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BOTD 12/22/16 "An Unsuitable Boy?" A Stevie Production

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David M. Katz

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Marshall
An Unsuitable Boy?
A Stevie Production



You have a thirteen year old son, Matthew, who takes after you and is somewhat pudgy and nonathletic, suffering, as you did, from moderate asthma:


Matthew, 13

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Of course, things have changed since your day, and where as you were one of the fattest kids in school as you grew up - you were always known as 'Fatso'  - your son, whose body shape is exactly like yours, is not even considered to be exceptionally overweight by his peers and has almost never been teased about his size. He's not the most popular kid in school though - he is shy and very bookish, again, taking after you and all.

Lately, however, a new family moved into your block. They have a grandson, Vernon, who lives with them by court order since his father (their son) has died of a drug overdose, and his mother has become a long term guest of Her Majesty's for a string of repeat trafficking offenses.  



Vernon, 13

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Vernon and your son have become close since he arrived, and the two boys are rarely separated. You are not terribly happy about this... the connection to narcotics is disturbing enough, but the boy is rude, and has a very nasty, sneering attitude towards  adults in general that applies both to his grandparents and to you. He also is very neglectful of his personal hygiene and usually has a distinct and very unpleasant odour; Matthew has lately become careless in this area as well and this has been embarrassing for you on more than one occasion in the last few weeks.

Your son's language and manners have also deteriorated sharply - you have lately been treated to the 'F' word on several occasions - which has, again, been causing you considerable embarrassment in public places.

Up until now, you've been dealing with Matthew's transgressions on an individual basis - remonstrating with him and calmly explaining why you do not tolerate that type of behaviour. You have actually grounded the boy twice... you cannot spank him because he is over twelve years old; Vernon is an expert through experience on the  juvenile law system and has carefully explained to your son that parents will be charged with assault if they do so.

You would rather not forbid Matthew to associate with Vernon because you know very well that such prohibitions tend to be ineffective, and, in any case, you don't really feel that you have a right to choose your son's friends for him.

Today, however, there came a climax. An elderly female neighbour of yours was working in her garden and was disturbed by the boy's discussion which tended to sexual matters conducted loudly in very coarse language. She also says that one of the boys got up out of his chair, took out his penis, and urinated all over the deck, swinging his hips provocatively as he did so. She's upset about it and thought you should know about it... she comments that Matthew used to be such a nice boy before that other kid moved in. You head out to the deck to check and notice staining on the boards as well as a distinct smell of urine...

For the record, you have never had a problem with any of Matthew's friends going into the house to use the toilet and there is a washroom close to the back door specifically for this purpose.  

How do you handle this?


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AFinch

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Sherrif
I'm going to have a long talk with Matthew. We are going to talk about his behavior changes, and how unhappy and disappointed I am with them. We are going to talk about language use, and how sometimes some things are not appropriate in mixed company. We are going to talk about how "a man is judged by the company he keeps", fairly or not. We are going to talk about how poor personal hygiene in addition to being unhealthy can have long term effects in school admissions, employment, and interpersonal reactions.

I'm not going to try to choose his friends, or forbid him from seeing Vernon, as that is likely to be counterproductive. But I am going to let him know that I am terribly disappointed in him, and that if he can't get his act together, he's going to spend a lot of time being grounded. I'm going to tell him that while under Canadian law I can't spank him, I CAN ground him. As to privileges and things, I'm obliged to provide him with food, shelter, and clothing--I'm not obliged to provide him with food he likes, shelter beyond subsistence, or basic clothing. He can make his own choice as to whether he wants to continue on this path he's recently chosen.

18Smacked

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Cowboy
I would not have prohibited or even necessarily have said anything directly to Matthew about Vernon, but what I would have done would be these things very shortly after I noted the effect the relationship had on my son:

- Letting Matthew know that “we are known by the company that we keep.” If we keep friends who are a notch better than ourselves
academically, for example, we will be thought of by our classmates and teachers as a better student than we really may be, for example. This has been proven time and again.

-Getting Matthew actively involved in activities and clubs where Vernon is not participating, and even rewarding my son for his active participation in these things. I would know what my son likes and what motivates him, and I would use those things as “carrots before the donkey” to get him to buy into this plan. I would see to it that Vernon is simply too busy and too tired to care to be running around with Vernon at all times outside of school hours.

