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My son was sent home from sleepover, for bad behavior

By gottagotta 2017-12-01 06:28:06.552Z

I need some help with turning a very disappointing event into a learning opportunity. Last night my 9-year-old son was to spend the night with my neighbor's son, and the neighbor's girlfriend's kids. During the course of the evening my doorbell rings. It's my son, crying, and his friend's dad. He said he was sending him home due to being rude, disrespectful, and defiant to authority. But he didn't provide me specific examples of what my son actually did. I asked my son what happened and he said when the dad was trying to talk to them about something he couldn't stop laughing because of something another child said.

Needless to say, my son was really sad. I want to use this as a learning opportunity. I told him he has to listen and be respectful to adults. Today, my son went over to play and the dad wouldn't let him. The worst part is that they live direct across the street from me so I have got to find a solution or else this will be a long term problem.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

This page is mostly a copy of this parenting.stackexchange.com question, license: CC BY-SA 3.0.

  • 36 replies

There are 36 replies. Estimated reading time: 31 minutes

  1. A
    anongoodnurse 2017-12-01 06:30:16.918Z

    It is a learning opportunity, but for more than one person, especially your child and you.

    First, you need to get the whole story, and you can't get it all from your son; he may well not understand what the adult was expecting at the time. So speak to the adult.

    I did say adult, but that is not the way an adult should handle the situation. Were it a sleepover at my house, and a child was misbehaving badly, I would not send a child home; I would sit down with them privately and go over what I expect of them (no hurting other kids, no name calling, etc.) Only if the child was truly hurtful again after a warning would I take a guest back to their house.

    Laughing while I (as an adult) was explaining something might get the kid a lecture, but not the boot. Sending a kid home for disrespecting an adult sends up all kinds of red flags to me.

    Talk to your neighbor. Be careful to remain very neutral; if he feels judged, he may make things out to be worse than they were. Get as much detail as you can.

    Check in with your son. Compare the stories. Figure out to the best of your ability what likely happened, and who was more at fault for being "disrespectful", your son or your neighbor? Keep that in mind for the future.

    Have your son make a formal apology to your neighbor. An apology is more than just "I'm sorry." Have your son also name what he did wrong and have him assure the adult he won't do it again.

    If that's not enough to put your son back in the neighbor's good graces, that's another red flag.

    Whatever you do, support your son where you can as well. He was humiliated in front of his friends (maybe he deserved it, but maybe not) and he came home crying. He has suffered.

    Personally, I'm not in favor of of a blind "respect authority" approach. Please read about Adam Walsh for an extreme case, or any story of child abuse for an everyday example. Not all adults should be obeyed. Some adults should be steered clear of.

    1. A2aroth 2017-12-01 07:47:17.103Z

      "Have your son make a formal apology to your neighbor." - It seems premature to be recommending this. First the facts need to be determined. Then maybe an apology is in order, if the child was actually in the wrong. Otherwise forcing an apology does more harm than good.

      1. Aanongoodnurse 2017-12-01 07:50:48.522Z

        If you see apologies as social tools as well as moral ones, you can appreciate that the apology is for the ability to be on speaking terms with the neighbor and to be able to play with the neighborhood kids. If the child did nothing wrong, it's a tactical move. If the child did do something wrong - which most likely he did, but the neighbor reacted disproportionately - it's both a tactical move and good practice for owning our actions and their consequences.

        To not apologize simply hurts the child socially. I would not force a child to apologize if they did nothing wrong. I would let the child choose what to do in that situation after discussing the options. If you have never apologized to someone in a position of power (your boss, say) even though you believe believe you did nothing wrong, you must be brave indeed (and often unemployed.)

        1. RR 2017-12-01 07:52:35.698Z

          Indeed, if the child did nothing wrong, which seems likely, you need to explain to the child that the option of apology is a tactical one to deal with manchildren, and that it's up to them whether they want to take this option or not.

          1. A2aroth 2017-12-01 07:54:15.358Z

            "the apology is for the ability to be on speaking terms with the neighbor and to be able to play with the neighborhood kids." - That sounds like appeasement at best, giving in to a bully at worst. I don't believe either of those things are a good lesson to teach. If the child did nothing wrong, the better lesson to teach is confidence; not self-abasement as a means of navigating a social power-structure.

