Were We Too Hard on Him?

Updated on November 01, 2008
K.I. asks from Spokane, WA
53 answers

Hello ladies..
I have a question about punishment...We grounded our 16 1/2 yr old this weekend for 1 month, that's 4 weekends (we share custody and only have weekends). We picked him up on friday and he asked if he could spend the night at his friends house on Sat. We were in the kitchen and his father and I told him that yes he could go but he had to watch the lil' kids for us first while we did big grocery shopping. I get off work at 12:30pm and we said that we would be home by 3:30 and then he could go. That was the whole conversation. He has gone to this friends house before for sleepovers and this kid lives even further out of town then our son. It [email protected]____.com get there. Each parent usually drives one way. After we told Jake he could go he said he would go and tell his friend. On Sat. we left him in charge of the lil' kids ages 5 & 3. Our 13 yr old stepson was there along with my 12 yr old nephew also. We came home at 3:10 and he was gone... at first I thought the other boys were joking because thats not like him but he left, no note no nothing. I called his friends house and left a message and around 10pm after not recieving a call I e-mailed him and told him he was busted and to call us. Within minutes he called and seeing how we hadnt even talked about how or when he was getting home his dad and him made the arrangements (I was tempted to drive out and pick him up then and there but reconsidered) His excuse was he thought the older boys could handle the babysitting and his friends mom offered to come and get him. My question is ...Do you think 1 month no going out/having friends over, no computer/phone is fair? I am a bit of a softy and as soon as he said he was sorry I was over being angry at him. I definetly wont cave in and let him off the hook I am just wondering about what all you ladies think is fair. I would like to add that he is a good kid,although he has a problem with following orders like instructed. I know the lil' kids were safe but we only started using Jake as a babysitter at 15. Thats the age we chose as a family as appropriate to babysit for any length of time. I would appreciate any input. Thanks

K.

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So What Happened?

Thank you all for your responses! After reading them all I feel comfortable with our decision.I would like to add as always I am a bit stunned by some suggestions, it is amazing how many different parenting styles there are. Really makes you think about how some kids grow up to be productive members of society and others are straight up hoodlems! To clear up a few things his father and I do communicate (they are his kids) it is their mother that they live with during the week and no they will not be punished at her house as well. For that I am grateful I would not want to punish him here with us for something he did over there. We definetly didnt "punish him so harshly because we were made at his mother" that is not AT ALL how we roll around here. I also will NOT be telling him I punished him in anger and then ask him what he thinks his punishment should be...AS IF! He wasnt punished out of anger his father and I discussed it at length(we had all night and into the next day)and this is what we agreed upon! Our thinking on taking away the phone/computer was, that is how he communicates with friends and that is what he was being grounded from, putting his need /want to be with friends above the needs/wants of the family! Also to the person who said that boys shouldn't be babysitters...That is all we have in this family is boys and they are overall responsible each and everyone of them including Jake, he just made a poor choice this time around I wouldn't say that he is incapable of being a good babysitter. I also would like to say that my stepsons and I have a great relationship I have been in their lives since they were 2 and 5. I am proud to say we have an open relationship and they can and do talk to me about everything, I think it was kinda unfair for those of you to assume that just because he did something wrong that must mean our relationship isnt that good, he is a kid for heavens sake they all make mistakes at some time! One last thing a couple of you made mention that for the sake of our relationship I shouldnt have them watch the younger kids because they might feel used, that to me is nonsense..They are part of our family and will be treated no differently just because we share custody. This is not a new arrangement by the way, our custody agrement has been in effect for 11 years. Please know that even if I dont agree with all the advice I was given I love it here and think we all learn something everytime we post questions!

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D.C.

answers from Medford on

I think it's totally reasonable. You've got to set the precedence now. He did not respect the deal you made with him and he made a decision with regards to the welfare of the smaller children without consulting you first. One month is more than fair...I also think no phone/computer/friends and allowance is fair.
Good job mom!

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M.J.

answers from Spokane on

As a mom of two teenage girls, I think that is reasonable. What I learned in counseling with my girls is two weeks is the max you ground a kid. After that they don't care and are more likely to just say screw it and act out. Considering his punishment is only on weekends, I think it is fair enough.

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S.V.

answers from Portland on

Personally, I do not think you were too hard on him, but it seems as if the bigger issue might be the message he receives, should his previously assigned consequence be removed and/or lightened because he apologizes. Good luck, in whatever you choose to do.

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M.P.

answers from Portland on

If this is not a pattern for your step-son, then I think 4 weeks with no friends, computer and phone is harsh. Removing any one of those seems more reasonable to me.

You say he's a good kid but that he has "difficulty following orders like instructed." Does he have any input into his life at your house? At 16 he should be having some responsibility in making decisions so that he can learn how to make good decisions.

Did he know that 15 was your choice for the age to be able to babysit? If you haven't talked about the age of 15 for babysitting then he may have not thought of it. Did the kids left behind know where he went? If they told you then I understand the lack of a note or phone call.

I think he probably make a good choice for the welfare of the children. but since you told him to babysit until you returned he made a poor choice to leave. Did you sense that he was trying to pull one over on you? Could this incident just be one of a thoughtless choice?

Yes, he should be disciplined but I think 4 weekends has the potential to discourage him from doing the right thing because he will think it's unfair and be angry on the inside even if he doesn't show it on the outside.

