Question:

My 14 year old son has just started sneaking out of our house in the middle of the night. Two times in the last month he left our house at 2 am and walked over one mile to his girlfriend's house. My son is very sneaky, and he will wait until I'm asleep and then leave our house. The first time that I found out about this I started sleeping on the couch, so that I could see my son if he tried to open the front door. I actually caught him trying to leave the house when he thought that I was asleep. I have told him that it is against the law to be running around so late at night. My son has a complete disregard for my rules, and I don't know how I can keep him from sneaking out of my house. He is crazy for this girl, and she brags that she can do whatever she wants,and that she has no rules to follow at her house. My son told me that he gets mad at me for making him follow rules at our house, so he sneaks out of the house to spite me. I am really afraid that he will get this girl pregnant.

Answer:

Well, the good news is that such relationships rarely last more than a few months. The bad news is that you are right, he may get the girl pregnant.

There are actually two issues here. We can solve the sneaking out at night, but that doesn't stop him from from seeing too much of her during the day. I'm assuming you are religious, since you are writing to a preacher, so I strongly urge you to find a preacher to sit down and teach your son about sex from a Christian's point of view. He needs to hear from another man that he is responsible for what he does with his body. It won't guarantee that he won't get a girl pregnant, but perhaps he will hesitate long enough that most of the danger will pass by.

The second issue is the sneaking and you made progress toward resolving the issue by telling him clearly that it is forbidden and catching him in the act. Let's adjust your thinking just slightly. You can't make him follow the rules of the house. Consider for a moment our government. It makes rules, such as stop at a stop sign, don't use certain drugs, don't steal, etc. Those rules do not make people follow them. The existence of those rules doesn't mean they won't be broken, or even that they will be broken less often. Rules set the standards of behavior that is expect by society, in the case of government, or by a family, in the case of home rules.

Rules exist, and that means rules will be broken. What deters people from breaking rules is the consequences that come from breaking the rules. You might have noticed that a lot of people exceed the speed limit on the highways despite the rules and the penalties for breaking those rules. What happens is people weigh the risk of being caught and the consequences against the perceived benefits of violating the rules. You have a son who weighs a tongue lashing against sex with a willing girl and he thinks sex is worth it. He's not doing this to spite you. He is doing this because he sees sex as worth facing your wrath over. Thus, we're going to change the costs.

I want you to get a trunk with a good lock on it. Don't say what it is for. If you can, move it into the garage or your room when he isn't around. Tell him that you want to make it clear that he is not allowed to leave the house at night without your permission and your permission won't be given unless you know where he is going, you approve of his destination, and you know when he will be back. The statement is to be made objectively and clearly. No arguments, no emotions, just "these are the facts."

Randomly sleep on the couch, or set your alarm for 3 am to get up and check his room, or whatever else you need to do to see that the rule is being followed. The next time he violates the rules or attempts to break them, tell him clearly that it isn't allowed, but don't argue. Stick to your point without emotion. He may end up leaving anyway or you might miss him going. It doesn't matter.

The next day, lock up all his shoes. When he gets home that night, insist that you have the shoes he is currently wearing and they go into the trunk as well. No screaming, no arguing, just lock up them up. The next morning leave him a pair of shoes for the day by the door. Now the decision is to walk a mile barefooted to see this girl or stay home. Tell him this is the way it is going to be for the next three months.

Let's say he decides to bike to the girls as a result. Then the bikes get locked up at night and you have the keys.

If he is stubborn and still leaves at night, we pull out a heavier consequence. The next day, when he is gone, you will back up all his clothing into the trunk -- every scrap of it -- and lock it. Go to a clothing store and find a pair of boxer shorts or pajama shorts which just "scream" that they are not a normal teenage boy's attire -- but nothing girlish. If you can find something you know he will loathe, all the better -- for example, something with Santa Clauses or Winnie the Pooh on them. You want something that he would be embarrassed to death being seen wearing on the streets at 2 am. That night tell him change into the shorts and hand you the clothes he is wearing. (You might need two lockable storages -- one for dirty clothes and one for clean.) In the morning you leave him clothes for the day by his door -- he can make requests for what he wants to wear the next day. Again tell him that this will go on for three months. When he bulks, just shrug and say, it was your choice to break the rules and this is my choice in how to handle it.

I know that what I'm suggesting makes extra work for you, but in the long run it will be less than staying up all night wondering what he is doing. It should give you some peace because you're not arguing with him, you are just stating the facts. But keep in mind that this isn't a full solution. It will stop the midnight outings, but it won't mean he won't find other times to have sex with this girl.