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Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Grounding: Who is really being punished?

Once your kids are well beyond the 'naughty chair', there aren't a whole lot of disciplinary deterrents left. In our house, grounding is the number one punishment for when my delightfully ill-behaved teenagers forget to tow the line. Like, often.

For example, last week the Boy went to a friend's house after school with my permission. However, he left that friend's house and went to another friend's house without asking, which pisses the hell out of me. I want to know where my kids are at any given times. I'm obviously over protective and anxiety ridden. So sue me.

He calls me from said second friend's house and "tells" me when he's gonna be home. That's a second offense. You ask, you do not tell. Last time I looked in the mirror, I was the adult in the household. See, a total unreasonable bitch. Just ask him.

The time he stated was 6:00. I told him that that was the absolute latest he could come home, it being a school night and all. Plus he's already done two things incorrectly according to the house rules.

6:00 comes and goes. 7:00 comes and goes. I call him at friends house and he gives me a sob story about how he can't get a ride home until later. I tell him that attached to his body are two things called legs, and if he put one in front of the other, he'd get home within the house, seeing as it's just a one road walk. I can also be the queen of sarcasm.

He refuses to walk, citing the temperature. "It's COOOOLLLLDDD." Like I frigging care. I tell him to get home immediately.

8:00 and no Boy. 8:30 and no boy. I call again. "Mom, I can't get a ride right now. C's parents aren't home from work yet. My bullshit meter is on high. I'm now furious. I tell him to get off his ass and get home NOW. Not in ten minutes. NOW. I tell him to take a taxi if his tootsies can't take the cold. But he's to be home Now.

9:00 and no Boy. Not a peep. I call him again at 9:09 and tell him that for every minute that he's later than 9, he's grounded for a day. He hangs up on me.

10:15 he saunters in, all snarky and obnoxious and announces he's going to bed. I tell him he's grounded for 3 weeks, and he says "whatever." and disappears.

So now I have him home 24/7. Joy oh joy. So who is really being punished here, him or me? Let's examine the situation more closely. He's obviously pissed that he can't go anywhere. He asks pretty much every day, and I have to remind him he's grounded. Then he wants to have friends over. Um, grounded? GROUNDED. Being grounded means he has to entertain himself. Being a teenage boy, entertaining himself means eating. And then eating some more. And then even more eating.

However, eating in his mind does not correlate with cleaning up his dishes. Plates and cups are everywhere. Napkins are on the floor. The entire kitchen is one huge dump of filthy dishes, cutlery, pots and pans. He will not empty the dishwasher unless I have a whip to his back, so he piles any dishes he's 'washed' (and I use that term very lightly) on the counter. He never wipes up a crumb or a spill. Honestly, the house looks like a cyclone struck it.

Not only does he eat constantly, but he must take charge of the TV at all times. Yes, he has a crappy TV in his room that has no blue tones, but he can watch movies on his XBox, and he can play his games up there. But is that good enough for the prince of bad behavior? Of course not! He must take over the good HDTV downstairs, and watch Flight of the Conchords 6 million times. Or Buffy. Or Angel. Yeah, it's a laugh riot at our house.

So who is being punished more? Me, who has to scream constantly to get him off his ass to clean up his constant messes? Me, who has my TV usurped continually, and must suffer with stupid TV shows I don't want to see ever? Me, who has to deal with his begging to see friends? Me, who has to listen to his fights with his sister because he's on edge and has a need to drive her (and me) insane with poking, throwing pens, and saying really stupid stuff?

Yeah, that's what I thought. Two more weeks of this.

I don't know what else is in the arsenal of punishment for teenagers. The family therapist we use thinks I'm doing the right thing. But holy moly, I'm suffering for his errors.

What do you use for punishment?

Cross Posted at Mid-Century Modern Moms.

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9 Comments:

Blogger Bill said...

Hey ...

It's SUPPOSED to hurt you more than it hurts them.

That said, I grounded my kid exactly once.

And it did hurt.

3/3/08 3:35 AM  
Blogger gem said...

No help at all here, sounds like a nightmare. My oldest is 13, 14 in the summer, and we have had no issues at all yet, I'm reading you for advice for the future! All I can say is Good Luck and hang in there.

3/3/08 7:38 AM  
Anonymous Lis Garrett said...

All I can say is, I AM TERRIFIED. Mine are 8, 6, and 2. WE can't even muster the strength to take away cartoons from my son (6) when he misbehaves, because we "need" the TV to placate him when he gets out of hand. The one thing he does respond to, at least for now, is money. He gets a quarter for doing certain chores and for exemplary behavior and gets one taken away for breaking the rules. I can't imagine your teenager would respond to quarters, though . . .

Maybe take away the XBox??

3/3/08 8:09 AM  
Blogger madamspud169 said...

Keep your tv remote on you and don't let him decide what you all have to watch.
If he just sits there and lets his "hatred" waft around the room then let him. Or even better is to watch either E network channel or a news channel.

I'm sure you can pretend to be interested longer than he can.

3/3/08 11:40 AM  
Anonymous Lisa said...

I just found this blog and, while not punishing teens yet, my parents did not ground me, they simply made us do chores - anything they could think of - until they were satisfied with the punishment. I have cleaned gutters, shoveled the driveway, cleaned the fridge (remove old food and scrub the shelves), mowed the yard (5 acres) and more as a result.

Now that I own a house, I do this for myself. Hmmm...maybe that was my parents plan...aside from getting out of some housework themselves.

3/3/08 1:32 PM  
Blogger margalit said...

Madamespud,

I often keep the TV remote tucked up under my boob. It's the ONE place I know he won't go and take it.

You gotta remember, we're dealing with a pretty difficult bipolar kid. Simple remedys never work with him.

I'm exhausted and I've just sent him upstairs to take a shower.

3/3/08 6:52 PM  
Blogger Flutterby said...

Grounding in this house means not only *no leaving* it means no ANYTHING *fun*. NO: TV, computer, video games, ipods, cellphones, NOTHING that requires electricity of any kind whether via wall outlet or battery or solar panel. They are allowed to read or write (rossword puzzels count) and that is pretty much it. If the grounding is longer than a couple days, at some point they are allowed to earn some time on any of the devices they've been grounded from, but never more than an hour total a day. And to earn it they have to do chores, properly. Empty AND load dishwasher, etc might earn them a half hour of watching TV or playing a video game. They could earn another half hour doing something else, and then that is it. Have to wait till the next day to earn more *fun*, if they are desperate enough. Yep. I am an EXTREMELY mean mom. But after enduring my form of grounding a couple times, they don't make a habit of doing things to get grounded.

3/3/08 7:09 PM  
Blogger blackbird said...

When you are done with the grounding...flip it.
Small rewards for good behavior.
An extra half hour out for calling in to tell you where he is.
Two dollars for cleaning the kitchen.

Oldest spent his secondary school years in special ed schools. All their behavior mod programs were based on small rewards. Amazingly small rewards.
It worked like a charm.

It's a very very tough concept after you are angry and fed up but praise can sometimes go further than punishment.

3/3/08 8:51 PM  
Anonymous Doug said...

Maybe I'm too lenient, but I try to look at it this way. Yes I want to know where he is most all of the time, but he doesn't have to ask permission so long as his request is reasonable. What I mean is that if he calls and says I'll be home by 8:00 I'm ok with that. If he tells me 11:00 and it's a school night.....no way dude.

He drives so the not getting home isn't a big deal for us. Also, I get to know his friends very, very well before he's given a lot of rope.

Fortunately, punishment hasn't been necessary all that often, but usually means limits on weekend activities.

5/3/08 9:00 AM  

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