It sounds like his father and you do not co-operate with discipline decisions? I think a more reasonable consequence would be to "ground" him from his friends and phone for a week, including the week he's with his father and the weekend he's with you. Is it possible that a part of your reason to make the discipline to be 4 weekends is related to how his father doesn't co-operate and might have been chosen in part because you were angry at him and his father.

Please note that I use the word discipline. The purpose of discipline is to teach the child the importance of self-discipline. Punishment, to me, means something done to the child. Punishment is meted out by the authority without discussion with the child about his behavior. I think punishment lets the child off the hook. He serves his time and is free to do what he wants as long as he accepts his punishment. Discipline is teaching a lesson so that the child knows how to act better after the discipline is completed.

If leaving the children is not a pattern and he were my son, I would talk with him about the reasons that doing so was inappropriate. Tell him you agree that the younger children were OK but that he should have asked your permission before leaving. Ask him what he was thinking at the time he made the decision to leave. Talk with him. Not at him. And not in anger. When I've been angry I tell my grandchildren that I will talk with them about the consequences when I've cooled down. This is effective not only because I've had time to think it thru but it also causes them to have more time to be worried about the consequences which is in itself a consequence.

I picked up on the phrase following orders. I believe it's important to respect the child as having the ability to respond to my requests without giving orders. Giving orders is a last resort when the child is not willing to co-operate. Most kids resent orders because it takes away their independence and ability to participate in making decisions affecting them. So I would ask your son to watch the kids. I would praise him every time he does what you ask. I would enlist his co-operation instead of ordering him to do something.

When my daughter is tired and/or upset about something she will order her kids to do things. They respond slowly if at all. When she asks them to do something they usually quickly do it. Not always. Kids have to test boundaries to learn how to fit in their world.

If you think your son was genuinely sorry then he may not need an additional consequence. He tested the boundary, learned that he didn't like the way it turned out and was sorry. Since he has difficulty following "orders" (hopefully you don't have the same definition of orders as I do) I would give him a consequence. The first time I "ground" a kid, the consequence is light. If the misbehavior continues the consequences get more serious. Always I have a conversation, stating my feelings and concerns and allowing the kid to do the same. It's a lesson I'm teaching. Since this is the first time he's left the kids without permission I might not give a consequence if I think his sorry indicates he's learned the lesson. If he does it again, I'd ground him by not letting him go out with friends and in your situation I might make it for a couple of weeks. If he reacts negatively I might add another week, explaining that this is the consequences for not handling the first grounding appropriately. THen I'd explain what the appropriate behavior would be.

Not being able to go out is a natural consequence to going out without permission. Taking away the phone and computer makes no sense. I would have rules for using the phone and computer already and might tighten those a bit. For example if he can talk on the phone whenever he wants, I might limit the time he can spend on the phone so that he can spend more time with the family. Then make the family time enjoyable.

How do we feel when our boss orders us instead of asking us to do something. I feel like he's being authoritarian and taking away my power to decide that I will co-operate. I feel that he is not accepting that I'm a person with feelings who is more than willing to co-operate when my co-operation is appreciated. I give people a lot of praise knowing that the praise will help them to feel good about themselves and thus be more willing to be co-operative.

I'm a retired police officer. As you know a police organization is quasi-military tho it's getting to be less so in some jurisdiction. We said, "orders is orders" and did what we're told. However most of my supervisors asked me to do things, assuming I would do them. With the exception of one lieutenant I rarely received "orders." I was a part of a team who learned when I could have input and when it wasn't appropriate. Team work works best for a teenager. It appears to me that he either didn't understand that 15 was the age to babysit or he did but wanted to exercise some control over his own life. When you take away all control for a month he doesn't learn about how to be a part of a team. He learns that he must obey orders. However, because he is a teen, he will withdraw and/or act out so that he will feel that he does have some control. He's willing to accept the consequences, i.e. be grounded some more. Life becomes a subtle or open battle of wills.

Some of this especially regarding orders and asking may be based on my own biases and not on your situation. Rules are ways of having boundaries and getting co-operation especiall if the 16 yo is able to have some input into the rules concerning him. Rules are not orders.

Unless your son is usually out of line and unco-operative I think that a month, even if it's just the weekends of having no contact with friends, being banned from the phone and the computer is too harsh. Discipline should be progressive. In most jobs we first get a verbal warning, than a letter in our file, then time off without pay and finally losing our job if we continue with the same offense. Being disrespectful in different situations is the same offense. Leaving the younger kids alone more than once is the same offense. Not following the rules, that are in writing and well understood, is the same offense even tho the situations are different. Was this the first time he left the younger kids alone? Was he sorry? Does he understand that you will not tolerate that action again? Then does he really need to be grounded from friend, phone, and computer. That really seems like overkill to me.

If you want to change the consequence you can without losing your authority by explaining that you made that decision while you were angry and that now that you've thought about it you'd like to reconsider. What you decided upon reconsidering would depend a lot on his attitude. Co-operation is the goal. Learning to make appropriate decisions is the goal. By admitting your anger you will be showing him that decisions made in anger are frequently not appropriate ones.

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P.M.

answers from Portland on

I think Marda's right on. And as she says, "If you want to change the consequence, you can, without losing your authority by explaining that you made that decision while you were angry and that now that you've thought about it you'd like to reconsider. What you decided upon reconsidering would depend a lot on his attitude. Co-operation is the goal. Learning to make appropriate decisions is the goal. By admitting your anger you will be showing him that decisions made in anger are frequently not appropriate ones."

