Not for the faint of heart, a devastatingly honest editorial in this past Sunday’s Times, “The Parent Trapped,” in which mother and author Katherine Ellison writes of her reaction to the arrest of Julie Schenecker, the Floridian soccer-mom who was indicted last week on charges of first-degree murder of her two teenage children. While the majority of the responses have been eerily Onion-like, Mrs. Ellison courageously takes another route. The neverending refrain of ‘original sin’ seldom takes on such horrifying aspect:

And yet what haunts me even more than the terrible photos of [Mrs. Schenecker] being led off by the police, her eyes rolled back like those of a spooked horse, is what we’ve shared: a frightening record of anger toward our children.

What strange evolutionary quirk makes adolescents evoke such powerful rage in their mothers? Alone, like Ms. Schenecker, night after night with my argumentative sons while my husband was working away from home, I’ve felt that fury rising from the soles of my feet, at the sight of a carefully made meal thoughtlessly dumped in the sink or, worse, a little brother scratched and bruised.

While my older son, who has both attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and oppositional defiant disorder, is something more than the usual adolescent provocateur, let me be clear that not even in my wildest dreams have I ever imagined shooting him. Still, pushed to my limits, I’ve done things that I know full well have been dangerous and harmful — mostly yelling, but also, during a few explosive fights, pushing and slapping. And abundant research on family violence shows that I’m far from alone. 

Uniquely awful as the killings of the Schenecker children were, the all too familiar themes in this story make it urgent that the hectic debate about their mother moves off the pages of social network sites and into our places of worship, doctors’ offices and city halls.

It chilled me to read that the police questioned Ms. Schenecker for slapping her daughter three months before the killings — behavior that I’ve unfortunately shared with millions of other American parents. In a 2007 study of 141 adolescents, published in the journal Development and Psychopathology, 85 percent reported that they’d been slapped or spanked. Moreover, the latest government records show that more than 121,000 cases of physical abuse against minors were reported in 2008.

My husband and I passionately oppose corporal punishment, which helps explain why my blunders alerted me that I needed help. I ended up devoting a year and thousands of dollars to getting such help, from therapists and honest friends.