Sticking to an agreement?(6 Posts)
I have a question about sticking to punishments once you've agreed them. My DH has two sons who are now 15 and 13 and we have joint custody with their BM, but they stay with us for around 70% of the time. We have had this arrangement for about 7 years and I would consider us as normal and settled a family as any as the boys accept my presence in their lives and pretty much always have. This isn't a question about step-parenting, but it's a question about how to manage teens!
Our eldest, my DSS1 (age 15) asked to go to watch the football at a friend's house last Monday and as they had a training day the next day (no school) we agreed, with the arrangement being that the friends' dad would give him a lift home straight afterwards, so he'd be home by 10:30. We didn't know the friend or his family but - in the spirit of trying to respect him and give him his independence - we were very laid back about it and trusted that he had it covered.
To cut a long story short, 10:30 came and went and we couldn't raise him on his phone. He answered texts but they were cryptic and kept switching arrangements, e.g. "I can't leave yet because his mum's just made us some food", "I'm getting a lift home but there are lots of people to drop off and I'll be the last one so I don't know what time" and finally "I'm going to be dropped off at the tram stop" (we live near to the end of the tram line in Manchester . At this last one, DH grabbed the dog and walked up to meet him, as it was now gone 11 and so the pubs were kicking out - too late for a 15 year old to be wandering around.
DH arrived at the tram stop to see DSS1 stepping off a tram. So he wasn't dropped off by the parent. On the walk back it became clear that DSS1 was V drunk - he could barely speak or walk.
To cut a long story short we sent him straight to bed because there was no point in discussing it while he was in that state but he told us that he's been in a pub and a kebab shop near the centre of Manchester and were drinking cans of lager (nowhere near he told us that the friend lived) and all the talks of lifts and mums cooking food were all lies.
He was in bed by 11:45, and half an hour later started throwing up all over his bedroom floor. We were basically racing to his room every 15-20 mins then til 3:30 with him throwing up. Every time he announced the arrival of the vomit by calling out for a few minutes but never once did he move himself from his bed and make it to bathroom or even get it on the bowl that we gave him - grrr - but that's an aside.
Anyway, we all calmed down the next day and talked it through. We explained that whilst drinking that much when you're 15 is pretty daft, the thing we were most upset about was the lying. And we explained why - simply that we are concerned for his welfare and had been respecting his independence by trusting him but a lot of that trust had been lost and now needs to be rebuilt.
Together we agreed that he would be grounded for the next two weeks - especially in light of the fact that he has his GCSEs starting in May so we kind of all wanted to get things back on track and it was calmly discussed and he agreed. He said that the only thing of note that he would miss is another friends' party this Friday, but he took it on the chin and we respected him for that and all kissed and made up.
However...! Yesterday, one of his friends sent a Snapchat to DH pleading with him to let DSS1 go to a friends' party. Already annoying as this wasn't a friend that we know very well. Then as I was cooking tea tonight, DH came in and asked me whether we should just let SS1 go to the party. His reasons were that SS1 would resent us if he's not allowed to go but would recognise the kind act if we let him go. I listened, but had to say that I think that we had been very calm and fair at the time and had agreed the rules with SS1 and so if we retracted them now then we would be showing him that there are no consequences for his actions. I'm not super-strict at all but I believe in fair discussion and then absolutely sticking to the rules agreed.
It's become a very difficult evening as SS1 became rude at dinner, which I had to rush away from as was going out to a meeting and then all the time I was out he was begging DH to let him go to the party on Friday and getting quite stroppy about how unfair it was. DH is annoyed with me and thinks I'm taking a hard line and so we agreed to sleep on it. I am genuinely stumped as to what is the right thing to do. At the end of the day, he lied to us which ended in vomitous style! We didn't over-react of believe that we were putting in place a strict punishment at the time as we agreed everything with SS1. I can't help thinking that if we just don't stick by the agreed plan then actually we've been a push-over because he had no stern telling off - but a calm chat about why it was wrong and what the consequences were. I just feel like that's all we did and so we'd not be teaching him anything by retracting it.
On the other hand though, I do feel sorry for him because he's a teenager and wants to be where all his friends are and not miss out - I remember it well. But it's not a popularity contest test this parenting thing. We are generally very laid back with the boys but he lied and we have to teach him that what he did could have got himself in a lot of trouble. And also that when you agree a consequence - in work, in life, in relationships - you need to stick to it.
