D.W. asks from Grain Valley, MO on October 19, 2006
My Teenager Wants to Be Gone All the Time - How Much Is Too Much?
My son is 14 and I can't seem to keep him at home. I don't want to be a bummer of a mom but I also worry that he is still too young to be gone so much. If I didn't stop him he would be gone every day after school and I wouldn't see him until bed time. I am uncomfortable with this. I have asked him multiple times if there is a problem, he says no. I cannot imagine anything at home is bothering him but I asked anyway in case I was missing something...it happens. He still says nothing wrong, just wants to hang out with his buds. This is very new to me and maybe I'm just not used to it and not ready to cut those purse strings just yet. We moved here just a little over a year ago and where we lived before he was basically home all the time, he didn't really have a social life at all. A couple of friends he hung out with here & there but not often. Now here it seems like he has more to do then there is time in the day. I am happy that he has made friends and I am thrilled that he seems to be fitting in so well but.....I just don't know. Am I out of line to expect him to stay at home at least a couple of nights a week and to be home for supper every night? Help me out guys...how much is too much and am I going overboard? I'm going to add a little more info based on the response I received which I appreciate :) I do know the other kids and have met their parents and I know that he is in one of four places. I know where they all are and it's not far. His school work is great...I have online access to all his assignments and grades as well as any teacher comments. His dad and I always try to parent together but I have to admit I think they listen to Dad a little more than me but he's definitely involved.
So What Happened?™
Wow...all the responses were great!! Thanks to you all :) Well we had a chat this weekend and I explained my feelings. He was very receptive to it all and in fact Friday night asked to go to the football game at school and wanted to know if I would drive him and his friends. Of course!! I was happy he asked. Prior to leaving they came over to the house and hung out before we left then I went and picked them up afterwards. He stayed in all weekend until last night he left for about an hour to go play pool at a friends house up the street. I told him I expected him to be home for supper if he is gone which is NOT going to be everyday and that if he wanted he could invite his friends over to our house too and I would make sure his sister left them alone..lol We do have a second living room/family room downstairs that should have all they need to stay entertained so I offered that up when I told him they could come there. He seemed to understand and I don't think we're going to have too much trouble...I hope ;) He's a pretty good kid and at this point I do trust him..at least as far as you can trust a teenager. He's very good about telling me where he is and knows he better answer that cell phone if I call. So..with some of your suggestions and my own thoughts I think we have got this under control for now. I'm a little snoopy on the computer too so that helps keep me informed about him & his friends and some of what they're doing and talking about. I do respect his privacy as much as I can but I also feel like sometimes parents have to make a point to be informed whether the kids offer it up or not. Anyway..thanks again for all your input.
S.L. answers from Kansas City on October 19, 2006
This is all so personal. I for one feel very strongly that kids should be in the constant presence of an adult. I wouldn't even consider allowing my kids to walk anyplace, hang at the mall, or hang out at someones house without an adult.
Consequently, I've spent a LOT of time being the club mom so to speak. I've done my best to allow my kids to have friends over, take them to the mall, the beach (when we lived in San Diego) and anything else that's appropriate. I've only allowed my kids to go to other people's houses when they believe in the same values we do. I've also allowed the kids to be involved in church activities.
I believe that kids need parental supervision and attention even more as teenagers than they do when they are young. When they are young they actually want our attention. When the become teens they crave and desire indepenence. Unfortunately, that independence can come at a very high price. In our day the most we had to worry about was a pregnancy or a std that was easily treated. Now kids can die and or give birth to babies with AIDS.
Kids will act as if we are completely suffocating them. If we don't protect them and guide them though, they will resent us and feel unloved.
Another thing, get to know these kids. Sometimes the connections are just bad for our kids.
For instance.. My daughter has a boyfriend that I'm unhappy with. I won't tell her she can't see him at all. That's just begging for her to run off and do something stupid. But, I spend a LOT of time with them. I see him treating her badly and I tell her and him both when I see things that indicate the relationship is not healthy. Last night we were supposed to go out to dinner together. He kept calling her in the afternoon and yelling at her because we were running later than he wanted. I called off the evening. I told them both that he was behaving abusively and that I wouldn't allow them to see each other last night.
Ultimately, you have to decide how involved your willing to be in your child's life. Just remember you only have one shot to get this right.
