Amanda J's picture
Amanda J

Please Help! Almost 13 yo Son in Trouble

Today I received a call from a detective. My 13 yo son who has never had bad behavioral problems before has commited a crime. Him, along with 11 other children broke into an empty house and destroyed it by breaking doors, smashing mirrors, throwing paint on walls and carpet. I am completely devastated and don't know what to do. I am a single mother and his father is not around and will not come around. He will have to go to court and face the consequences but what do I do as a mother? I am at a loss :(



mayamay's picture
mayamay

Make the court back YOU up. Make whatever consequences the court imposes look lenient compared to what you would do if it were just up to you. Don't be emotional, be coldly furious. AND

Be delighted that he got caught. If he has anything worth selling (nice Christmas gifts, athletic equipment, technology, good used extra clothes, etc.), sell it to pay the fines, don't let him 'just work it off.' The price you'll get probably isn't sufficient for the fines, he can work, too.

All of those other kids, they might as well be on another planet. He can't speak to them, even if they are in the same class at school or church.

Tell him you are figuring out what the consequences will be at home. Make it clear that it will be TERRIBLE. After a few days, try my strategy. I don't know how you will make this work if you are at work when he is home. Do you have a relative who can (and will) enforce this for you, or is there a babysitter/parole officer type that you can hire?

I'd ground him 1 day for every $1 of damage he did. Start out with this. If the 11 of them did $11000 worth of damage, he'd be grounded for 11000 days. Then when he says he didn't do all the damage, divide it by 11, to be 'fair'. If he spends time in juvenile detention, well, that's a lot like being grounded, so that is included in the time he is grounded.

Before you freak out about grounding him for three years, let me explain.

Step one: Explain that he is grounded. Take a calendar that covers the number of years he is grounded. Make him circle each day that he is grounded. Keep a running tally, and he can circle an entire month at a time after he's done at least a couple of months one day at a time. Say he gets to the end of November, let him circle December and add 31 to the sum, circle January and add another 31. If it's 1000 days (from today), that takes you to June 24,2013. If it's 2000 days, it's March 20, 2016. and so on. Then, as he finishes that task, say something like, "Hey, you did what I asked. Let's knock 50 days off your sentence." If he has done it with good grace, say, "let's knock 20 days off your sentence, and another 50 because you did it without whining." Then direct him to x off each day individually. He doesn't get to put a line through a week or a month. x each day. I repeat, he has to x each day that he earns for good behavior. If he isn't willing to x it, then he doesn't earn it. Explain that to him.

Knocking days off the end of the sentence gives you a really cheap way to reward good behavior. It is currency that he will value. You should be completely arbitrary in the number of days you knock off.

CAUTION: don't ever add days back on. You can say something like--I'd like to knock some days off for what you just did, but I'm still ticked that you did that stupid thing this morning.

Find reasons to knock off at least a day in every respectful interaction you have.

If there is a behavior problem that he had had before, like failing to turn in homework, you can tell him that turning in his homework will get at least 1 day knocked off the sentence.

Be positive, be generous, be arbitrary and UNPREDICTABLE. It is not up to him to determine how many days something is worth--he gets no input into that. You can knock off a year for him wearing pants or drinking from a glass. You can knock off a single day for him doing all the laundry and putting it all away.

Part of the strategy is to get HIM to take the initiative to do the right thing. If you ask him to do something, and he does it, you may or may not take some time off the sentence, you may just say thank you. If he never knows what behavior will get large numbers of days knocked off, he will be motivated to be good ALL the TIME. It's okay if he brings things to your attention, too. Your goal, which you should not reveal to him, is to have him more than halfway through his grounding sentence by Halloween.

I have a friend who did this (for missing curfew, a day for every minute late and the boy was gone til 8:30 the next morning). She took off 37 days because her boy stayed awake in church!

This gives you the opportunity to turn the punishment into what it is supposed to be, a tool of discipline that helps you build a better relationship and greater trust between the two of you.

2xstepmom's picture
2xstepmom

All of the above, AND constant supervision until he earns back your trust.