Our Son, 8, Snuck Out to Walmart at 3:30 a.m. — Now What?

Here’s nytzkihtab
a rather startling note I just got in my email-box:
Dear Free-Range Kids: Last night/this morning our 8yr old son woke us up at 3:30AM telling us that the people from Walmart wanted to speak with us.
He walked 3 miles in the middle of the night to Walmart in order to buy some roses for his mother. My wife and I were shocked to say the least. All manner of “what if’s” ran through our minds (car accident, child molesters, police taking our children away, etc.) as every emotion covered us as well.
This morning at work I typed in “8yr old walks 3 miles to Walmart” and your website popped up. 
He didn’t tell us he was going ( he wanted it to be a surprise).  We are very into “old school” things. I’ve taught my sons (we have 6 children; 4 boys) to act like men, responsibility, maturity, etc. 
I’d love any feedback, ideas, how to proceed from here.
We don’t want to reward his behavior, but nether do we want to turn him into a timid boy who is afraid of everything.
Thank you for your time. — Sleepy Dad in San Antonio

Dear Sleepy (I replied): I think you CAN reward it — his desire for independence, his bravery, and also his wishing to give a wonderful surprise gift. But you can add that in the future he can’t go out after X or Y time without telling you first, for YOUR sake. He sounds like a thoughtful and caring kid, he’ll understand that his actions could get YOU in trouble. Any idea why he chose 3:30 a.m.? Anyway, I think he sounds like a fantastic kid! – L

Dear Lenore (Sleepy Dad wrote back) I see your point, and this whole concept is brand new to me.
I grew up with a lot of the freedom that you speak about on your site, and I remember riding my bike far and then coming back home at “dark”. I do believe that things are more dangerous now, but you’ve challenged these beliefs. I’m kind of in a Matrix kind of position, if that makes sense.
I saw that you wrote a book, perhaps reading it would give me more understanding to where you’re coming from.
Anyway, as to  why 3:30AM: He wanted it to be a surprise, and so after everyone is asleep was the best time. – Dad
Sleepy: I am even MORE impressed by your son’s planning and nerve. He sounds so cool! And kudos to the Walmart crew for calling YOU and not CPS! I will run this on my site to see if the readers have other insight to add. (They usually do.)  – L.

Welcome, solo 8-year-olds at 3:30 a.m.!

Welcome, solo 8-year-olds at 3:30 a.m.!


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165 Responses to Our Son, 8, Snuck Out to Walmart at 3:30 a.m. — Now What?

  1. SKL May 18, 2015 at 11:40 pm #

    I remember sneaking out my window at night and going to the store as a kid. 🙂 Of course had I been caught, I knew I’d be in trouble, but I probably didn’t think of the store calling my parents.

    I also remember planning to sneak and do lovely things for my mom while she slept. Like clean up the house and fill a vase with flowers and bake a cake. 😉 I usually fell asleep before doing them, though.

    I’m guessing this boy did not know how far away the store was, especially if he’s always gone there in a car. He was probably second-guessing his wisdom by the time he had gone a mile.

    I would just have a talk with him about laws and curfews and being where you’re supposed to be. And yes, what-ifs, considering that if he’d twisted his ankle or something, it might have been difficult for him to get help at that hour and distance from home.

    Also, in the near future (but not as a “reward”), I’d consider giving him more freedom during the daylight hours, so he can try to accomplish his plans at a more suitable time. Obviously he knows his way around and knows how to contact his parents in an emergency.

  2. Jenny Islander May 18, 2015 at 11:47 pm #

    Sometimes, I tell my older children (11 and 8), parents get scared. Even if you are 100 percent certain that you can handle [situation], even if I am 100 percent certain that you can handle it, I’m going to get nervous, because every parent from housecats to humans is a worrier. So, for my sake, please tell me where you’re going and when you expect to be back. If you aren’t sure where you’re going or when you’ll be back, take your phone, so that if I get super worried I can do something besides sitting here in a tizzy wondering if you were eaten by a grue.

    Also, I tell them, adults who don’t know you may freak out if they see you in [place] at [time.] That’s why you don’t go downtown until after lunch even if you’ve finished all of your homeschool work early. That’s why my tween can’t take her bike on the same route to the lookout at the edge of town that adult bike commuters use on every workday. (She did–once. A “friend” called the cops, not me, and then the cops, plural, called me.)