            1. Aanongoodnurse 2017-12-01 07:57:08.953Z

              @aroth - If the child did nothing wrong, we discuss the pros and cons, and the kid decides. Your approach may be the moral high ground, but imagine how the kid feels being unable to play with the kids across the street. The lesson isn't "Stand up to a bully at all costs," the lesson is, "These are your options, and you have power over your own actions." Raise your children in an ideal world; I prefer working in the real world, where there is give and take (not just take) in every social construct. I also stated the child needed support as well. All of what I've said matters (to me.)

              1. A2aroth 2017-12-01 07:58:15.971Z

                Fair enough, as long as the apology is conditional upon either 1) the child actually having done something wrong, or 2) the child agreeing with making a 'show' apology for tactical reasons. Though you may be overstating the neighbor's influence somewhat. The neighbor may control access to their kid, but I doubt they can influence anything beyond that. A neighborhood is a lot bigger than one house and the house next to it, and it's never a bad time for making some new friends.

              2. RR 2017-12-01 07:56:33.490Z

                I see both points here as valid, as long as anongoodnurse's is clearly that the choice of whether to apologize belongs entirely to the child. I think the big thing we're in agreement on is that the important part of answering OP's question is how to convey to the child that you stand with and support them, and are trying to help them find the best way to achieve what they want rather than siding with someone who was at best overreacting and unfair to them

                1. AAdam Davis 2017-12-01 08:04:01.374Z

                  I think it's worth pointing out that different houses and cultures have different rules for what counts as respectful behavior. You may find out that he didn't violate any of your rules for respect, but he may have violated the neighbor's rules. It may be easy for you to dismiss them as objectively incorrect, but I don't think this needs to be a true/false or right/wrong characterization, and in fact forcing that on a child may not be the best solution. You seem ok with calling it a "tactical" apology, but it may in fact be a real apology where nothing was done wrong that isn't tactical.

                  For instance, recognizing that their expectations are different than the child's parents, it'd be perfectly fine to apologize for being disrespectful even if according to their own value system they weren't. This recognizes the differences in culture, that everyone has subjective experiences, and that hurt, offense, and harm can happen even when one is operating within what they believe to be a respectful manner. This isn't a bad lesson for the children, and asking them to consider apologizing for something they did, even if it wasn't wrong shows a respectful level of empathy.

              3. RR 2017-12-01 07:49:12.751Z

                I'm with aroth on this. I see no indication that OP's child did anything wrong. An apology is only called for if the laughing was at another child and came across as ridiculing/embarrassing/humiliating them, but this doesn't seem to be the case. Rather it seems to be the case that the "adult" doesn't know how to respect children.

              4. Tthreetimes 2017-12-01 07:38:31.804Z

                I too found it a minor issue to take a child home over. I may have thought less of it if today things were fine, as you might chalk that up to dad being in a bad mood, behavior issues with his own kids (so that this was a penalty for "all involved"), or something else. The fact that he sent the kid home the next day when he went over is something I'd note as being more significant for sure.

                1. CCJ Dennis 2017-12-01 08:06:54.018Z

                  At the moment the other adult has the power. An apology neutralises some of that, hopefully allowing a level discussion. Using the discussion as a basis, the OP can then decide if they want their child to continue to associate with the adult and the adult's children, putting the power in the OP's court.

                2. T
                  threetimes 2017-12-01 06:32:02.194Z

                  Either dad is overreacting or there is more to the story than he initially reported. I can't imagine that something the child has already been corrected for (taken home, not allowed to stay) would then require additional penalties. I wouldn't say that to the dad, as it's not likely to go over well telling an adult you think they are handling something badly. Instead, I'd ask him to clarify and ask what his intentions are here and when will this pass, or does he want my child do do something to get back in his good graces.

                  Perhaps it could be something as simple as the dad thinking that your son should have come over to apologize. He might see his coming over to play as him not dealing with it. I know your son might be sorry for sure, but that doesn't mean he has told that dad he is sorry. Usually a direct apology and ownership of the mistake is enough to get most adults to let it go. I would hope so in this case if all he did was laugh at the wrong time.

                  I would also ask your son again about the laughing. Maybe he did laugh at what another child said. I would check in though to see if it's more than just that. Laughing while under stress is actually a known character trait. I have a child that laughs when she is in trouble. It isn't meant to be rude and it's something I will have to help her learn to curb, but it's a nervous reaction.