If you do think you want to reduce the consequence, I would suggest that the new outcome be a joint agreement between you, your husband, and your stepson. He knows he's done something that really torqued you out, and will probably be pretty willing to cooperate. Ask him to consider the situation from the point of view of your needs, and to explain to YOU why he thinks you are so upset about his behavior, and put it down in writing.

If you think his comprehension of your needs is good enough, and that he is in agreement that he was wrong, then ask him what he would consider reasonable consequences. This could turn out to be a revealing conversation for you all. You don't necessarily have to go along with what he suggests, but could take it into consideration.

If you don't think he appreciates your needs, spell them out calmly. That will be a longer conversation. But keep it conversational, and not let it deteriorate into a shouting match. Or a top-down power struggle. As Marda discusses, that could do damage to your relationship with your stepson and actually reduce the respect he has for you.

Good luck - these are such tricky years.

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J.C.

answers from Seattle on

No, you're not too hard- the two boys he left little children with are TOO YOUNG to have that responsibility- and he could have called you and asked, right?? He didn't because - quite likely- he KNEW you'd say no. Let's say something had happened- the two boys would have been as damaged as the little ones- they would have felt 'bad and wrong' for letting something happen that they are too young to be in charge of. Your family rule is logical- sensible and kind. He was thoughtless, self- indulgent and foolish. Not bad and wrong- but very close and he was IN CHARGE.

I think the most flex you might consider is that if he shows remorse and accepts the consequences without tantrum or sulking - the last weekend he could have friends over UNDER YOUR SUPERVISION. No , he blew it and there needs to be a major outcome -- for his sake. It's hard and we don't apply consequences becasue we are angry but becasue this is the ''adult'' in a few years who will be under WAY more serious consequences from the wide world.

Blessings, K. --

J. aka old Mom

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E.L.

answers from Seattle on

He is old enough to understand that he has to take the consequences that come with making a choice. You set the parameters for his staying at a friends house, he agreed. He didn't follow through on his end and so your offer should have been void --now he has to suffer the punishment for a poor decision.

You don't get paid if you don't do your job.

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T.D.

answers from Spokane on

Hey K.,

I might be a little late, but no I do not think you were too hard on him. As parents(step or whatever label people like to use)we know our kids better than anyone on earth. As a mother our intuition solidifies our knowledge of our children. I might have restricted other things based on my knowledge of my child. There is no generalizations with teenagers and kids. As a matter of fact most teenagers develop an understanding of cause and effect from consequences applied from parents. I can see that you and your husband are unified and supportive in you parenting from the time and rational consideration you both used to decide the proper discipline for your son. Further you can almost surely note that this same application of discipline might very well not work on his siblings for no other reason than their individualism. So in sum, trust yourself, you are the greatest expert on your children. Discipline is love. Only a person blinded by ignorance would refuse to discipline, guide, and teach their child about what is right and wrong. Also many people assume that when a family involves a nontraditional parenting dynamic there is some sort of dysfunction in the family. Nothing is further from the truth. I think that this type of limited thinking is responsible for some of the comments made. It was very dignified for you to take the position that you chose in response to some of the comments made. That encouraged me, because I am daily trying to master the ability not to retaliate when someone wrongs me. KUDOS! HATS OFF! Anyway I think that seeking advise is very wise. However taking all advice is not. But it seems like you already know that. I personally would assign him to babysitting for a few consecutive weekends and explain that as a BROTHER (no halves and steps added to that)he is obligated to love and care for his siblings and the same is true for them. That is what families do, at least healthy ones. In addition he has responsibilities to his parents as well. The breakdown of trust can happen in a moment and take immeasurable time to rebuild. That is a lesson some adults have yet to learn.

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K.G.

answers from Portland on

I would not back off on the punishment at all. He is only grounded on the weekends and 4 of them will not ruin his life. I bet that during the week he is still seeing his friends, calling then, and chatting on the computer.
He was wrong and you need to look at why did he up and not follow your rules out of the blue, is he heading down a path that is not good for him. If you back down now then he will know that you might always back down.
My step son turned to a life of crime because he never learned the consequence rule and he is still more pissed at getting caught then actually doing anything wrong. If you can ensure your step son keeps his conscience about things then you should be fine but make sure he is sincere in his apology and that it was because he did something wrong, not that he got caught. The fact that no one answered the phone at his friends house at 10pm makes it sound fishy to me and that they might have been some place they shouldn't have been, when he did call after the text was it from his friend's number? Where were his friends parents to not answer the phone either?
You are at a very tricky age that can go either way, I tend to lean towards the untrusting side because I was burned by two step kids that I did not have a hand is raising and they had been on a long distance relationship with their dad since turning 6 and 7 so he really didn't raise them either. One was crime and the other drugs and let me tell you my step kids are smart and nice when they need to be but they are going to do what they want pretty much no matter what.
I wish you luck wih this, it is a tough spot to be in.

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J.S.

answers from Eugene on

My best advice is when taking away/grounding a child you need to give them a sense of control on how to earn it back etc. If you are so harsh over something like this, you really back yourself in a corner when he really needs to be punished and yet there is nothing left to take away from him, at that point he says who cares, I am going to do "A" anyway because I am already in so much trouble what else can they do. For me there have been times when I have grounded my daughter (15) for a long period while I was angry, but then later I will talk to her about what the real issue is, and then give her the option of earning her way out of being grounded usually by doing extra chores around the house. She does see a counselor on occasion for her ADHD and he recommends this style too. Hope that helps.

