07 Jan
Respect My Authority!

Dear Mouthy Housewives,

My son is 17 and has been grounded since summer for failing grades. Last summer my wife let him go out when I worked at night. When I confronted her, she yelled at me like it was my fault. I still don’t let him go out at night, but just recently found eight movie tickets in his wallet from movies that started past 9 p.m. and all on the days that I worked.

I am losing control of my son because his mother is always letting him go when I am not home. Every time I tell my son to do something, he tells me to die or to go to hell. I can’t correct him and have told my wife that he should move out at 18.

Am I wrong for doing so? What can I do to fix him? He has just joined the Air Force, but will not be leaving until September if he passes high school. I need some help.

Going Mad


Dear Going Mad,

I’m confused by what you mean with this “Going Mad” stuff. Seems to me you’re long gone, so I agree that you need some help. On top of a rebelling teenager, you also have a passive-aggressive wife. Basically, it sucks to be you right now.

You haven’t lost control of your son because of his mother, though she hasn’t made this difficult parenting stage easier, that’s for sure. You’ve lost control of your son because he’s 17 and that’s part of being a teenager: beginning to assert your independence.

Part of that early independence is rebelling against authority, and, boy howdy, it sounds like you’ve given him plenty to rebel against. Six months of restriction sounds excessive to me, even for failing grades. Did it work? I’m all for using restriction as a tool for behavior modification, but when it doesn’t solve the problem, it’s time to come up with a new tactic, such as shipping him to Guantanamo.

Look, I’m sure you’re a caring dad who doesn’t want his son to fail, so no, you aren’t wrong to want good things for him. But on the other hand, maybe he isn’t the one who needs to be fixed. Your son has a plan (joining the Air Force) so give him credit for that. And unless he has a remedial IQ, he must know the career consequences of failing high school. If he does fail, let the natural consequences of adulthood teach him. After all, he’ll be 18 by then and he, too, can learn the joys of rent, utility bills, and paying taxes.

Heather, TMH

9 Responses to “Respect My Authority!”


Comment by Michelle.

Obviously grounding him isn’t helping with his grades. Maybe “Dad” should help the kid out with his homework. Stop being a tyrant and start being a parent.


Comment by Aludra.

I’m completely inexperienced at raising teenagers, but I’m recently graduated from the school of being a teenager.

I’d say forget the grounding. If going out at night is no longer an act of rebellion, he’ll have little incentive to continue on with it.

As for grades, he either cares or he doesn’t. Sounds like he doesn’t. If he signed on with an AF recruiter, call the recruiter and let him know that he’s about to loose his recruit due to failing grades. Your son will listen to the recruiter and not even realise it wasn’t the school who called the recruiter.

That should solve both problems and get him out on his own at 18 without you or your son having to bend your pride to each other.


Comment by Lynn.

Aludra has a really good point. Military recruiters have a quota to make, and if they feel like they’re losing a recruit (and therefore, awards and bonuses), there’s a really good chance that he/she will get involved.

As for the wife, shoot, I would hate to be that guy. I know my husband doesn’t exactly agree with the strictness with which we raise our kids (I’m the mean one), but he at least backs me up. They need to get on the same page and potentially get some counseling!


Comment by Surfie.

I have more problems with the wife in this situation than either the teen or the dad. Dad’s choice of punishment and control may not be all that well thought out since he’s continuing to use the same ineffective methods, but at least he’s trying to parent his son. I’m getting the feeling that there are some major problems between mom and dad here. Either that or she’s just a stupid twit and thinks giving her son everything he wants and undermining her husband equals good parenting. You should be a parent first, and a friend second, my dear.

All that being said, I have never raised any kids, so my opinion probably won’t mean much to actual parents. Meh.

mom, again Reply:

actually, it sounds as if the mom may well be doing more of the parenting. Parenting as defined by communicating with the kid, interacting with him, sorting out things in the day to day. Sounds like the dad popped in for the high point of report card time, imposed rules nobody could live with, expected someone else to oversee them, and now is back at his usual distance and crabbing about how nobody does what he says.

It sounds like Dad’s grounding was just a bunch of hot air. Evidently, the kid needs remedial (or primary) education on HOW TO STUDY. Did dad include active parenting like tutoring (himself or paying somone)? Is there anything the kid is supposed to do on a daily or weekly basis that can be checked up on that would lead to earning priviledges back?

And yes, I’ve raised a teenager. The girl version of this kid. It was gratifying to hear, as many of her friends began graduating from college and she was still goofing off at community college: “All those years I thought I was sticking it to the man when I wouldn’t do my schoolwork? I was sticking it to myself.” Yes, dear, you were.

Amber in Albuquerque Reply:

I’m glad somebody said this.


Comment by Karin.

I have a problem with dad – he’s controlling and is asking his wife to enforce an overly strict punishment on their son (she’s not off the hook – she should be discussing this punishment with her husband rather than just going behind his back however he seems to be refusing to listen – my guess is she’s out the door when ds leaves). I found that open-ended time outs don’t work with my toddlers much less with a teen b/c it’s unfair – there’s no speck of light at the end of the tunnel to shoot for. If his son is failing, perhaps they should hire a tutor or talk with his teachers to find ways to help him or sit down at the table with him nightly while he does his homework doing something quietly (read a book, do a craft, check my email, whatever – this is what I do with my elementary school kids) and REWARD him for trying. I think a more appropriate course of action would be to allow him one social night a weekend but that he needs to spend 2 hours each day working on catch-up work – weekday or weekend. The son also needs an outlet – right now, his outlet is counting the days until he’s outta there. Perhaps if he were involved in an activity, he’d find the importance of hard work and have less time to ponder how mean his father is.


Comment by miswiggie.

Hmmm. Been grounded since the summer? Sounds like that punishment is silly for now, how many months has it been since summer? If he feels like he’s on eternal punishment, he’s not going to care if he does whatever he wants, he’s already being punished and how much worse can it get?

I’d sit down with my son first and find out WHY his grades are bad. Does he not care anymore? Is he depressed? Problems with the teacher? I had a math teacher who threw up problems on an overhead and then told us to work them out and do problems 5-80 while he read. I always failed that class.

At some point he’s lost respect for his parents and your authority. Your wife probably gives in because your son nags and bothers her til she gives in. Were you the parents who said “if you do that one more time then…” but one more time was really a hundred more times?

I’d also sit down with my wife and talk to her and work TOGETHER to figure out a better structure for your son and the discipline he receives. He knows you two are divided. And you know what they say about a house divided.

Good luck!


Comment by Yeh That Mom.

There are a lot of variables here.
1. Grounding indefinitly will not work. The child or in this case Young Adult NEEDS to see the end. Or your can just kiss all that you are working for goodbye.
2. The wife probably knows this and it is hard for her to follow-thru with a plan that she does not agree with. Discipline never works when the other parent who doesn’t agree with it is left to enforce it. I know this from experience!
3. By the time they are 17 you have pretty much “raised” them. They have the foundation. Now is the time to let them make their own decisions (that follow your house rules) and help them to see what the alternative could have been if they had made a better choice. There have to be consequences…but they need to be natural. And his grades are really HIS responsibility. If he fails…it is HIS future. Not the parents. So I wouldn’t even worry about grades.

The son is making career choices and most likely has goals since he enlisted. I would suggest you sit down and have a very candid conversation with your son and ask him what he wants to do with his life and how he plans on achieving his goals. Do not ridicule his choices. If something doesn’t mesh with you, offer alternatives, but don’t demand.
I have learned that if you repect them as a young adult, they will come to you for advice and try their best to live up to their own expectations and yours.

Good luck!!

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