                  I don't recall having it as a child (though perhaps I did) but I am also one to laugh sometimes at the wrong time as an adult. I hate when it happens. It absolutely will offend people if the timing is awful. I have laughed during a funeral, where I was very sad. Sometimes the more sad and stressed I am, the more likely I am to find everything hilarious. I have no idea why and wish I didn't most of the time.

                  I assume it's my system's way of getting through a difficult time. I am especially prone to long fits of giggling (like eye watering, need to sit down laughing) when going through grief. I didn't even know that until I was grown and started having losses that were people closer to me. I laugh a lot during grief. That generally doesn't bother me, as usually it happens at okay times, like when I am at home on my way to the funeral and spill coffee all over.

                  Normally such a thing will cause me maybe to swear, and be annoyed. When I am under stress or grief it may cause me a 10 mins laughing fit. I have then had it prolonged because the more other people seem confused about why I am laughing, I laugh at how stupid my reason is. It sometimes is referred to as "inappropriate affect". If it happens all the time, it's a real issue that you should seek help with.

                  If it's more specific, like when in trouble, or only under specific stresses and doesn't impair your life, it's just something you work on curbing. I just brought it up in case you do see this come out from him at other times. Getting in trouble for it won't assist you in learning how to manage it in a way that others won't find as offensive.

                  1. Mmoonpoint 2017-12-01 08:13:12.300Z

                    I've seen that happen with others when they've received shocking bad news and have even experienced it myself. The Wikipedia article on nervous laughter mentions "In A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness, neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran suggests that laughter is used as a defense mechanism used to guard against overwhelming anxiety. Laughter often diminishes the suffering associated with a traumatic event."

                  2. U
                    user 2017-12-01 06:33:32.591Z

                    I think there are two possibilities:

                    1. The other dad is crazy. Sorry, maybe I am exaggerating, but if your son said the truth, I would be the one never to send my son over. I am especially worried about the fact the next day he would not allow him over, it seems a childish behavior and what I expect from someone who has a really big ego problem.

                    2. Your son is not saying a fraction of what happened. He may have done something really bad he is afraid of letting you know, and so that even the other dad is not telling you for fear of generating real problems (so the other dad is actually being respectful and tactful). No idea of what that might be, but it must be something really serious.

                    Either way, you need to decide which one, and I think the only way is to have a very frank, open discussion with your neighbour, and then with your son again.

                    Having your son apologise until you know what happened makes no sense to me, apologise for what? You need to get to the bottom of it so, if something happened, you apologise for what really happened.

                    1. TT E D 2017-12-01 08:17:29.101Z

                      I'd like to add to this...My kids are now young adults, and looking back (and listening to what they remember), my failures I most regret are not when I failed to back up adults against them, but when I failed to take their side and should have. The world is brimming over with crazy adults, and they are in a powerless position against the crazy. They need you to have their backs. Not that your kids aren't crazy too of course...

                      1. RR 2017-12-01 08:21:01.708Z

                        +1000 to @T E D if I could.

                      2. VVingtoft 2017-12-01 08:26:53.062Z

                        +1 for considering the (perhaps unlikely) scenario that the other dad is actually respectful or perhaps ashamed of telling the truth. A classic scenario is the kids were "caught" in playing "doctor", a very normal activity that many parents dislike and dont know how to handle. A wild guess, I know :)

                        1. Aanongoodnurse 2017-12-01 08:22:26.930Z

                          The apology is for the ability to be on speaking terms with the neighbor and to be able to play with the neighborhood kids. If the child did nothing wrong, it's a tactical move. If the child did do something wrong - which most likely he did, but the neighbor reacted disproportionately - it's both a tactical move and good practice for owning our actions and their consequences.

                          1. Uuser 2017-12-01 08:23:19.373Z

                            I did not say do not apologise, I said get the facts first. You cannot apologise if you have no idea of what the facts are. Apologise for what? You don't know. Get the facts straight first, then make the decision.

                            1. Aanongoodnurse 2017-12-01 08:24:57.343Z

                              Ah, you're right. I read that too quickly. My apologies. I'll try to be more careful.

