LPinA2mi's picture
LPinA2mi

16y boy sneaks out at night

I found out that our Son (16y) sneaked out of the house again, while I was with our eldest doing college orientation in another city. He is currently at a State U in a pre-college program. His father was home and feels betrayed, which is understandable.
This is not the first time this summer. A couple of weeks earlier, I did a bedroom tour when I awoke 4am-ish (common occurrence), as I like to see my children sleeping--especially now with our first going off to college. Unfortunately, I was shocked to see my Son's bed empty. After calling--no answer, and texting--answered promptly, I went online and activated the tracking feature available on our cell phone plan. He was in the area of our temporary neighborhood (about 10 minutes away). He was home in 20 minutes. I was shocked to see him drive up in our car, for which he does not have the proper license to drive independently. I did not believe his rendition of the facts and he smelled a little smoky and his pupils a were dilated and racy.
CONSEQUENCES = #1 a week of not going out after dinner; #2 permanent earlier morning rise time 10am; #3 permanent an hour earlier curfew (10pm)until a volunteer position (10h/wk) is secured, as paid part-time work is often filled by college students (even though he has applied to several and keeps following up)AND his former lawn cutting neighborhood jobs he did not maintain while we were out of home for nearly a year. #4 Although I had already declined to further his driver license process on account of a poor grade (the forewarned principle was that driving is a privilege granted to people mature enough. Mature enough people manage their own stuff, in which education is a part), it is now in indefinite limbo.
RESULTS = we flexed on #1, because his out of town girlfriend was returning to her home state in 4dys (she is smart, school-focused & gets our Son to study successfully (i.e. shows in test scores) with her, ambitious, kind-but not a pushover --we like her. he readily complied with the negotiated terms with grace. #2, as long as I got him up he was up. He was grumpy. #3 An excellent idea of my DH (dear husband), but will not "force" DS (dear son)to do it, so I took up enforcement, as I usually do (which gives my DH reason to support DS in accusations that I am the reason DS and I have such a terrible relationship--ironically, DS calls for me to listen to his new accomplishment on guitar and other requests and needs for things that are deeply important to him, so I think the accusation is hollow and I mostly ignore it a face-value, but use it to remind me to soften my approach to DS.) To-date, I have "forced" DS to contact 5 agencies for volunteer positions. Nothing yet has been confirmed. DS was used voice volume and accusations of varying topics to support claims that volunteering was of no value to him. #4 Still have no plans to register DS for second part of Drivers-Ed nor upgrade his permit. He has easily agreed to this.
ULTIMATELY = DS sneaked out again to be with the friend he prefers to hang (a nice boy with issues that caused him to w/draw from regular school and do online school). This time I was away--which does not often occur. Another parent of a friend of my youngest child called me yesterday, a few days after the incident. I feel that this information is reliable.
After the first incidence I spoke with his sisters, neither wants to be tattler. I support this. We agreed that it would not be tattling if they felt they anyone was endangering their life. Otherwise, DS's sisters get to remain a safe-haven. Yet, I gathered that sneaking out at night had happened in minor ways (without auto) around the temporary neighborhood for a time. I would guess less than ten but more than five, to date.
A little BACKGROUND: For nearly a year we were at temporary home on the other side of town. Here we were closer to a boy DS had met the previous summer through casual connections, but rarely saw prior to our temporary move. This boy is nice but had a troubled past causing him to w/draw from formal school in enroll into online school. My conversation with DS was, that nice boy who was straightening up deserved fresh starts, so there was no need for me to know his story. I was more watchful and sought to meet the parents earlier, than otherwise would have allowed to evolve more naturally. I aslo made sure that transportation back to our old neighborhood and friends was easy (via bike, via bus, via me driving).
It was with this nice boy with whom DS sneaked the night of the empty bed. Part of DS's and mine conversation that night, was I needed to know nice boy's story. Alcohol seems to be his demon and he was dry until recently.
We have been back in our neighborhood for a few months, but DS has flipped allegiances and hangs with nice boy more. I have heard that his neighborhood friends think that DS is not as much fun anymore. He does longboard and recreational bike less, but I sense that he is nearly as verbally biting to them as he is to me.