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H.G.

answers from Portland on

No, you are not being to hard on him. Stick to your guns or he will learn if he seems sincere enough he can always get consequences reduced.
Explain to him that it is not his job to decide if the younger two boys could handle the little ones, you waited until he was 15 to have him babysit. He is not old enough to make that decision for you.
I also know he did not comunicate with you the details, he is using the divide and conquere method.
Even if he is truely sorry he needs to know you mean what you say, and learn there are real consequences for bad choices.
If you don't teach him now to make good decisions, how will life be for him in a year and a half when he turns 18 and wants his freedom. The consequenses for adults are usually worse because peolpe figure he is 18 and legally accountable under the law and don't have that he's just a kid mentality when he messes up.

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J.J.

answers from Seattle on

I absolutely do not think that the punishment is too harsh. I don't think that something less harsh would have been bad either, but I don't think that what you set is out of line. Because of that, I do think that now that you have set the consequences, you shouldn't go back on it. I do not have teens (yet), but I have worked with teens in a juvenile deliquency setting. It's so important to learn that there are consequences to your actions and that people need to know that they can count on you and your word. Not only were you and your husband counting on him, but so were your younger kids. I think that it is great that he was apologetic, but he is also reaching the age where he could be hired for a job. In the workforce, showing up late, leaving early and not notifying your employer as to why you have disapeared is not something that is tolerated. Good for you for building his character and preparing him for the real world. It's good that you are no longer angry with him and it sounds like all around he is a good kid. Hopefully he can see how much you and your husband respect and trust him to leave your younger kids with him and that you truly love him but were just disappointed in his lack of judgement. Consequences are consequences.

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M.M.

answers from Seattle on

Wooo Hoo! Good for you. First for making the decision you made in his punishment. Second for publishing what you thought of peoples responses. God bless you. I hope that your son (stepson) learns a good lesson from this. Sounds like you guys are doing a great job.

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S.D.

answers from Seattle on

K., I DO think the punishment was fair. The only thing I think you MIGHT be able to ease up on without losing credibility is the phone and computer, or maybe just the phone. Limit it, but it's still a small window to the outside world. IF our son did something like this (with ot without good or bad intentions) that sounds like the same kind of punishment he would receive from us. Small children are a very big responsibility and if Mom and Dad said, YOU do it, then the 16 year old doesn't get to decide that the 12 nd 13 year old would do just as good a job. If you'd wanted to leave your little ones with a 12 year old, you would have. You say your 16 year old is a good kid, and I have no doubt of that, this will only keep him on the right path to being a good, or even better kid...responsibility and accountability build even better character. Good luck.

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C.R.

answers from Seattle on

Hi!!

I'll keep this short and sweet--you did the right thing! Your son needs to know that what he did was inappropriate. He disrespected your family rules and selfishly put himself before the needs of his younger siblings. You didn't leave him there for the day, or weeks, just a few hours and then he had your permission to leave.

You're not only grounding him for leaving but for not listening, for not calling, and for not sticking to the agreed upon plan.

Good luck. And it's only one month. He'll live and hopefully next time he won't make the same mistake.

C.

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L.D.

answers from Medford on

The hardest part of punishing a child for a wrong behavior is finding the punishment appropriate and relevant to the wrong behavior. Getting him that night would have been the 1st step of cause and effect. since that is not how it played out, you cant let your "softie" ways get the best of you! He needs to understand what he did was WRONG and DANGEROUS and DISRESPECTFUL. Stick it out. Remind him of why he is grounded if by weekend 3 he forgets. Discuss it again and again. When i was at a friends and her 13 yo step son and 4 yo son went to walk the dog, and the 4 yo came back Alone and Crying we nearly lost it. The importance of teaching a teen about care of little ones is HUGE!
good luck

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L.L.

answers from Seattle on

I think your punishment is 100% reasonable. Kids must learn that there are consequences for their actions. Several other people sugessted that your son was trying to "do you a favor" by saving you the trip to deliver him to his friends' house. However, if that was the case I would think he would have called you or left a note. This was a flake moment and it could have had horrible consequences that could have never been "undone". I think that through the 4 weekends, you need to reiderate the reason for the grounding when your son asks to be released from his punishment (because he will ask). I wuld focus on the fact that he put his friends before his responsibilities and therefore needs to take a break from his friends so he can re-evaluate his decision making paradiam.

Furthermore, I must congradulate you on your thoughtful, responsible parenting! We need more parents like you in this world. There is a reason kids are confused when the cops won't bend the rules for them . . . they are used to mommy and daddy giving in just this once, so they expect law enforcement to do the same. Our soceity is crumbing due to weak, feel-good parenting and I love seeing a strong parent!!

PS- I do not have teenagers of my own, but I saw this both in my own high school and 100 times over as a middle school teacher. Keep up the good work!