    Actually going out alone at oh-dark-thirty has never even come up here in coastal Alaska, because bears. :/

  3. Katie May 18, 2015 at 11:51 pm #

    I don’t know, Lenore. This is getting a little hard core for me. I can’t go along with congratulating a kid for sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night. I have a mature, independent 7 year old girl. She knows better than to leave the house without telling anyone, and she definitely knows it would not be okay to leave at night. In fact, the reason I can give her more leeway is because we have practiced good decision making from toddlerhood. This boy made a bad decision. He left at night, without permission. My reaction: if he thought that would be okay, then I can’t trust his decision making skills for a while. My guess is that he thought it would be an adventure, and he ignored the little voice telling him that it’s not okay to sneak out of the house at night.

    I also want to make a distinction between the way we treat children and the way we treat adults. Actually, my spouse doesn’t leave without saying where he’s going and goodbye. It’s basic courtesy in a family. We don’t come and go like hotel guests. I would certainly expect that the children in the house must let an adult know when and where they’re going within a radius and established restrictions.

    I think he knew better, but decided to do it anyway. Training him to make good decisions mean holding him accountable for bad ones. And that’s how you will be able to trust him when he’s 16 and driving.

  4. hineata May 19, 2015 at 12:06 am #

    You have department stores open at 3 a.m? Damn. …

    I wouldn’t yell at the boy….actually, I’d be too shocked to. ..but I think he does need some loss of privilege or whatever minor correction method the parents employ. This was a silly thing to do. It’s probable though that Walmart calling the parents had shock value though, which is why I think any correction applied should be minor.

  5. Suzanne May 19, 2015 at 12:10 am #

    I would suggest having a little talk with him about the consequences of this action for the whole family (which it seems you have already sone), and then call an alarm company. That way if anyone leaves the house you’ll know about it, even if you were sound asleep 🙂

    I have a chime on my alarm that beeps anytime a door is opened, which was a godsend when my son was little. he was always heading outdoors on a whim, impulsive little guy. took a long while to get him right on the protocol, and in the meantime I had a little help in noticing when he’d gone AWOL.

  6. Rob McMillin May 19, 2015 at 12:25 am #

    What a wonderful outcome. So often these things end up with cops getting involved and the parents in serious legal trouble.

  7. Connie May 19, 2015 at 12:27 am #

    I think “congratulating” is a ridiculous response, sorry. It’s one thing to tell him “You must have felt very grown-up and brave going out by yourself in the middle of the night!” But that’d have to be followed by a really big BUT. It’s not ok to do it again and here’s why. You will definitely find yourself at the police station if police see you. You’ll worry us to bits if we become aware you’re missing. Don’t know the route the boy walked, was it right around the corner or across a highway? That’d need discussion too if it were any kind of hazardous route.

    I wouldn’t punish but I would make sure the boy understands this adventure is not to be repeated.

    Your response really bums me out. Critics of free-range parenting will absolutely use this as a reason to be dismissive of your otherwise totally reasonable approach. “Free-Range author congratulates 8-year-old for sneaking out at 3am!” is something that will just put people off who might otherwise be open to your overall message.

    Stepping on your own foot with this one.

  8. Heidi May 19, 2015 at 12:29 am #

    Katie wrote, “This boy made a bad decision. He left at night, without permission. My reaction: if he thought that would be okay, then I can’t trust his decision making skills for a while. My guess is that he thought it would be an adventure, and he ignored the little voice telling him that it’s not okay to sneak out of the house at night.”

    But he’s a boy! This is how boys act! Some 7 year old girls may have the self control, decision-making, permission-seeking, established-restrictions, etc. etc. of, basically, a little old lady. But a boy may seek adventure, and a kind of self mastery, and it involves things that are, well, not stuff that reasonable adult ladies think is ok. This is normal for boys.

  9. Lisa E. May 19, 2015 at 12:31 am #

    Dear Dad,

    I’m guessing you live in a small town where you are recognizable or we wouldn’t be getting this happy ending / learning opportunity / thanks village for helping us raise stronger citizens post. Kudos to you for making the relationships (no small deal!!!!!).

    To answer your question: Do both.

    . Reward him for being chivalrous, adventuresome, loving, kind, and a gentleman. Let mom gush on how much she loves her little man becoming a man. And is concerned that he take / steer him into taking on these tasks under the tutelage of an esteemed mentor (Dad?) like many superheros do.