                              1. Uuser 2017-12-01 08:25:27.550Z

                                NP, I do that all the time :)

                        2. D
                          Dom 2017-12-01 06:37:18.376Z

                          I always used to smile/grin when I was nervous as a child. It was something I couldn't help. A lot of people misconstrued it as being cheeky and defiant.

                          I can imagine that at 9 years old, I would have been grinning from ear to ear if a neighbour had told me off. In fact I'm sure it happened a few times.

                          It could be something your son always does, or just did in this situation.

                          Either way, I'd explain this possibility to the neighbour and see if he's open to taking a look at the situation from the perspective of a young child.

                          Whether the neighbour is receptive or not, I would explain to your son that I think it was a nervous smile, and that people will misunderstand it in future, so he should try not to do it, but not to worry too much because humans misunderstanding each other is a part of life.

                          1. K
                            Kevin 2017-12-01 06:35:45.087Z

                            Something does not add up. I would definitely talk to the other dad and say something along the lines of "I'm sorry my son misbehaved. Could you give me some details so that I can make sure he understands what he did was wrong?" No matter what he says, I would reply with "Thanks, I'll talk to my son about it."

                            This gives you a chance to get the whole story. It may be that your son was telling the truth, that there was a misunderstanding, or that your son was, in fact, misbehaving.

                            If the first, as others have said, this seems like an overreaction and I would take it as a warning sign.

                            If the second, I would give it a few days for things to cool off. Then go over with your son, apologize for the misunderstanding and maybe invite their kids over to your house to play.

                            If the third, talk to your son about what he did wrong and make him go over and apologize.

                            1. RR 2017-12-01 08:32:10.991Z

                              "I'm sorry my son misbehaved" is inappropriate and unfair to OP's son when there's been no indication that such a thing actually happened. More appropriate would be something along the lines of "I'm upset with what happened last night and need to know details about what happened.

                              1. Uuser 2017-12-01 08:32:45.616Z

                                The other dad brought the son home implying he had misbehaved. So, it is appropriate to say "I am sorry my son misbehaved" (according to him) and ask for details. It is just a way to open the conversation and understand what happened. If nothing happened, having said that is not really hurtful to anyone.

                                1. RR 2017-12-01 08:34:18.913Z

                                  Given that the other dad was initially not forthcoming about details, it seems unlikely that there was misbehavior, especially not at the level that would warrant an apology when the other side was much more at fault.

                                  1. KKevin 2017-12-01 08:35:36.323Z

                                    Um, call me crazy but the other parent making your child come home from a sleepover because he misbehaved is, you know, an indicator that it happened. OP doesn't state whether he asked for details or not during the initial conversation. Depending on what was going on, the other dad may not have had time to volunteer details if there was a houseful of kids that he needed to get back to watching.

                              2. SShauna 2017-12-01 08:40:30.029Z

                                I think a better tactical apology if this approach is taken would be one that doesn't assume what is not known, but reiterates the facts that are known. "I'm sorry you felt the need to send my son home. Can you provide me details so that I can address it accordingly?"

                                1. KKevin 2017-12-01 08:42:38.653Z

                                  I disagree. You are apologizing to someone for THEIR feelings/actions. That never comes across well.

                                  1. SShauna 2017-12-01 08:43:17.132Z

                                    So reword it slightly -- "I'm sorry you had to send my son home," or "I'm sorry my son had to come home." My point is to apologize for the events that you know happened. The OP doesn't actually know any concrete details other than the father brought the child back. Without that information, apologizing for the child's behavior isn't right, either.

                              3. B
                                Ben Crowell 2017-12-01 06:39:50.831Z

                                Even assuming that your son is telling the truth and the whole truth and not shading the truth, the father's reaction seems perfectly reasonable to me. It's not a motel or a football stadium, it's someone's home. It's a privilege for your son to be invited there. This man is not a teacher or babysitter being paid to handle your son's behavior.

                                What's conspicuously missing from the whole story is an apology by your son. Of course the dad didn't let him come over the next day -- he's waiting for an apology from the kid acknowledging that he was rude and promising to behave better in the future. Such an apology should have happened early on, like immediately. If the kid has never learned how to apologize for misbehavior, then it's time for him to learn. His behavior was rude on the face of it, even if there is nothing more to the story than what he said.

