My husband and I recently went on a much-needed vacation. We left our only son, a fifteen-year-old, in charge of the house. We thought it would give him an opportunity to exercise some responsibility and show his trustworthiness. We should have known better.
Only two days in, we got a phone call from our neighbor. He said that my son was throwing a house party, and he threatened to call the police because his friends were being loud and unruly. We apologized and said we would handle it. We ourselves called the police. They broke up the party.
Abby, our boy doesn’t know that we know about this. We want to give him a chance to come clean. Is this the right thing to do, or should we simply confront him when we get home in a few days?
Angry in Amsterdam
Dear Rightfully Angry Mom,
My mom says that dogs have an overdeveloped sense of guilt, and we will feel bad about something even if we did not do it. This is true. All she has to do is use “disappointed mommy voice” and I am feeling sad and guilty right away — even if I do not know why! Mom also says that some people are just the opposite, and they never feel guilty no matter how wrong they are. She says that sometimes people have to be taught why something they did was wrong by showing them who they hurt and how. Then, once they understand why what they did was wrong, they have to go to those people they hurt and make it right any way that they can.
This is the first step. Be honest with your son and let him know how disappointed you are in him and why. Use that disappointed mommy voice, and do not yell, or he will just yell back. Let your son know that he hurt you and his dad (by being distrustful), that he hurt the neighbors (by being loud enough to have the cops called), and he hurt himself (by destroying his own reputation). He may have even hurt his friends, as I bet several of them got into trouble with their parents, too.
What do you do going forward?
As I have gotten older, I have been getting more and more scared of loud noises. Our neighbors are very mean and like to set off fireworks all year round. Sometimes, when I am home alone, it scares me so much that I run to mom and dad’s bedroom and tear up their bed. Mom and dad have called the cops on the neighbors and spoken to them several times. The neighbors are just too mean and will not stop. So, after the third time that mom came home to shredded sheets and a beat-up blanket, she decided that I will no longer be allowed in the bedroom when I am left home alone. Now, mom and dad lock that door before they go anywhere without me.
Your son may have the opposite reaction to what I am facing — he may be LESS likely to tear up the house as he grows older and he becomes more responsible and aware of how his actions affect others. Until then, do not let him have access to the areas that he has proven he cannot be trusted with alone. I do not know if they have people kennels, but I would look into it for your next trip.