PSS- If he cops an attitude 1/2 way though the "grounding," manual labor worked well to stop grumbling among myself and my brothers :)

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J.S.

answers from Seattle on

I think you made the right decision, its not a matter of what he thought what was ok. or any other person's opinion for that matter, it's what you said and he agreed to that is important. The only parental decision that he should have made while he was in charge was babysitting related decisions. You are the parent, and you did just fine.
Think of it this way, for those poor decision makers in your household; they are all observing your eldest decision and consequences. All of them including your eldest will think twice before making a move like that in the future, or any other "crimes". :)

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S.H.

answers from Seattle on

Ok, so I happen to agree with you. Kids are going to make stupid choices even when they think them through because they lack the experience to make sound judgement sometimes. The only way to make the point that is was a poor choice is to give them an appropriate consequence. I like that his consequence is 1- only instated while he is with you and 2- suitable, since he chose to be with his friend instead of doing what he was asked to do for the family. Since you only have him on weekends, 4 weekends of being grounded from contact with friends is not too much. Besides, he's 16. He needs to know that as we get older, sometimes we have a bigger price to pay for our mistakes because we should know better in the first place. This was a major thing. He abandoned his responsibitly for selfish reasons and left a younger, less experienced kid in charge of the little ones. It would be one thing if he had the presence of mind to call you and ask you if he could leave a bit early, but he didn't. It was his responsibility and he should have a consequence. I'm just glad that nothing happened and that he has an opportunity to learn from this. Maybe, since he might think the punishment is harsh, he'll not make this mistake again... what do you think? I think you did the right thing!

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R.S.

answers from Portland on

I think your reaction to ground him for 4 weekends due to leaving 2 young children in charge of 2 children your family don't think are old enough to watch children is valid. He needs to feel how important the responsibility you gave him is. He was put in charge of young children and he doesn't have the right to get out of that responsibility by making a decision who he can hand the job over to because his plans changed. You would get fired from a job for leaving less skilled people in charge of your job so you could leave early and not tell the boss. He needed to call and ask you if it was ok.
You could let him stew in his grounding for a few weekends and then give him the opportunity to work to get out of the last 2 by giving him a chance to babysit the young children and act responsibly. I don't think you owe him a apology for acting in anger when you grounded him in first place. You had a right to react the way you did and show him how serious it was. You can still give him that opportunity to work it out.

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M.L.

answers from Seattle on

I absolutely don't think you were too hard on him! While he may be an otherwise good kid, this was a big screw up on his part! I think he probably knew he shouldn't do it if it took him until 10pm to let you know what was going on. He may have just been putting off facing the music. He might be sorry, but sticking with your original consequences is the best way to handle it I think! I work with the teenagers at my church, and grounding still seems to be a very effective consequence for them! Good luck!

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C.P.

answers from Seattle on

While I have not experienced this situation, I can tell you he probably got off easy compared to what would have happened in our house. I would have gone right over to his friend's house and brought him home. Not only did he explicitly disobey your instructions, he left your two young children without adequate care. It was not his decision to make that your stepson and nephew could safely and properly care for a 3 and 5 year old. I have a 13 year old stepson who wants to babysit for our almost 5 and almost 2 year olds, but there is no way I would leave him alone with them. And he is a very responsible boy. Add to that that your son's lack of communications - no note, no response to phone messages - indicates that he knew what he did was wrong.

Stick to your guns and don't question your decision. However, also use this as a teaching situation. Make sure you have some good, calm discussions with him about what happened and how things will be different next time.

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S.M.

answers from Spokane on

I don't think you were to hard on him. It was an issue of trust and responsibility. Anyway, if you have already given the punishment, I would stick with it. I think he was being a normal teenage boy, and I do think he thought it through, because he figured the other brothers could handle the babysitting (which they probably could). But the point is you asked him to do it, and he needs to follow through, or call you to ask if other arrangements can be made. He didn't communicate to you what was going on - and communication is so important!

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S.B.

answers from Seattle on

K.,

First of all, yes he should be grounded and I wouldn't back down for any reason.

Second, I would not let him babysit again. You are lucky nothing happened, but if something had your family could have been devestated. I am a big bliever that boys should not be babysitters. That is a lot of reponsibility for a boy.

Stand firm, it is not easy being a part time parent. But the stability is what he will respect from you in the future.
S.

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M.B.

answers from Seattle on

K.,

I would have been harder on him. He'd would have been grounded for at least a month and I would have taken away the Xbox or whatever video game system he uses. This is a blatant disrespect to your parental authority 9both of you), and a huge show if irresponsibility. Whatever his excuse the deal was he babysit until you got back, THEN he could go to the sleepover. He didn't live up to his end of the deal.

But, he's not mine and I think y'all did what you had to do. I'm not trying to be judgmental at all, please don't take it that way. Good for you!

Supportively,
Melissa

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K.G.

answers from Seattle on

My first thought was, if he has a phone, why didn't he make a quick call to you? At 16, that responsibliity should have been a no brainer on his part. I would really question him about how he came to decide that going was okay and why he didn't call. Based on that conversation and your feelings after, you can always change a consequence to be more appropriate. Explaining why to him would be key and be open about your feelings and they way you came to your decision. This is really how they learn to see the world outside of themselves.

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E.C.

answers from Portland on

K., first off I would like to say "Good Job You". Being a step parent myself I know its hard to discipline a teenager when the time we get isn't enough so on that note I think you you should be commended! I am blessed to have a fantastic daughter whom I have raised since she was 2 and is now 16 1/2 we mustn't forget the 1/2! Anyhoo, I think the punishment is perfect. You are just showing and or teaching him to respect authority and honor thy mother and father! I am a firm believer on kids being raised to respect their elders and be able to respect us as parents even if they don't like it. Tough our house our rules! You are raising him to be a respectable,mature,guided,disciplined boy who will show integrity! I bet he won't try to undermine the two of you again either, definately have to make a statement with the punishment for them to get it. As well don't forget to treat the other boys who stood up to the challenge of taking on his role and managing the rest of the kids and house!! Have a blessed day and hope you feel strong and reassured of your actions!