    And also — give him a consequence for the time he chose to do it. It doesn’t have to be huge — but something. Educate him gently (If you don’t, the neighbors and police will 🙁 Eventually. In a much harsher way. ).

    And kudos for the store having him call you!

  10. Alex May 19, 2015 at 12:35 am #

    I’m really impressed by the 8-year-old’s dedication to do this for his mother, and I wouldn’t punish him after-the-fact, but I don’t really feel comfortable with a child that young walking that far alone that late at night without notifying anyone first.

    If just some of these variables were changed (like if he were walking a short distance at night or if he were walking a long distance in the day after letting someone know) I’d be more okay with it.

    Regardless, his parents could very well have gotten in trouble if someone reported the event to the police. And 8 is younger than I’d personally let go on a 3 mile journey alone (assuming this isn’t a path I’ve already walked with him many times). A few years older and I wouldn’t be quite so concerned.

  11. Alex May 19, 2015 at 12:36 am #

    Oops, in my last comment I assumed the mom had e-mailed you, not the dad.
    Sorry, I wasn’t reading carefully enough. Not that it much changes my response.

  12. Emily May 19, 2015 at 12:36 am #

    Honestly, I wouldn’t punish the boy. Yes, I think it’d be a good idea to talk to him about not leaving the house without telling anyone, especially at 3:30 a.m., but considering he went to Wal-Mart to buy flowers for his mother, his heart was in the right place. So, I don’t think a barrage of no, don’t, can’t, and lost privileges is in order here. Instead, I’d tell him what he CAN do. No, he can’t go out in the middle of the night to buy flowers for his mother (although that’s a nice thought), but he can definitely use his art supplies to make a nice card, or his laptop (or the family computer) to make a slideshow if he wants to do something nice. I find that kids (and adults) generally respond better when people tell them what they DO want, rather than what they don’t want.

  13. SKL May 19, 2015 at 1:52 am #

    The 3:30 time is when he called from Wal-Mart. We don’t know when he left home.

    Am I the only person who wonders if this was his first time wandering at night?

  14. Mark Davis May 19, 2015 at 1:55 am #

    If my kid had done this I’d be pissed – I think every parent would. The distinction, though, is that while it’s definitely a stupid thing to have done, even if well-meaning, it’s just that – a stupid thing that a kid has done. Not cause for CPS to intervene, not cause for calling the cops, probably cause for grounding the kid or withholding privileges or otherwise punishing him, but just that.

    I think this is a good story – kid does something dumb, store manager calls the parents, everyone stays calm, kid learns a lesson, no one gets hurt. A good outcome.

  15. sigh May 19, 2015 at 2:43 am #

    I’m with Mark, except for the word “dumb.” I would say, “Did something that seemed out of synch with safety, responsibility, and consideration.”

    We all miss the mark, all the time. And it’s always in the service of something all human beings value. In this case, the kid was going for caring, appreciation, celebration, kindness, generosity, and delight. Go ahead and celebrate all of those things.

    And celebrate safety, responsibility, and consideration by co-creating agreements about communication and hours of out-of-the house activity.

    Punishment? Not necessary. Enlisting this clearly self-motivated and capable child in creating some agreements that support his and his parents’ values? YES.

  16. Emily Morris May 19, 2015 at 8:09 am #

    Ooh, this is a tricky one. I am super impressed by this kid’s actions:walking three miles in the dark. Safety bonus: he knows the neighborhood! And as has been suggested: he may have done this before.

    but, wow, 3 AM? I don’t know if that’s dangerous (probably less so, all the bush – dwelling child predators think the kids are home in bed). But as a parent you like to know the general vicinity of your child.

    I’d talk it over with the kid: it’s generally smart for people to know where you are. I wouldn’t give consequences unless he has broken a pre-established rule/curfew. Perhaps it’s time to set a curfew. But depending on reactions here, the boy may have decided midnight escapades should be reserved for later times.

    And I hope Mom treasures the flowers–there is still a “pretty cool” element to this story.

    Wal-Mart folks: thanks for considering this a youthful adventure that parents just might want to know about instead of the crime of the century.