-I will have him create a contract regarding his hygiene habits, and I will closely check to make sure he conforms to the terms of the contract.

As for the urinating incident, it is not clear who had his penis exposed to this neighbor, but it sounds like it was not Matthew, or the neighbor would presumably have stated that, rather than simply saying “one of the boys.” I would ask the neighbor to please report this incident to the police, as this is a criminal act and would be likely to result in actions to mandate counseling for Vernon. In any case, both boys were involved in loud sexual talk within earshot of the neighbor lady.

I think police contact (likely simply a lecture from the police officer) will possibly scare Matthew straight from making further sex talk in the wrong places.To some extent, such talk is normal among teen boys, especially of this age, but I will tell my son that I expect better of him, and that I am not going to tolerate his loudly talking about sexual matters in earshot of others, especially females and even more so, this elderly neighbor.

I will get my son to agree to be more aware of what is happening in the future, in return for a suspension of any punishment this time, but I will be strictly enforcing our understanding going forward. The consequences for a first offense will be a loss of electronics (except as needed for schoolwork) and an early bedtime for a length of time that I deem appropriate. If it repeats, I will add grounding on top of that, and no visitors are permitted during grounding.

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Kat

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Editor Extraordinaire
I think both Kier and 18Smacked have good, thoughtful answers. What I would add to what they've said is this: "Don't let Vernon drag you down but rather be an influence to bring him up."

I'm not without sympathy for Vernon. He has had a difficult life. One parent is dead and the other imprisoned. Why would he respect or trust adults? I think I should make more of an effort to make Vernon feel wanted and included. I also will set boundaries for his behavior while he is in my house or in my company. Maybe having some structure in his life and being in a stable home with his grandparents will bring about some changes in his behavior.

Kat

18Smacked

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Cowboy
Kat wrote:
I'm not without sympathy for Vernon. He has had a difficult life. One parent is dead and the other imprisoned. Why would he respect or trust adults? I think I should make more of an effort to make Vernon feel wanted and included. I also will set boundaries for his behavior while he is in my house or in my company. Maybe having some structure in his life  and being in a stable home with his grandparents will bring about some changes in his behavior.

Kat

Okay, if I know the grandparents who are now raising him, I will try to encourage them towards creating certain structures (like charting and contracts) in his home life for issues like hygiene, schoolwork, etc.

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Jack

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Admin
I basically agree with Kier about Matthew. If he wants to get all legalistic on me, we can get legalistic. I just hope he knows that games, cars, amusement parks, cable TV, stereos, phones, and a number of other things aren't requirements.

As for Vernon, I'll let him know that our home has certain expectations of behavior, and that as long as he's willing to meet those standards, he's welcome to visit.


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ivor

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Marshall
From what has been said it seems that Matthew has been attracted to Vernon for reason I need to try and understand. Is it just that he doesn't have any real friends? Is it because a close up glimpse of life on the other side of the tracks seems alluring? Or is Vernon trying to recruit Matthew so he can use him for some purpose?

I really need to talk to Vernon's grandparents first. Is the boy already too far gone on a downward spiral to be helped, or can we together perhaps do something to save him from what appears inevitable?

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Kat

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Editor Extraordinaire
ivor wrote:I really need to talk to Vernon's grandparents first. Is the boy already too far gone on a downward spiral to be helped, or can we together perhaps do something to save him from what appears inevitable?

I don't think that at 13 Vernon is beyond redemption. A lot will depend on how well his grandparents handle him. So far he hasn't done anything really terrible, after all; and even children who have done terrible things have gone on to lead blameless lives. In the 1960s in Texas, a 14-year-old boy murdered his entire family. In what was a wiser, kinder nation, he wasn't tried as an adult and sent to an adult prison but rather placed in the custody of a state hospital because he was deemed mentally ill. Eventually he was released and went on to become a tenured professor of psychology. I think in the UK, the notorious Mary Bell, the ten-year-old girl who murdered two little boys, has also lead a blameless life after her release from prison.

Kat

StevieWeeks

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Trailboss
Ivor wrote:From what has been said it seems that Matthew has been attracted to Vernon for reason I need to try and understand.
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