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M.C.

answers from Yakima on

No You are not to hard on him. Him babysitting was part of the deal, right? He violated the agreement and now must suffer the consequences. If he wants to do those types of things he must show that he is responsible and follow the rules. Hopefully during his grounding period it will remind him to keep up his end of the agreement and be a responsible big brother.

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J.K.

answers from Bellingham on

You were not being soft at all. Stick to the discipline!! Every teenager does something irresponsible at least once, but they need to learn from it. And, this was highly irresponsible. You had trusted him with your kids and even though they were safe, its still not good for him to not take that trust seriously.

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N.W.

answers from Eugene on

In theory, grounding a teenager for a month is not unreasonable. However, for the sake of your relationship with your two wonderful stepsons, I would avoid having them babysit their younger siblings. You don't want these great teenagers to feel used, especially since they are only with you on the weekends. It sounds like you have a house full of great kids and are really working hard to love and take care of them all. Bravo and blessings!

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L.M.

answers from Portland on

Too tough. A good rule of thumb is to not make consequences that are too hard to follow through with or really punish you as a parent. Yes, he needs to understand your expectation and have a consequence but a month it way too much.

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D.A.

answers from Portland on

I know what it is like to get upset and then gound a child or punish a child and then look back and think...was that too much. So what we do is we let them earn time back. Think of things he can do to prove himself to you and tell him he can earn a week or two back. That is the only think I can think of, otherwise you are just going to have to stick to your punishment. I always tell my husband to make sure and not overpunish and make sure the punishment fits the crime. I know it is hard when you are really upset.

Good luck in whatever you decide.
D.

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D.D.

answers from Seattle on

Whether or not you are being angry is not the issue. Punishment should be out of logic, not anger anyway. I would suggest let him fact the consequence of leaving before he was supposed to "Breaking the deal". In my opinion, the grounding should be extended to include this "deal breaker". I would also have him weed the garden, or face another consequence in addition to the one you already set that he broke.

This helps children grow up to be responsible adults.

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S.I.

answers from Seattle on

Hmmm...This is a tough one. I'm giving you my personal opinion, of course....and I don't know your situation at all...Please know I'm being respectful and non-judging here. : )

I think that a child that you only have on weekends should not be a sitter. I think it's too much responsibility and he obviously is not ready for that kind of a job. If he were ready and knew how important it truly was, he would not have left. I would probably not punish him because punishing him for something that was actually the responsibility of the adult (parents) doesn't make sense. Instead, I would not have him babysit again until he is more "mature" and truly ready and willing for that type of a responsible job. The risks are too great.

Good luck!

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N.Z.

answers from Portland on

You weren't too hard on him. He disobeyed. Never mind that the legal age to babysit and stay home alone is 11.
Both of my boys have had babysitting training. Contact the American Red Cross and find out when they offer the classes. As well as the home alone class. Prepare the younger ones so that they do know what to do.
At 16, the older boy should be more responsible and should have contacted you. Make an impression, maybe next time he'll get it.

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S.E.

answers from Portland on

Seems like a bit much for something he did thinking it was ok. Obviously he had the dilemma of thinking would you rather he saved you a ride or stayed anyway even when there were two older kids around. I can see the logic. I definitely think that since the safety of your younger children is at stake, he needs to know how serious it is. But your description makes it sound like he was sincere in simply having poor judgment (understandable for someone his age with limited experience) versus willfully disobeying you. The punishment you gave him sounds more like a "willfully disobeyed" punishment. If it really was mostly poor judgment, then he needs a teaching moment, but I would be careful of making him feel he's being unjustly punished for making the wrong decision if it wasn't clear to him what the right one is. Next time, he will know.

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T.F.

answers from Seattle on

I would say that given the situation, a month may not be to bad. You did not mention if his punishment will be held over in the other home he resides in. My brother is the step parent to two great boys. When he got married, i stressed the importance of them and the ex husband to try to get past their issues and work together when it comes to the boys. It is a split time between homes and when they got grounded from something in one home, at first it was not happening in the other home. it made the urge to extend the punishment for a longer period of time to get the point across. But in reallity it causes resentment toward one parent or the other. If it is not already happening, I would maked sure his punishment is extended into the other home. Sure in your home he has no sleep overs, friends, phone, computer but if he has these things at his dad's house, how effective is your punishment? Probably not to the extent you wanted it to be.

You had mentioned the urge to go get him, I would have probably done that. He was asked to do one thing before he could go. It was kind of the other mom to offer to get him, but it totally disrespected the conditions of his being allowed to go. He was given a responsability that he did not take seriously. You trusted him to be in charge. And he has broke that trust.

Good luck

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J.W.

answers from Seattle on

On the contrary, I think the punishment was quite light when you look at 'the what could have happens'. Jake was left in charge of several young children until 3:30 pm. He could have told his friend and his friend's Mom that he wouldn't have been able to leave until that time, if that wasn't convienent for them, then I'm sure you and your husband would have made arrangements to get him to his friend's house. Not checking in to make sure that you got home was irresponsible on his part, as he didn't know and again had left his much younger siblings by themselves with no adult supervision. No computer, no screen time of any sort (tv included), no cell phone, no texting, no time away at friends' homes, no after school activities (no games, no dances, etc.) Good things happen for good kids. You don't really know what he's allowed to do M-F when he's at his other parent's home, so I would strongly suggest that you call them and let them know what happened so they can exact their own consequences, after all, he left his brother in the lurch and responsible beyond his years. You should also let the friend's Mom know that in the future, the two of you need to talk when it comes to picking up your son or her son. Kids have a way of playing both ends against the middle. She wouldn't have taken off with him had she known what his responsibilities were and that you weren't at home. Stick to your guns, don't let up or he won't learn to respect the rules, you or his siblings' health and welfare. We know he doesn't really care about his long-term future, he's grounded.