  17. Belinda Goldman May 19, 2015 at 8:14 am #

    I think that you can have a frank discussion with him. Explain that even adults take care late at night and don’t usually walk around alone in the dark. Explain to him that whilst surprises are fantastic, he needs to use his judgment as to whether what he’s proposing to do is safe and if he’s not sure he should ask a family member (although obviously not the one he’s planning to surprise)

  18. Jill May 19, 2015 at 8:24 am #

    Is “snuck” a word? I always thought the past tense of sneak was sneaked.
    Anyway, I’m curious what “the people from Wal-Mart” said to the dad. Did they let the boy walk back home and then telephone, asking to speak to his parents? Or did they tell the kid to have his father call them when he woke up?
    If I were the manager of the store, I wouldn’t let the boy walk home by himself in the wee hours of the morning. I’d call his parents and have them come and pick him up. Not that I believe child molesters would be out roaming the highways and byways, looking for child victims, but there are plenty of drunks on the road after the bars close and they might unwittingly run the kid over.
    He sounds like a thoughtful boy who wanted to do something nice to surprise his mom. I don’t think he should be punished, but he should be told not to leave the house alone at night without permission.

  19. Crystal May 19, 2015 at 8:29 am #

    I’m with most of the others: have a talk with him about acceptable behaviors, but don’t punish him. That being said, what a sweet kid! My heart would melt after it started beating again! 🙂

  20. BL May 19, 2015 at 8:35 am #

    “Is “snuck” a word? I always thought the past tense of sneak was sneaked.”

    Yeah, why have so many incorrect verbs been brung into English? 🙂

  21. Jami May 19, 2015 at 8:43 am #

    That is over the line for me. It is not ok to go out alone at night. Period. Not at 8 years old.

    I think setting clear rules and boundaries is called for in this situation. And if he does it again, maybe there should be a consequence. But an 8 year old walking to Walmart at 3 am is not ok. Many of the people out at 3 am are not the kind you want your kid running into.

    We live in the country, do I wouldn’t want him out at that time here because right now the night belongs to the skunks. 🙂

  22. Kathleen May 19, 2015 at 9:00 am #

    Yeeeah, I’m going to have to go with consequences for this one. I let my kids range all over the neighborhood, I’ve allowed the 9 yo to bike a couple of miles to Walmart with his older friend (11), but, no matter how altruistic his motives, leaving the house in the middle of the night is a big fat NO. There is a difference between “free-range” and “anarchic”. Free-range allows for kids to make choices, learn their limits and push their comfort levels a bit, but WITH parental guidance and wisdom helping them. It shouldn’t be a free-for-all, kids get to do whatever they want, whenever they want, no limits, movement. This kid is not mature or responsible enough to have the privilege of wandering around his neighborhood alone anymore. He broke the house rules and there should be consequences. When my kid took advantage of his freedom to do something he was pretty sure we wouldn’t be happy about, he had to check in with us every time he went to a different friend’s house for a week. We didn’t take away all his freedom, but we put much stronger limits on it until we were sure he could be trusted to follow our rules. (Oh, and to the poster who pretty much said that boys will be boys? Please don’t do that. This isn’t a ” boy ” thing, this is an irresponsible, thoughtless child thing. Acting as though there shouldn’t be consequences because he just can’t help his impulsive nature is a recipe for disaster later in life.)

  23. baby-paramedic May 19, 2015 at 9:14 am #

    It is in the dictionary anyway, even if it is listed as “informal”.

    I am guessing it wasn’t against the rules. If it was against the rules, punish as per usual.
    As I am guessing it wasn’t against the rules (because small children don’t usually go walkabout in the middle of the night), I would have a discussion about yes, doing a nice thing is nice, but parents worry, and worrying your parents isn’t nice etc. Then ask what HE will do to make up for the worry.

    I think him choosing (or helping to choose under guidance) what retribution he does would be better. That way he is more in control of the consequences, and can see that he is only being punished for the bad thing, not the good thing he did.

  24. CrazyCatLady May 19, 2015 at 9:23 am #

    Sure, talk with the boy. He apparently did not understand that this was not appropriate. And,to be fair, the parents sound like they did not communicate that this was not appropriate. (There is such a thing for parents of not considering that a kid might actually do something that would seem to be way beyond what the child has done before.) Once you have the talk, that is the new rule. If he does it again…yep, he gets in trouble.

    I would encourage him to talk about his plans for things like this with the other parent. Not so that the parent can take him to the store, but rather so that the parent can suggest a proper time, and perhaps cover some, by encouraging him to go for a bike ride or such in front of the other parent. Or, if baking a cake…taking mom out for lunch or something to get her out of the way while the surprise is made.

