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Are We Doing The Right Thing?


Things had been going relatively well for approx. 3 weeks. I had e-mailed you re: some suspicious behavior, but couldn't prove it. I was feeling pretty good. Well, Thursday was the start on a backslide. He was asked to call me at work from landline phone as soon as he came home from lacrosse practice and to get something out for dinner. He was to take his last class of driving school (me transporting him) and then rush to his 9 yr old brothers baseball game. No phone call ever came. When I walked in, he was in his room, pretending to be napping (I think he was on his phone). Husband, me, 16 yr old got caught up in an argument re: this.

I ended up taking him (I had already NOT taken him twice before for behavior) since I am trying to hold up my end of the bargain, (husband was REALLY mad), made it back for most of the baseball game, and 16 yr old had to be off the phone early that night (this was suggested, not ordered, and was given freely 15 minutes early) AND lost cell phone until after school the next day. (I felt phone for phone was appropriate.) Friday was fine, went out, was where he said, and in by curfew.

Saturday afternoon, son and husband got into an argument over 16 yr old picking on 9 yr old and trying to take MP3 player away from him while he was listening to it (we are all in the car on the way to a b'day party). They got to swearing at each other, I got pulled into this and Dad telling me I was taking his side, I'm too easy, Blah, blah, blah. Dad ended up not going to the party. After several hours, 16 yr old's friend came to pick him up and they were going to the local fair. Friend was to drive him home by midnight. IF ANY plans were to change, he was to call me.

Curfew came and went, and no M______. I started calling, no answer. All of his friends were home and said the other one(s) was taking him home (they all drive). Find out, the kids ended up at a girl's house with no adults home--party time and at one point police were there. Was told my son was drinking. Told that night by this girl and another friend he was being brought home by someone I never heard of. Called the girl's house and was given the same story. Don't know the girl, or where she lives. Well, he never came home at all until 11:30am the next day. He never answered his phone--calling multiple times. 
He came strolling in as if nothing was wrong. (His grandmother was also over as she was going to stay with our 9 yr old and we were going to this girl's house with police escort to see if our son was there. He came home before we could leave.)

We calmly (for the most part) told him we (parents) were the adults, it was our home, our rules, he was a minor child and must follow them like them or not. He must face the consequences of his actions: no cell phone, no phone privileges, no computer, and no going anywhere or having anyone over until further notice. I also did confiscate some of his favorite clothes. No driver's road test until later either since we could not trust him. If he chose to break these punishments, we would go to the police and file incorrigible charges. We would get back to him about length of time of grounding when we could think about it a little more.

We did tell him by Friday (this happened Sat. night) he could have his computer back if followed the grounding. I am entertaining letting him have "land line" phone for 30minutes/day to be used in the family room or kitchen also (if Dad agrees). If he follows these rules, he may be off grounding with approved friends/places the following weekend. There have been some hints at defiance, but he has mostly gone along with this.

He has said he was going to a soccer game on Tuesday but was told no and was at the school when I picked him up, he was going to have a friend call me to see if he could go out on Friday or would go anyway (told him no), and I believe he used our phone when we went to my 9 yr olds baseball game (no one home and can't prove this), and was trying to go out after school another day in the guise of "practice" the same day as a game, and told he would be picked up right after school and was there.

At times his mood is great, others not. I am trying SO HARD to not show my emotion in all of this, but my gut is doing flip-flops constantly and I haven't slept well in days. I want so badly for him to do the right thing.

I guess what I'm writing this LONG e-mail for is confirmation that what we're doing is the right thing. Is it appropriate? Is the length of time OK? We are telling him he can EARN back his privileges by his behavior. Is the testing us normal? How do you trust again after this? Would you still let him get his license? Thinking about getting a GPS if we do let him.

Thanks again for all of your support and wisdom. I just wish we had been more firm with him when he was younger, but we never saw this behavior coming.



Re: Is it appropriate? You are definitely ‘on track.” Good work.

Re: Is the length of time OK? Disciplines should never go longer than 7 days. If it goes longer than 7, the kid forgets what he is being disciplined for – and the lesson is lost.

Re: Is the testing us normal? Absolutely.

Re: How do you trust again after this? You don’t. Never believe a word he says. Verify everything. Assume that whatever comes out of his mouth is a lie. I know this sounds radical, but the bottom line is this: Lying is a way of life for intense, out of control kids. You have been deceived more than you’ll ever know.

Re: Would you still let him get his license?
Yes. We want to foster the development of self-reliance – not dependency. If he has his license, he will not be dependent on others for transportation. I do understand that having a license could possibly lead to other problems in the future. In these cases, we have to weigh the advantages against the disadvantages. If he ABUSES driving privileges, he LOSES driving privileges -- but for no more than 7 days (3 days works best, and believe me -- 3 days will feel like an eternity to him).

Mark Hutten, M.A.

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