to the normal demands/requests of parents. At one point I told him it was a foregone conclusion that he was "out" if he didn't shape up (his mother backed me up) and things got better. Thank God.

I am not saying that Grady and Deborah Machnick did not overstep the bounds of good parenting, but there is a strain running through adolescent society today that they are somehow entitled to test their parents and to have everything, whether they earn it or not. Well, I, for one, think that's "dog droppings."

William L. Seavey

Santa Maria

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As I read your article, I became appalled as I learned what these parents had done to their child. I am 16 years old. Coming from the experience of having had difficulty myself maintaining consistent discipline, I am so grateful that my parents treated me with love and understanding. I cannot imagine what would have happened to me had I had to endure the kind of punishment and cruelty the Machnicks' son had to face.

Shauna Mullican

Rolling Hills Estates

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I find the actions of these two "professionals" utterly deplorable. I do not entirely hold this boy harmless, but come on, the grown-ups at least have to pretend to act their age when it comes to formulating some plan of action toward modifying their son's behavior.

It just goes to prove that two seemingly educated people can get married, knock down a nice piece of change, live in a respectable community with all the requisite accouterments and still lack the common sense to recognize their own limitations, let alone the requisite humility to obtain the necessary help.

Did they not even stop to think what message they were sending their son about the perceived lack of value they held for him when they placed dog droppings in his backpack? What must this troubled young man think of himself? This is not good.

Ronald S. Clark

Santa Monica

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