If we don't let him go he will be horrible and moody and drag us all down all weekend but he will have learnt a lesson about consequences. If we let him go he will probably (may) be slightly grateful, but probably not really, and will he have learnt that it doesn't really matter what you do because you'll still get your way?!
This is my first mumsnet post and I'd SO appreciate some advice. Thank you.
Well done on staying calm, recognising the right time to have the discussion and having a civilised chat. I have these thoughts to add, I hope they give pause for thought.
Firstly all teenagers lie - fact! Studies have shown this to be true, so don't feel so hurt, shocked betrayed etc. It is the very nature of being a teenager, many parents don't believe their kids lie - but they are in denial.
Secondly, I feel grounding is a poor approach - it draws out the bad feeling....punishment itself usually does not improve the teens behaviour, it just makes them a bit more careful about being caught - they learn to lie a bit better. Direct consequences imo are better - too late now but I would have made him clean the house, cook you dinner - do something nice for you as a consequence of you being up all night looking after him, cleaning up his vomit!
Thirdly - you cannot teach him that being rude is a good way to achieve your objectives. I would say to him that you might have been open to rethinking the punishment - (because why shouldn't he ask politely and try to re-negotiate his punishment - he could have offered to clean the driveway instead, it's not a bad skill to develop in life,) but under no circumstances can you allow him to think that by being rude and unpleasant he can change the rules and that is a good lesson in life and one that I have rammed home to my kids. When they feel something is unfair - they need to stay polite in stating their case - it's an invaluable life skill in work and in social situations - it needs to be practiced - tell him this time and he may remember to be respectful in tense negotiations the next time - although usually it takes a few go's.
I hope this helps.
If you give in now it will happen again. His petulant attitude last night would have led me to extend the grounding.
Dear Benyster. Thank you for spending the time to write such a considered post - I can't tell you how much it has helped me to think about this. This is the first time that we've had any semi-major issue with either of our boys and so we didn't quite know how to respond. We did our best, we kept it calm, we discussed what the consequences should be with DSS but ultimately I see now that grounding wasn't the best punishment, even if it was agreed together. You are quite right that it prolongs (and in fact amplifies) the grievance and could ultimately lead to worse lying and ways of working up the subterfuge rather than owning the original mistake. I also really like the idea of making the consequence more an act of giving something back to the house - by chores or whatever - as a better recognition of the wrong.
I showed my husband your message too and it has sparked some productive debate - especially as you pretty much agreed with both of us, which is always nice! We are planning on talking stuff through with SS tonight and so it has been a great help to read your view, many thanks. xx
WateryTart - I know what you mean and it is tempting sometimes, but with this teenager anyway that kind of tactic wouldn't work - I think we'd have an explosion on our hands! Tbh, I had an extremely strict father and I totally rebelled. I'm certain that if I was offered a bit more discussion rather than heavy punishments, my whole life might have taken a different path, but who knows?! All I do know is that I don't want to do the same thing to my children as was done to me, but at the same time I don't want to be a pushover - such a tricky job this one isn't it?!
Thank you anyway - this is such a useful forum - I've often read everyone else's entries but it's been great to get some other opinions on my own case too.
I am a strong believer that you absolutely have to stick to your punishment as otherwise, you lose all credibility. Even if the child is overall reasonable and mature.
my DS (14) still remembers the time he was 4 or 5 and we were supposed to go to the farm meeting a friend of mine. He had been acting as a brat, pushing the boundaries (as they do!), to the point where I said only 10 minutes before we were due to go that I was cancelling the trip. He looked at me with a smirk on his face (even at that age!) and said that I couldn't cancel because my friend would already be on her way. I said I didn't care and would phone her to cancel.
I did, apologised profusely for the last minute cancellation and that I would return the favour when she had kids. She laughed and said she understood. When my boy realised that we were really not going, he had the biggest tantrum ever but the message was passed.
After that, when he started playing up, I would only have to remind him of the cancelled trip, and even now at 14, we jokingly bring it up, but he knows that it means that I will stick with my 'threats'.
The message you are giving your SS is that it is ok for him to agree a punishment at the time because he knew how badly he behaved, but that the punishment should be forgotten shortly after once he is over his guilt. That's not a good lesson to learn.
Still, if it's done it's done and hopefully your SS has learnt his lesson just by realising how his actions affected you and his dad and therefore won't do it again.
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