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B.O.

answers from Portland on

A little late but....my personal opinion is that if you are going to entrust ANY teenager to the care of littles/toddlers, PLEASE send them to a childcare safety class and CPR class. It is only a few hours to take a childcare safety class, and it helps to teach awareness of potential dangers.

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A.G.

answers from Seattle on

I think the no going to friends for a month is definitely fair. He made a bad judgement in that specific area and needs the lesson driven home that he doesn't get to make decisions like that for your family. I'm not sure if the computer and phone are overboard - that would have to depend on the kind of discipline you generally use. If this is really harsh compared to what you usually do, you might consider easing up. However, if losing all priviledges for a length of time is the standard, then you are probably ok with the punishment.

It sounds like you, your husband and your son might need to sit down and have a conversation about what freedoms and responsibilities he has when he is with you.

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K.R.

answers from Portland on

Add chores and take away his allowance. A discussion or having him write a paper on responsibility wouldn't be out of line. And I think that the other mother needs a talk about how she let him get into the car with the little ones left alone.

He endangered those children and it is illegal for the "older" boys to be watching over the little ones. What baby sitting / emergency experience had they ever had? And did he think this was OK without consulting you? Aside from the danger, it was disrespectful to leave you out of the decision making process when your children are involved.

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A.W.

answers from Portland on

If you only have Jake on the weekends then a month grounding is no big deal. He won't have it during the week and one weekend isn't enough. I say rules need to be established and abided. If this has never happened before you could see how the grounding goes for 2 weekends and let him off for good behavior (if it was there). Just make sure that you sit down with Jake and explain what he did wrong, what is expected and also let him know that you love him!

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J.B.

answers from Seattle on

It does seem like a bit much -- maybe four weeks without friends, but he can earn back two weeks of computer by good behavior. You're absolutely right in punishing him strictly though. You gave him direct and generous instructions, and he ran out on them. He is old enough to understand your reasons, but he's not old enough to call the shots, and he needs to understand that even though he's almost an adult, you are still his parents.

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N.B.

answers from Portland on

Hello, K.! As a mom and stepmom myself and having dealt with similar situations with my step-daughter, I thought I'd give you my take. (My step-daughter is 15 years older than my son and almost 18 years older than my daughter) I think 4 weekends is a bit harsh. Yes, what he did was to make the wrong choice but that's what kids his age do. At least his decision had taken into consideration the care of the kids. Kids just really want to think they are little adults and can make decisions on their own. I am in no way condoning his actions, they were definatly deserving of reprimand and punishment. But what you don't want is 1)him becoming resentful of the little kids he has to watch or 2)Be afraid to make decisions on his own or be afraid to tell you when he's made a mistake. I think if you and your husband both agree 4 weekends is to much there's no "giving in" by explaining to your son that everyone makes mistakes and that's ok, that's how you learn. Explain to him why you were so upset with his choice (ie "you didn't do what you were told, it's not really safe to leave the kids in the care of other kids under 15," etc) Then you can tell him you've talked it over and you think that you may have over-reacted with the 4 weekends due to your being upset (hey, parents make mistakes too) and revise his punishment. Advice him of how he could better have handled the situation (something like, Jake, you should have called us or waited until we got home to discuss this with you. We have to communicate with eachother and it's very important we know where you are and what's going on. You didn't even leave a note" etc) Let him talk too. Discussion opens doors, the riot act closes them. Here's another reason I think it might be too harsh- if he does something else (either within those 4 weeks or after) you have only up to go. Then what's left after you've taken everything away? I might say no friends houses or one or two priveleges for an alloted time, or you could pick one big one he has to earn back with no time limit. (ie no friends over or going over there until you've earned back that privilage) My husband used to ground my step-daughter from EVERYTHING for a month when she did something, then there was nothing else to use as leverage or to teach a lesson! Over the years we learned a lot! We had specific rules like call us when you get there. If she didn't she had to come home from wherever she was once she finally did remember to call or we got ahold of her. No other punishment, just having to leave the party, friends house, social event, etc was punishment enough. The punishment must fit the crime. Ask yourself, does this one act of teenage stupidity deserve 4 weeks of punishment with all those privalages taken away or would another route be better suited? You said it was very unlike him to do this so maybe he should get a warning-"if something like this happens again this will be taken away" or whatnot. I really think kids just want to have our respect and for us to see them as the young people they are, not the kids we see them as. I hope this helps, I know how hard it is to be a step-mom (my stepdaughter lived with us full time, and let me tell you, we had our share of rough times-but some really great ones too!) I'm sure things will work out. I'd love to hear about what you decide to do and how it works out! Good luck and God bless! N. B

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P.G.

answers from Seattle on

No. You were not too hard on him. I'm a retired middle school teacher of 30 years, and while many things are negotiable -- some are not. Hard and fast rules have to do with safety; and not just of the siblings that were left alone, but of himself as well. You are doing a great job of being loving and supporting (and there are many opportunities as he spends 4 good long weekends in your company) so keep that up. Use the time to have dialog with him; keep explaining that decisions are made based on keeping him safe, with considerations thrown in based on his maturity and dependability. It sounds like a good blended family, and believe me, those are not the easiest things to maintain. Stick with it, and good luck. Penny Gonzales

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C.J.

answers from Eugene on

It does sound a bit harsh of a punishment. However, if anything had happened to your little ones, things could have been much worse. Perhaps you could keep the grounding in force, but allow your son to earn some privileges back, like phone and computer, by being responsible in babysitting over the next few weeks. He needs to understand the importance of being responsible for little ones, even if the 13 and 12 year olds are capable of caring for little children.