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N.D. answers from Kansas City on October 20, 2006
I have a 15 yr old daughter is always gone as well. She's in NJROTC and Marching Band at school so those activities everyday then going out with her friends, she's never home. She recently lost 2 friends in a car accident last week. After this week of visitations & funerals, I've changed alot of her rules. She's no longer to get in a car with anyone under 21 regardless of what's going on. And she's spending 1/2 of her weekends at home with the family & the other half of her free time with her friends. It's a scarey thing these days with what these kids do. I honestly think my daughter has a new outlook on life after the tragic death of 2 class mates. It's even brought her closer to her younger brother. Kids need their time away from home to hang out with friends & do their own thing. But just sit down with your son & lay down some rules. Let him know that it's ok to be gone but he has to get the family time in as well. A little communication on both parts goes a long way. Good luck!!
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S.P. answers from Kansas City on October 20, 2006
For me, this is an intensely personal question. The answer depends, I think, on your answers to two sets of questions. First is normal "mom" stuff, like "how much time does he need to be home for homework, sleep and family togetherness stuff"?
The second set of questions is more difficult:
1. Do you know and/or trust his friends? If not, then tell him that part of his being allowed freedom is knowing you can trust both him and the people he's out with, and tell him to bring his friends around first - maybe for dinner or just to hang out sometimes - until you get to know them.
2. Do you know where they will be hanging out? If not, you need to tell him that you always need to feel safe about where he is, and ask him to clarify this for you. If you have any doubt about the location and/or people in his hang-out, ask him if he's willing to take you there and show you, at least once! If he says "no," beware.
3. Does he always tell you where he's going, who he'll be with, and what time he'll be home? Communication is very necessary from this point onward. If you think it's bad that he wants to be gone now, just wait until he's much harder to track down because he's got wheels! Now is the time to train him to ALWAYS tell you his whereabouts.
4. Will there be grown-ups somewhere near? If they are going to a safe neighborhood park to hang, in the middle of a Saturday, that may be ok. If they are going to a ballgame or movie and will pretty much be sitting, that may be ok. But there are places you won't feel comfortable unless they're chaperoned. And there are kids (either your own or one of the friends) who are always looking for trouble, and should be chaperoned no matter what. It's your responsibility as a parent to figure out which kind of kid yours is, and your kid's friends are.
I have a great story about this! My older daughters are now 21 and 23. My younger one was never where she said she was going to be and I was constantly getting into my car to hunt her down. The older one was much more trainable - or maybe she trained me. Here is the story - you be the judge.
One Friday evening I had a dinner party with a group of friends. After the meal, the ladies were sitting in a group talking (the men were in a different group, of course), and my oldest daughter walked up to me. She was 17 at the time and had a car (her dad's old one). She said, "mom, I'm going over to so-and-so's house. We're going to hang there and talk until about ten, when so-and-so gets off work, and then we're going to head over to Coffee Plantation (a coffee shop in phoenix with a guitarist on weekends) and listen to music. I will be home around 11:30, if that's ok with you." Then she kissed me goodbye, started to walk out the door, turned around and said, "oh, yeah, I have my cell phone so you can reach me if you need to, and I will only have one other person in my car because so-and-so2 will be driving herself, so don't worry about that," and walked out the door. My friends (who also had teens) looked at me and said, "WOW. How did you train her to do that??" I laughed and said, "I think it's the other way around! She could be out prostituting for all I know - either she's perfect or she's learned how to pull the wool right over my eyes!"
By the way, my other daughter (now 21 and of course nearing perfection), was the exact opposite. Wherever she told me she was going, that was not where she went. Her friends were nice but troubled kids (as was she), and some of their parents were not even appropriate chaperones. This child got used to my pulling up to check on her whereabouts, insisting on meeting the parents of her friends, clearing out parties held in parents' absences (my daughter once marveled at how efficiently I'd cleared out a party full of kids - the girl hosting was in 8th grade and the place was full of high school boys taking advantage of an empty party spot!). She finally more or less gave in because she knew I was going to stay on top of her. Now that she's older, she's actually thanked me, but at the time, it wasn't fun for either of us. Once, when she was 17, she disappeared with her (fairly trustworthy) boyfriend for a short hike and didn't turn up for 13 hours, and didn't answer her cell phone, etc. I actually started calling hospitals. One of the ladies on the other end said, "ma'am, I'm sorry, but your daughter is not here." I laughed and said, "Don't be sorry. I don't WANT to find her in the hospital." I can laugh at all this NOW...