  25. Donna May 19, 2015 at 9:25 am #

    I think Lenore is way off the mark here.

    First, I agree with Connie, that this is a bad story to have on the blog. People already paint free rangers as irresponsibly, lazy and negligent parents. Encouraging parents to reward their children for sneaking out of the house at 3am and traveling 3 miles to Wal-mart just begs those conclusions and I tend to agree with them. There is nothing positive about this scenario except that Wal-mart called the parents instead of the police.

    Second, there absolutely should be consequences. You can’t tell me that this boy didn’t know that his behavior was completely unacceptable and yet he did it anyway. That has to be consequences. As someone said, free range kids is not about anarchy and allowing kids to do whatever they want, whenever they want as long as it shows a sense of adventure. It is about allowing freedom within the prescribed limits. Breaking the rules of the house is never okay, even the unsaid rules that clearly known because doing things at 3am is never done. Even if you secretly cheer the fact that he made it to Wal-mart on his own, you deal with the breaking of house rules.

    This decision showed a complete lack of maturity and the decision-making skills necessary to be free range. My daughter is allowed to free range because she has showed me that she can be trusted to follow the rules I set. She is allowed to ride her bike to school because I trust that she will actually go to school and not the park. She is allowed to stay home alone because I trust that she will follow the rules I’ve established (essentially no friends over and no trampoline) while I am gone. She is allowed to wander alone because I trust her to stay within her range and to come home when she is supposed to be home. If I didn’t trust her to do these things, she wouldn’t be allowed to free range, not because I am helicopter, but because she shows a lack of maturity.

    It is fully possible to provide consequences for the negative behavior without stifling the independent nature. Just like kids can understand that there are different rules for different places, they can understand that they are being punished for specific behavior and not for the whole as long as you take the time to explain it to them.

    As an aside, I’m not sure I completely buy the altruistic motive here and am curious as to whether he bought the flowers before being caught or whether this was just a handy excuse when he got caught.

  26. lollipoplover May 19, 2015 at 9:28 am #

    ***silently applauds this very sweet gesture***

    Does anyone remember that awful Christmas Shoes song about the boy who was buying shoes for his dying mother? Probably at a Walmart? I don’t know why I thought of this song, or the gesture, but apparently we glorify the act of kindness and sweetness in song but not so much in real life.
    A kid, alone, buying something for his mother, how sweet. Call the authorities!
    (But thank you to the kind people at Walmart who called his home.)
    And this boy wanted to buy flowers for his mom.

    Yes, it was at night, without permission, and sneaky….but he sounds like a cool kid.
    But we that song plays allll season long at Christmas, glorifying these kind gestures and when they happen in real life, we loose our sh*t over what could have happened to him.

    Give his a good lecture about using his brains but don’t squash that spirit!

  27. Donna May 19, 2015 at 9:33 am #

    “He apparently did not understand that this was not appropriate. And,to be fair, the parents sound like they did not communicate that this was not appropriate.”

    I disagree completely with this. Of course, he understood that it wasn’t appropriate. While I highly doubt that his parents ever said “don’t get up at 3:30am and walk to Wal-Mart,” he still knew that it was inappropriate. He knew it was inappropriate because he likely DOES have a time when he needs to be in the house and it is not 3:30am. He knew it was inappropriate because he knows when his bedtime is and that bedtime means that we don’t play outside anymore. He knew it was inappropriate because he never goes anywhere at 3:30am. He knew it was inappropriate because he is not allowed to walk to Wal-Mart at any time of the day. He knew it was inappropriate because he knows where he is allowed to go alone, if anywhere, and it is not Wal-Mart.

    I don’t believe for one second that he actually thought going to Wal-Mart at 3:30 am was acceptable regardless of why he was going.

  28. SKL May 19, 2015 at 9:35 am #

    Donna, even good kids make poor choices at times.

    Your post suggests you are about 100% sure your daughter would never do anything outside of the boundaries you set. I think that would be very, very unusual. And I would not agree with locking up every child who can’t be 100% trusted to stay within boundaries when nobody is looking. There is something to be said for learning from mistakes.

    I was very free range, and I was also a pretty good kid, but I broke my fair share of rules, including some things I’m certain my parents thought I’d never do. (And both of my parents would say the same thing about their childhood.) I’m not going to say that made me a better person – a more aware person, yes – but it didn’t hurt me.

