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Asking a question on behalf of a distraught friend--any advice what she should do about her teenager?

It's not my kid, for a change, thank goodness. But a friend of mine called me almost hysterical. Her high school freshman and the neighbor kid, who is around the same age, were out in the neighbor's shed dipping strings in gasoline and lighting them on fire. There's a fair amount of damage to the shed, and when she got home from work, there were firefighters on the scene. So there will be legal consequences for both kis, probably involving court-ordered counseling and fire safety classes and possibly a fine. But she's really floored, and at a loss of what to do as far as parental consequences go. All I could do was offer sympathy--we've been through this with my stepson--but does anybody else have ideas of what else I can tell her? The kid has always seemed to have a fairly good head on his shoulders. When she asked him what in the world he was thinking, he didn't have much to say.


Asked by Ballad at 9:28 PM on Oct. 9, 2013 in Teens (13-17)

Level 45 (193,996 Credits)
This question is closed.
Answers (9)
  • I strongly suggest not waiting for the courts to decide on a punishment. That takes too long to have the immediate BOOM that needs to happen here. And, tells the kid that the courts are the bad guy. I'd get a copy of the insurance report, and see how the much the damages cost to repair, then tell the kid he is responsible for half. He either gets a job, and starts earning, it or he works for me and I start saving up the money. If they home owners don't need it due to being insured, I'd save it for his therapy bill. Cuz this kid needs to be seen by a pro who can determine if just a bored kid who got stupid, a behavioral issue, a drug issue, etc. Fire starting can be a sign of just a kid wanting to play around or something much worse, and a professional really needs to determine that.

    Answer by Nimue930 at 10:13 PM on Oct. 9, 2013

  • I would be thinking more about how to get this kid on track than consequences. I would ground him to keep an eye on him, but I would also look into getting him involved in a sport or activity. He'll meet new friends and be too busy to light stuff on fire. He sounds bored. A figurative kick in the butt and a new path to follow are in order.

    Answer by tessiedawg at 9:46 PM on Oct. 9, 2013

  • Kids are dumb, but recently my friend's son set fire to her home, and she and her daughter died, this was intentional on his part. I would say your friend needs to calm down, get him into some kind of therapy to see if this was stupid kid stuff or a behavior disorder. Of course he should be made to help with repaying the costs of the damage he and his friend did. I think she should ground him, but imagine his punishment will be pretty severe, and she needs to ask that it be.
    I am sorry for his stupidity, but thankful nobody got hurt.

    Answer by 2kids2dogs2cats at 9:53 PM on Oct. 9, 2013

  • Are you sure they weren't huffing?

    Answer by PartyGalAnne at 9:54 PM on Oct. 9, 2013

  • Party gal that is a pretty good point, why be locked in a shed, most kids would be setting fires outside, not near themselves.

    Answer by 2kids2dogs2cats at 9:58 PM on Oct. 9, 2013

  • I think every child goes thru a stage of being fascinated with fire. My SO told me that when he was a child he was caught playing with matches by a relative that was a fire fighter. This relative showed him graphic pictures of people with various degrees of burns. He gained a healthy respect for fire.

    I agree that he should be made to pay for the fines and should be involved in something (sports or some sort of activity). Community service or some sort of volunteer work might not be a bad idea either. I would also suggest to the court that fire safety courses be ordered. Or sign him up for the fire safety course before the court process even starts. That shows the judge that the parent realizes the child is at fault and is being proactive about it.

    Answer by tempsingl3mom at 10:04 PM on Oct. 9, 2013

  • I would see if I could find some sort of volunteer opportunity involving burn victims.

    Answer by Dardenella at 10:09 PM on Oct. 9, 2013

  • Are you sure they weren't huffing?

    Good question. I hadn't even considered that.

    Comment by Ballad (original poster) at 10:03 PM on Oct. 9, 2013

  • I did suggest the fire safety thing. We went through this with my stepson when he was around the same age. The first time, there was no court involvement, but his parents voluntarily took him to a four-hour fire class put on by the local fire department. The second time, the courts got in on the action because he started a fire in a neighbor's trash can and burned their patio awning, and he had to attend a weekly class for a couple of months. Part of that was a tour of the burn unit at the children's hospital where the class was held. That did seem to make an impression on my stepson, so I advised my friend about it. She's just in shock. Her husband is plain old pissed off, he wanted to beat the stuffing out of the kid. He won't, of course, but I can't say I blame him for his feelings, given the awful might-have-beens.

    Comment by Ballad (original poster) at 10:12 PM on Oct. 9, 2013