30 answers

15 Y/o Playing with Fire

Hi Moms,
My husband found my 15 y/o son burning some papers in his bathroom last night. There are many issues with this including the fact that we have two babies in the house, the fact that he could be covering up some other smell, and not to mention that the house could go up in smoke. I had noticed that he liked to play with lighters, although, I've never found any hidden in his room or among his belongings. Its never been something that he's hidden until last night.
My question is, how do I discipline him? My husband, his step-dad, wants to ground him from everything (that's another issue altogether). I want my son to be exposed to what could happen if he let one of his play sessions with fire get out of control. I tried the whole guilt trip with my son by making him think about how guilty he would feel if anything would happen to one of his baby brothers if he started a fire that would put the babies in danger. I think it helped for all of a minute.
What do I do? Help!

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

I would take him to the fire station or maybe call up there and explain the situation. They could probably give you some ideas or even show him what could happen.
Hope that helps.

More Answers

My son did the same thing when he was 11. I was pregnant at at 2:30 in the am we smelled matches, he was playing with fire downstairs in the middle of the night.
We contacted the local fire dept and enrolled him in a fire education class, which gets through, esp when he realized the legal and criminal problems that you can charge him with the next time it happens.
It was the best thing we did for him. We attended the class with him and you could see a light bulb go off. The class was 4-5 hours on a Saturday and was free

2 moms found this helpful

My youngest son whose 13 is the pyromaniac in the house. What we've done is to give him his own fire pit in the backyard. He is a boy scout, so has training in terms of safe fires, etc. Even so, this does sound slightly wacky, but it provides him a safe outlet for this interest. And, he is always the family member that knows where the matches are AND he always has a lighter.

If he did start a fire in the house, he would have privileges removed. My tactic is just remove every single electronic device from his bedroom. So, in this situation his step dad has the right idea - but I think you (as the birth parent) should be the one to oversee the discipline for a couple reasons. 1. It will show solidarity with his step dad's view and I think that is a very important part of discipline at this age. 2. In this case, I think you're more likely to be fair and I think it will somewhat protect his relationship (wherever that is right now) with his step dad.

Another thing we do that gives my son an outlet and helps him understand the fact that we don't randomly light fires in the house is that we always a candle at dinner and he gets to light it and he knows we always blow it out when we're done eating.

Also, a trip to your local fire station might be a good idea. Some towns have programs where the kids get to spend a day there. This can do a couple of things - it might "spark" an interest in being a fireman and it will re-enforce the severe risks of "playing with matches".

2 moms found this helpful

First, good for you for seeking advice and not just going straight to the discipline, though obviously that has to happen. It's also very intuitive for you to recognize that he could be covering up "other smells". I had a problem with my step-son when he was 5 after my first son was born. He began to try to set everything on fire that he could, including the living room curtains that were flame retardent thank heavens. I sought help from my local fire dept. They offered to work with him and had him come up there once or twice a week and talked to him and explained fires, how they start, the damage they do - planned and unplanned, and showed him tons of pictures. This took care of the problem. With your son being older, they might well have some type of program that he could be involved in that might satisfy his natural curiousity of fire while helping him also learn to be respectful of it and not play around with it. Also, I'm a middle school teacher. I would highly suggest that you speak to your school counselors to find out if there are ways they can help your son, talking to him to find out what the root of the problem is - there could be issues at school, as well as some likelihood of some jealousy of the younger children getting to stay home with mom all day, that could be contributing to his anger. At the very least they can recommend you to some additional resources that might help. The main thing is that you can't allow him to put anybody in danger. Appropriate discipline is good - think about whatever natural consequences such as not being allowed to be left alone, bedroom door must be kept open at all times, etc....Teens value their privacy so much, but if they choose to violate your trust, then they are also choosing some consequences that they don't have to agree with. Another good parentng website for helping you through is Love and Logic. Good luck!

You have gotten some good advise to ponder. While doing that please also consider your husband and son attending counseling together. REASON: You (estrogen) are trying to tell Testosterone(hubbie) how to raise testosterone (son). If they already have a bad relationship, good counseling will bring out ways to cope and connect. Don't think "Step-", think relationship - authority figure - family - future character.

Counseling will help in the 2 of you coming to realize differences are not wrong, but you have a need to balance each other, and to be respectful of each other to be effective in training your children to be adults.

Dear G.,
I can feel your pain. My son is now 22, but he definitely had an affinity for fire from a young age. It is very natural for boys to be curious (I'm not sure why this doesn't seem to be an issue for most girls) about fire. My ex is the Assistant Fire Chief in a nearby town and has always had a thing for fire. That certainly didn't help my son's curiosity about it. My son was constantly getting in trouble for burning small things like paper, matches, candles, etc. when he thought no one would catch him. He just loved to watch it. I'm convinced there is a little pyromaniac in all firefighters, because it was such an issue for so many of them when they were little.

My advice to you is be vigilant about watching him. Talk to him about the effects of if it gets out of hand. My dad fell in a fire when he was 5 years old. His hands were scarred the rest of his life. A friend of mine accidentally caught a large field on fire when he was a teenager and it ended up costing their family alot of money by the damage it caused to a building it burned down, that did not belong to them. Rent the movie "A Home of Our Own" with Kathy Bates. It's about a very poor family. The son accidentally catches the house on fire and they lose everything. Take him to a hospital and introduce him to burned children who were curious about fire. I did a few of these things, but mainly had his dad and the fire dept. talk to him. It helped, but he's still got the fascination. However, he no longer burns things now. Good luck. I know this is worrisome! B.

I would take him to the fire station or maybe call up there and explain the situation. They could probably give you some ideas or even show him what could happen.
Hope that helps.

Mary B's advice about giving him an outlet for his pyro activities is a good idea. My brother went through a pyro phase as a teenager (he too was in scouts), but eventually he grew out of it. Well...maybe not. He's 30, but is a grilling and meat smoking fan. :)

If he started a fire in the house, there should definitely be some punishment. But, since nothing was damaged (as it would seem in your post), I wouldn't go down on him too hard. Just be clear on what will happen if he decides to do that again. Maybe what he was burning is something he either wanted to keep from you or something that made him angry. Does he like any girls at school? Could it have been a note from a girl that made him mad? If I were you, I would tell him that as long as it's not something you're supposed to see (like a report card), he's welcome to burn his papers, but ONLY in small quantities in the fire place with the flue open. He definitely shouldn't burn papers outside in a breeze, because the smoldering pieces could blow away and set the grass or leaves on fire.

call your local fire department and explain it to them.
they have films and photos of fries as well as stores on what an happen if you play with fire. they a and will teach him the dangers of fire. maybe go to a hospital that has a burn unit and let him see for his self what fire an do. I was burned bad by a fire on my left leg. they can very easily get out of control . get him books about being a fireman, maybe he is just interested in becoming one. maybe it's the little boy in him of dreaming of becoming a fireman. i wish you and him good luck on finding the cause of all this.

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