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Z.K. answers from Tulsa on October 20, 2006
I remember when i was 14 and my friends lived in the neighborhood. I was gone every night too. I NEVER missed family dinner though! I think there are boundaries that need to be established and I think now, before he is 16, is a good time to set them.
Here is what my boundaries were when i was his age. My mom knew my friends and parents as well. I had to be home for dinner EVERY night and I had to be home by dusk. If my butt wasn't home when those street lights came on I was grounded! I do realize it is getting dark before dinner is hardly over and I am assuming that they are hanging out at someone house. I would then set a time to be home and I would want to know exactly where he was. Who's house will he be at? I don't think that is asking too much in order for him to have his evening freedom.
I know times have changed since I was a child and kids have cell phones so they don't feel the need to tell their parents where they are because their parents can just call them if they need them, but there is a little respect issue here. Telling you where he will be and he actually being there is what it is all about! I would say to check a few times to see if he is where he says he is and if not, grounded. He needs to understand the consequences.
As long as he has good grades and is home for dinner every night and you know where he is going, he is being a healthy 14 year old boy.
One more thing, in my family we really had a sit down family dinner every night. I know a lot of families don't do that, but it was our way of staying in touch and up to date with everyone's life. I don't think 30 minutes is too much to ask out of anyone's life!
M.C. answers from Tulsa on October 20, 2006
I have a sone also who is 12. Just this year he has started leaving home to hang out with friends. I always know where he is and don't worry about him because I know he is being taken care of. But on weekends he is never home. They are out of school for Thurs and FRi this week, and he left on Wed. afternoon. His plans are to spend 2 days with one friend and then the other 2 days with another one. He gets upset if I ask him to stay home, and says nothing is wrong. He is just bored at home and there is nothing to do. We have three computers, a nintendo, a playstation 1 and 2, a game cube, and many other things, but he is always too bored to stay home. I wondered what I was doing wrong that my baby boy didn't like to be home with me until he also started giving up his weekends at his dad's to be with his friends. I think it is just a stage of being a boy,(which I don't understand because I was never a teenage boy) ha, ha. Give him time and see if it works out itself.
M.L. answers from Rockford on October 19, 2006
Maybe suggest like 1 or 2 days out of the week where u have a family night and watch movies or play games or just sit and talk about what's been going with your kids as a way to keep him at home for at least a few nights a week.
T.H. answers from Bloomington on October 20, 2006
my goodness!!! My son is 14 also.. and Wants to go out... I let him for a while over the summer.... He went to TC Buzz in town.. to see the Shows... but he got their early.. and they hung out and stuff.. I did not feel good about that.... He wants a skateboard I dont want him to have one.. I baby him... He is lucky he got out of the house as is!! but then..................
His buddys stoped by after school started.... Can Brandon hang out... I said ok just a short time.. We have the open house.. So anyway.. he had 20 min... I told them... Dont do anything dumb!!! be good.. Bye bye...
I got a call from the cops... the other 2 boys were spraypainting.. Tagging They called it... Brandon was not doing anything.. but got a 500$ find anyway.... cuz he was with them...
He knows better... Heck he is a boy scout.....
Anyway........ I did a lot of calling got his 500$ taken off.. but I have not let him out of the house with out me since!!!!
It is a hard call...
Keep them close... I am all for that.. OR you Drive him... and drop off his friends..... Just he wants a cell phone too... I wont get one....
But I was yelled at by my hubby... You are his mom... NOT his freind.... I am sorry.. He is my son... and we are sooo close!!!! I need to be his friend....
Try to get comunication going.. I am so trying.. but I also jsut started him in therapy!!
Dont know if it is helping or not yet.......
They say if you love them.. Set them free....
I just am soooo attached to him.... Gerrrrrrrr
We just dont want our kids to do the wrong thing.. Even if it is a learning thing hu!!!!
Write me if you want.. heck we can even talk...
I am in Bloomington IL...
T.W. answers from Lawton on October 27, 2006
Maybe you should sit down with your son and husband and discuss being home 3 nights a week for dinner. If it is possible for the family to get together every other weekend for some family fun. Your son is at the age were he is trying his wings a bit. He can talk with his buds about things he can't tell mom or dad. I think it is good that you know all his friends and watch to see if there is a change in his behavior, such as school and the way he treats your husband, your daughter and you. Good Luck