QUESTION = How reasonable is it for me to manage DS's friendship with troubled nice boy--say only at our home? How reasonable is it for me to encourage friendships in the neighborhood that were once close, while maintaining an even earlier curfew and possibly a smaller geographic range. DH had an excellent idea of restricting money (our children have had family chores and family allowance since age 3y). What will happen if I transfer all his own money into his college account and suspend allowance? BTW he keeps his room orderly and clean, but is slovenly about the house and is not prompt or self-directed with chores.
We reopened our drug-drinking talk. DS reiterated that he is philosophically against pharma and street drugs, but likes hooka occassionally--which he says is herbal. (I had my elder daughter (ED) educate me about hooka. Although not a drug anymore than a cigarette, legally one has to be 18y to purchase. Hence, I can prohibit hooka like I do cigarettes.) I cautioned again that marijuana, an herb, is often laced with other things, hence his "curiosity" about it should not be indulged--which is in addition to my legality argument that it is not worth the risk AND the health argument of putting only good things into his maturing body and mind AND the parental argument that he is a minor and are responsible for his well-being and we say "No." But I am not feeling assured, as I once did. DH cautions me against acting on a feeling when we have no proof.
THE BIG PICTURE = DS needs to value himself more. School is challenging (made more difficult by study poor habits, of which I am shot down by various attempts to bolster--yet his girl friend can take the same measures and get acceptance). DS needs to get better sleep, which has frequently been less than optimal since toddlerhood (wakeful), but his current habits (late night - late wake) exacerbate it. DS needs to give-up the junk food (most of it is candy and nutella), which he buys with his own money, as our home is mostly an organic, whole-food, slow-food home--but not exclusively. Each child now has at least something in pantry that is their request, such as: chips, boxed cereal, ready-to-eat meals. I have not attempted to rein this behavior; I was hoping it would burn itself out, but it has been 2yrs and I think the late night sugar hit interfers with sleep. Which is about the same time he developed acne, which I have openly turned over to DS w DH to manage, because pharma (topical or oral) without better health-habits first is a realm, within I cannot confidently operate.
Another BACKGROUND bit = Paternal grandmother was an alcoholic for nearly 20y (all of DH life growing up). I naively thought that if raised my children attentively, any hereditary factor could be countered. When I saw sugar-addiction rise in my youngest (YD) at age 6y all children went for Sensory Integration Therapy (SI) for ~4y. I learned things too and gained a few more skills. Although we all can count on a couple of tangible benefits, my children do not reflect kindly on the process. They even said it made me not as nice--when really I am just tired. The process continues even after formal SI sessions, and so YD looks like she can steer clear.
YD's case was so extreme I did not see that DS too had a lesser addiction to sugar, which now needs feeding regularly. DS processes things more as an introvert (so am I, but is much more social than I in frequency and size of social pool), he is a deep thinker, and has the ability to really set his will to desire on things that engage him. Yet, he also tends towards being blue and angry when something happens. He cannot always put it into words for me--thank goodness he plays guitar and can text up a storm to friends.
TODAY = DH wants (or fantasizes) to phone DS to tell him find his own way home from pre-college program (in Detroit)and change the locks. If he comes home, then it is an agreement he is willing to abide by family guides and expectations. I say that it is not time for tough-love.
It is time to make DS's box smaller; his behavior says he needs more supervision. DH does not want to share bed-check nor sleeping outside his door nor having DS bring sleeping bag into our room. DH had the idea of having DS join him on morning runs, but does not want make him wake-up. When DS gets back from State U, should I send him to his maternal grandparents, with the understanding he is to help his grandfather with the heavy lifting required by his part-time distributorship job? Do I inquire with my siblings (who live out-of-state), who have younger children to take DS until our family's summer vacation, when we will take him out of town?
I know how this is going to unfold: I will be the enforcer, but I need to have DH continue to think that the consequences were his idea and good ideas, otherwise he will cave and re-engineer the evolution of why I am alienating our DS.
I need the feedback of other parents to move forward confidently.