                                It's possible that he really didn't intend to be rude, but that doesn't matter. If I step on someone's toe in the supermarket, I don't laugh it off, and it doesn't matter that I didn't intend to step on their toe. I apologize immediately because that's polite behavior in that situation. Ditto if I ask a woman when the baby is due when in fact she's not pregnant. Ditto if I make a joke about plumbers' butt cracks at a barbecue, and it turns out the guy I was telling it to was a plumber. It doesn't matter if I thought the woman was pregnant, or I didn't know the guy was a plumber. Your son is 9, and that's plenty old enough to understand this concept of polite behavior.

                                1. C
                                  Chris Sunami 2017-12-01 06:46:27.284Z

                                  This may largely be a matter of different parenting styles and expectations. I don't feel it needs to end up being a case where you feel you have to take sides between your son and your neighbor --they might both be "right" in different ways. As most other people have mentioned, the first step is to have a private, adult-to-adult conversation with your neighbor, and get the full story from his side, with details. This really should have happened as soon as possible, and definitely prior to your son trying to go play at the neighbor's house again.

                                  What we do definitely know is that there is a disconnect between what this parent expects, and your son's behavior. After hearing the whole story, you might decide that the other parent's expectations are unreasonable, and that your son shouldn't try to meet them. In that case, your son shouldn't play over there any more. On the other hand, even the best raised 9-year-olds can misjudge the right time for a joke. If the other parent was trying to explain a safety matter, or respond to a child being hurt, for example, a bunch of inappropriate laughter might have been more than he wanted to put up with at that moment. In that case, you should have a talk with your son about the need to match his behavior to the other parent's expectations if he wants to be invited to play there again (emphasis on "invited").

                                  Either way, it is a parent's right (barring abusiveness) to set expectations in their own house, and to expect child guests to honor those (maybe he just didn't want to be laughed at by a 9-year-old in front of his own kids). We all encounter situations where we either have to meet the local standard or go home (whether we agree with it may be besides the point). The fact that you live across the street doesn't obligate either you to change your standards, or them to change theirs.

                                  1. V
                                    Vingtoft 2017-12-01 06:48:40.612Z

                                    As many people has pointed out: Something does not match up. Your neighbours reaction is, according to the vast majority, not proportional to the "crime".

                                    Many years ago a similar thing happened for a friend: His son was caught playing doctor at a friends house. He was sent home, and neither the parents, being ashamed of their own child, or the my friends son (also ashamed) told the truth.

                                    This explanation might be unlikely, but at least you should consider it and talk to your son about it.

                                    1. U
                                      user1751825 2017-12-01 06:54:03.827Z

                                      The fact that this father was ready to completely humiliate you and your son over what sounds like a triviality, doesn't say anything good about him. If your son had actually done anything warranting this sort of treatment, the father would have told you about it. The fact that he wouldn't give any details most likely means that he knows it will sound petty.

                                      The most important thing is to support your son. In the absence of any other evidence I think you need to assume the other child's father is really the one at fault, and not your son.

                                      The father sounds like a very petty, insecure man, who requires absolute obedience in order to validate himself.

                                      Perhaps you can approach the father again and ask him to tell you what your son did, so that you can speak to him about it. If he still refuses to give any details, then your son probably just needs to hang out with his friend elsewhere. There may not be any better resolution. If it were my son, I would have concerns about him being around such a person anyway.

                                      1. R
                                        Ryan 2017-12-01 06:51:53.189Z

                                        He said he was sending him home due to being rude, disrespectful, and
                                        defiant to authority. But he didn't provide me specific examples of
                                        what my son actually did.

                                        This is a huge red flag. Passive aggressive behavior like this (i.e., no specific example) shows a lack of respect in general. The fact that he held a grudge the next day demonstrates that he's petty and judgmental. A grudge against a 9-year-old! If you can't handle the energy of a few random kids with different upbringings, then don't host a sleep over. He's weak.

                                        I would side with your son without investigating further. Trust your kid. If the other father had a valid point, your kid had already learned that lesson.

                                        The real lesson here for your son is you don't solve problems by avoidance. You confront problems directly, unlike this guy. If someone under your authority misbehaves then you correct them, you don't ostracize them or hold a grudge. If you cannot handle a problem, you communicate it properly and not with the judgmental nonsense that this guy laid on you.