Wow, I don't even know where to start.... I live on a dead end street and we were for five years the only family on the street with kids, until about a month ago. A family with three children moved in a few houses down from us about a month ago. The kids are ages 5, 7 and 14. My son (almost 9) was so excited to have playmates in the neighborhood and of course began immediately to play with them. Thats when the trouble started, at first it was swearing, then flipping the middle finger, throwing rocks, hittting, etc... But the worst happened a few days ago when all four kids went into a garage that borders on a field near our house and smashed windows. We found out yesterday when the father of the three kids came to us yelling and screaming saying we have to pay for half the windows that my son broke and that his kids didn't do any of it and were just watching, he went off on a rant... This behaviour is not typical of my son, he is normally quiet and shy. This behaviour only started since these kids have moved into the neighborhood. I asked my son what happened and he said that the older boy told him to do it and that all the children were breaking the windows. My son said he got caught up in it with the other children and even though he knew it was wrong he didn't know how to stop. We have taken my son to appologize to the property owner and we will pay for half the windows. We have also told my son that he is not allowed to play with the other children anymore. I am heart sick, I do not know what to do, how do I prevent this behaviour from happening in the future?
Heart Sick :'(
I'm sorry this has happened to you and your son. Things like this happen from time to time to little boys. If it were me (I have an 8 year old boy), I would have a talk with him about peer pressure and doing the right thing even though nobody else seems to be doing so. So I would give him tools for the future, such as "you know the behaviour we expect from you. If your friends are doing something wrong, I would like you to come home and tell us what is going on. You tell them that you don't want any part of what they are doing". Personally, I wouldn't let my son play with these kids unsupervised. It's a sad situation, but don't take it too close to heart, children get into mischief especially when there is a group of them! :) It sounds like you handled it well, with apologizing to the owner and paying for half the windows.
Personally I do not think that 9 yrs old is too young to have a real consequence. He is a kid that will be tempted to get into mischief A LOT in his life. That is a part of life. Personally, I would make him pay restitution in some way. Maybe not through money, but through work. Your family has to work hard to make money which now has to go to the windows. Maybe if he learns that his behaviour has consequences he will remember that next time before he gets too caught up in the act, especially behaviour that costs relationships. respect and money to be lost.
I did something similar when I was that age. I vandalized property that was owned by a family that had a seasonal cottage near our home. The consequence for doing so was to apologize personally to the family and then do some work for them. I helped cut the lawn (which I did for our own lawn already so was skilled at) and in the spring I did more yard work for them to get their cottage "opened up" for the season like raking leaves, washing things, etc.
I also learned a lot about the family, made a friend in their child, and learned a lot about another culture (as they were jewish and I didn't know anything about jewish people at that time). They invited me into their home and respected me even though I destroyed some of their property.
Not to say that I never did anything stupid again. But there were many instances that I could have done stupid things that I was able to stop myself by remembering the blisters gained and sweat of doing labour to repay my foolishness of vandalism.
I agree, I think he needs to 'pay off' some of the money that he's cost the family. Obviously he can't go out and earn it, but he can pay you back for some of your time -- doing extra chores, helping out around the house.
I'd also not necessarily write the family off completely. One dynamic that was 'off' here was that you had a 14 year old boy out playing with a 5, 7, and 8 year old. He's much older than they are and was clearly trying to see how much power he had over them. Yes, your son should have known better, but no 14 year old should be encouraging children to break windows either. We have a real mix of ages in our neighborhood, and one trend that I've seen over the years is that by the time the kids reach 13-14, they don't mix well with the little kids. This is especially true when it's older siblings who are babysitting younger ones. Some 14 year old siblings can be fine babysitters. Many tend to be overly bossy, and a few are downright mean.
If you're of a mind to, or if the bridges haven't been irrevocably burnt, I might invite the younger boys over without the older one. Keep them under strict supervision (i.e. they're only allowed to play in your house or your yard) and see how it goes. You may find after a couple of supervised playdates that these kids really aren't worth it. You may find that the younger boys are really OK without their older brother around.
But I like his response, it's truthful, getting caught up is normal. Looters get caught up or mobs... you get the picture. And sounds like he really understands himself. I would feel bad too that his playmates needed to be cut off but geez it's not worth it. That would cause your whole family stress wondering what's next
That is sad that the other children are like that. :(
I give your son credit for being able to recognize that he (1) knew it was wrong and (2) couldn't stop himself. He sounds like an insightful person! Not everyone-- including adults-- would be able to articulate their feelings so well.
I agree with the others that he's old enough to pay back some of the money, but I'd approach it in a matter-of-fact way vs. punishment. Then, together you two can come up with three alternatives for what he could do next time in a similar situation. While it sounds like hanging out with the neighbors w/o supervision won't work, it doesn't mean this kind of situation won't come up again. We are faced with these kinds of things throughout life!
Think of it as an opportunity where he did NOT get hurt, didn't start on drugs or whatever . . .but a great time to talk about listening to the inner voice he has. (He hears it-- now is the next step to be strong enough to follow it.)
I use sheep as an example when I talk about this with my kids . . .