mayamay's picture
mayamay

Even though you believe the information is reliable, (and I do, too) I think that because it is hearsay, locking DS out of the house is too extreme.

LPinA2mi's picture
LPinA2mi

I heartily agree. What is the best course of action after we talk with our Son?

mayamay's picture
mayamay

The thing about locking him out sparked an idea. Here's the rational. 1.He took the car without permission, and without a license. 2.Apparently, he is a capable driver. 3,He earned some money with yardwork, right? 4.Controlling his friendships and school effort is HIS job, not yours.

Take HIS money, rekey all the cars, \ closely control the new keys. This could be very pricey, but--it's his money.
*also if he makes a copy of the new key, he will be paying for another re-keying. :D
Tell him to obtain a driver's license as quickly as possible.
Require that he pay the increase in your insurance premiums. If he doesn't have the money,call the insurance company to revoke your coverage, + call the DMV and revoke his license. (Parents can do that!)
Explain that you would prefer to know his whereabouts at all times. The only reason that he has a phone YOU pay for is to keep you in the loop. If he doesn't want you to have that convenience, that's fine, you get the phone.

mayamay's picture
mayamay

Most teenagers I know answer texts immediately, calls may never get acknowledged. It's the nature of the technology. So TEXT when you need to know where he is.

Notice that none of these steps require his cooperation, except that he obtain a driver's license. Explain that if he doesn't get a driver's license, you will report the joy-riding incident. I don't know if this is true, but I was told (40 years ago) that if you were caught driving without a license as a minor, you could not obtain a license until you became an adult.

Give him a letter with a list of what you would like to see change in his behavior. He already knows you are concerned about his effort in school and about his association with this other boy, so don't say it.
sorry, when I said don't say it I meant to say, put it in writing, then don't bring it up again.

jimrich's picture
jimrich

dear LPinA2mi
I am not a parent,but as a child, my parents, not I, broke the trust and respect that we had with their “too much/too little” style of parenting.

re: How reasonable is it for me to manage DS's friendship with troubled nice boy--say only at our home?
>> That depends on how much you trust them.

re: What will happen if I transfer all his own money into his college account and suspend allowance?
>> He’ll probably turn to mooching or stealing.

re: BTW he keeps his room orderly and clean, but is slovenly about the house and is not prompt or self-directed with chores.
>> I’d guess that’s how he was trained to get some attention (love).

As a “non-parent” there isn’t much else I would even dare offer here so just do the very best you can with what you know!
good luck,
jim (non-parent)

mayamay's picture
mayamay

Generally, kids are slovenly about everything. Several moms I know advocate a closed-door policy about bedrooms, (keep the door closed until they move out, unless you smell something) so I guess you are ahead of the game there.

I was just counseling with a neighbor family and remembered a Boys' Town procedure I learned probably 20 years ago. It was called something like 'how to respond to an order.' The process is, the authority figure gives an instruction, the child immediately acknowledges and repeats the instruction. The child decides whether to comply or to negotiate. Anything other than immediate obedience is negotiation. Upon completing the task, the child reports.

mayamay's picture
mayamay

Example 1 (compliance)
Parent: Paint a copy of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
Child: You want me to copy Michelangelo's most famous work. OK.
(Child immediately gathers materials. Sometime later)
Child: I got that painting done.

Example 2 (Negotiation)
Parent: Put the dishes away.
Child: You want me to clear the dishwasher. I'd like to finish this level on this MMOG.
Parent: How long will that take?
Child: 1/2 hour.
Parent: No, Grandma is coming before then.
Child: Can I trade chores with Sister?
Parent: It's up to her.
(sister refuses)
Child quickly exits game, clears drainer. Reports completion of task. Signs on to game again and barely acknowledges presence of Grandma. (just trying to keep it real :) )

mayamay's picture
mayamay

Example 3 (Negotiation)

Parent: Put the dishes away.
Child: You want me to clear the dishwasher. I'd like to finish this level on this MMOG.
Parent: How long will that take?
Child: 1/2 hour.
Parent: Fine.
Child plays game, then stores the clean dishes
Child: I finished my job.

Example 4 (Negotiation)

Parent: Put the dishes away.
Child: You want me to clear the dishwasher. I'd like to finish this level on this MMOG.
Parent: How long will that take?
Child: 1/2 hour.
Parent: I can't wait, but you could cook dinner tomorrow night instead.
Child chooses--game tonight + different, perhaps harder, job tomorrow or shut down game, small job tonight.

LPinA2mi's picture
LPinA2mi

#4 Sounds like my DS and I--but not as successful at getting the renegotiated job done.

LPinA2mi's picture
LPinA2mi

DS comes home from camp tomorrow. This is what DH and I have sketched and will present to DS. We typically avoid brow-beating to make a child to tell the truth. We present what we currently understand to have taken place (they can do a retelling or expansion) but if we stick to the known facts it works better. So, for sneaking out #1 DS will have a smaller box (i.e. smaller geographic area and earlier curfew/earlier wake-up). The reason is that DS is a minor and we, as parents, have the responsibility to keep him safe (among other things), so until we feel that there is more benefit in giving DS our trust than there is in providing protection. We will set some benchmarks so that DS can have a measure of control to the timeline of this directive