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L.L.

answers from Seattle on

I think you were absolutely right to punish him like that! He will never learn that it is not okay if he isn't punished. He was in charge of little children. The punishment is fair!. Now, if for some reason he had been in charge of say, the older two for some odd reason and pulled that, I think it might be a bit harsh, but assuming that the other two boys were okay to just watch the little ones is irresponsible and a month of being grounded should teach him just that.

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D.S.

answers from Seattle on

I think four weekends seems like a lot. But I think now that you have made that the punishment, you should stick to it.

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J.J.

answers from Bellingham on

Hey just a note.. I'm on the flip side.. I have my daughter during the week and her dad has her weekends. What we discoverd is that she does her "bad behaviors" on thurday or Friday knowing that she is going to dad's house and by monday mom will have forgoten all about it..
So we decided together that if she is grounded at my house.. it caries over to dad's house etc. This way she sees that we are unified even though we have seperate houses.
It is also a way for the punishment to not be a burden to mom/dad in the coming weeks if the punishment is only carried out for a couple days/week.. cause remember your stepson is a teenager and is smart enough to make this dificult for you by being "depressed, bored, moody" (that was my personal trick at that age ;P )I would be careful in that week 3 or 4 he will try to do this to get out of being grounded.
PS my daughter is 9 and we have been doing this for 7 years.
Good luck!

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S.S.

answers from Seattle on

A month does sound like a long time for what sounds like a first-time offence. Perhaps you could sit down with him and his father and discuss why he did this and how you will make sure that he doesn't do it again, etc. And then maybe you can tell him that you and his father have discussed it and have decided that two weeks would suffice. That said, however, you know him best... But I would reserve a month-long punishment for something a little worse (god forbid) than skipping out on his babysitting duties early! Also, if this is a good friend that he will be hanging out with regularly, perhaps you could discuss with the friend's mother that she should always check with you first before offering to pick him up, etc. That part does sound a bit fishy, as I don't think I would offer to pick up my son's friend without first checking with his parents. Are you sure the mother actually picked him up and that this wasn't part of a bigger fabrication? Just a thought...

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M.S.

answers from Seattle on

The reason your son is a good boy is because your set in your rules and consistant.He left two little boys in charge of small children and your right to disipline him.And remember, disipline without anger is the best kind.Keep up the good parenting.

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B.M.

answers from Portland on

I would think what is important here is that you only have him on the weekends. That means, that every weekend you have him for the next month... is punishment. I wouldn't say you were "too hard", I would just think about what that means. We have had this issue in our house as well. My husband has wanted to ground my son for a week, but he goes to his dad's that weekend. I don't agree with the grounding picking up when he gets back. I think that gives him nothing to look foward to other than "I get to go home to punishment". It's likea prisoner getting a day pass!
I feel the punishment should fit the crime more... all four of our children have had a hard time doing what they are asked lately, and a few of them have had a hard time respecting us as parents. My husband wanted to ground them for a week or two... but I don't think that will do anything. I think after a week or two they aren't going to have a clue what they got grounded for! I like it to sting right away so they remember it. So... all of them having an assignment. They have to look up the 5th commandment in the bible and write it (25-50 times, depending on age), and look up the definition of the words in it that they don't understand, and write them. Once that is done, they have to write a paragraph explaining how it pertains to their behavior.

L.U.

answers from Seattle on

HI K. - I was reading through your responses, and one of them made me pause, so I didn't even read the rest.
I am the oldest of 5, I have 4 younger brothers. woah. Anyways, my parents left me with the boys all the time, and I really started to resent it. SO, they decided to leave my brother (who was 15 or so) with my younger brothers (the last two, who were 3 and 5 maybe?). I had a concert (Band, I am a geek. :) ) and when I got home who did I see running around at the end of our block?? My little brothers. Where was the brother that was supposed to be in charge? At a friends house. What happened? He stopped babysitting because he wasn't "responsable". Who ended up babysitting all the time again? ME!! He knew that if he acted irresponsably he would not have to babysit again. He also would do that with chores and household duties. He would do a crappy job so it would just have to be done again, and then my mother would just throw her hands up in exsasperation and shout "NEVER MIND, I'LL DO IT!!" He totally had her figured out! Don't let him manipulate you.
I don't think you were to harsh at all....I personally would have gone over to his friends house and dragged his sorry behind back home, he would be doing chores ALL DAY (on one of his days at my house) and the other day he would not get to do a damn thing (no tv, no phone, no ipod, no video games, no computer...nothing). He could read a book, or do homework, or play with his younger siblings. FOR A MONTH! He's lucky nothing happened to the younger kids. How could he live with that for the rest of his life.
I would talk with him about that. Absolutely about how he lied, didn't leave a note, but also about the risk he put the children at.
You did the right thing, it was definetly NOT to harsh, stick to your guns...L.

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