  29. SKL May 19, 2015 at 9:39 am #

    Again – he didn’t go to WalMart at 3:30. Walmart called his parents at 3:30. It takes a while for an 8yo to walk 3 miles, even if he was walking in a straight line, which kids often don’t do. He might also have been at WalMart for a while. Maybe he hid somewhere because he didn’t want to walk back home in the dark.

    I also thought of the possibility that the flower story was made up to soften the consequences. That too sounds like something I’d do at that age. 😉

  30. Donna May 19, 2015 at 9:45 am #

    SKL – I don’t think my daughter will never break a rule. There absolutely is always consequences when she does. As a result, she really does almost never break my rules.

  31. Warren May 19, 2015 at 9:46 am #

    Chances are this is learned behaviour. Mom and Dad most likely pull surprises on special days, and things always get done when others are sleeping.

    Great motive, great idea, just poor judgement.

    We have all had and done things that appear so great on paper, or in our minds…………but once we did them it became apparent that it was not the best idea. That is all this is, and unless this is habitual behaviour, all Dad and Mom need to do is remind him about the house rules.

    And let him know that yes parents tell each other everything, but if you are planning a surprise for mom or dad, that does not fall under parental full disclosure.

  32. Donna May 19, 2015 at 9:48 am #

    SKL – Whether it was 3:30 or 2:30 or even midnight is completely academic. It was after his bedtime and after his parents went to sleep so it was not reasonable for him to believe that it was okay to head to Wal-Mart.

  33. pentamom May 19, 2015 at 9:48 am #

    I don’t understand the “good kids do stuff like this” and the “boys will be boys” kinds of responses.

    Yes, of course, those things are true — no one’s saying he committed a capital crime and should be locked up for psychological evaluation or grounded for a year. He sounds like he probably is overall a good kid.

    But it was a bad decision. It did not reflect good decision-making skills. The fact that it may be a normal kind of decision for an 8 year old boy still does not make it a good one. How does he learn good decision-making skills if he is not taught that this is a bad one, only dismissed with, “Well, this is what boys do?”

    He should not be severely punished, but he should get a good talking to and not be rewarded. His kindness in his motivation should be acknowledged, but not made into a reason that the wrongness of what he did is completely set aside or even made into a virtue. He should probably receive some kind of consequence that, while not onerous, clearly communicates that sneaking out in the middle of the night *at his age* is a violation of trust and a bad decision. A child that age may or may not truly grasp that one aspect of his behavior is unacceptable if he is rewarded for the whole thing.

    And SKL, what difference does it make that he didn’t leave the house at 3:30 a.m.? Do you think a boy that age believes that leaving the house at 3:30 a.m. would be wrong, but at 2:00 a.m. it’s okay?

  34. SKL May 19, 2015 at 9:56 am #

    I recently read to my kids one of my favorite books from childhood, called “Here’s a Penny” (first published in 1944). This is a gentle book and certainly not about a naughty child. In it there is one chapter where 6yo Penny (a boy) goes off with an older (8yo) boy and is left alone selling papers on the corner until it gets dark. (His dad did scold him for not telling anyone where he was going after school.) In another chapter, Penny hears his kitten meowing on the roof and goes outside in the middle of the night to rescue him. He climbs up onto the roof, takes off his pajamas to hold the kitten, climbs down a tree and goes back to bed, all without disturbing his parents. (His mother discovers it in the morning and does not scold him for it.) Neither of these incidents struck me as unrealistic for the time when I was a kid. In fact, I did these types of things and much “worse.”

    A 3-mile walk in the middle of the night at 8yo is worse – and that is why the dad wrote this letter – but it is mainly worse because of the way we adults look at life. “We would be so worried.” Yes, but how much of that is because we’re irrational?

  35. Plausible deniability May 19, 2015 at 9:59 am #

    I suspect that he was so young that his parents probably hadn’t yet considered giving him an official, every-day curfew. After all, if your child is eight, you generally see him or her coming and going and have that chance to ask where and for how long he or she will be gone. So I think this is a chance to say From now on you can’t go out alone after bedtime and you can’t go more than [however far] away without telling us where you’re going. And maybe add If you want to plan a surprise for mom, tell dad, and vice versa.

    But I also agree with Lenore that he was admirably intrepid.

  36. M May 19, 2015 at 10:02 am #

    “I don’t think my daughter will never break a rule. There absolutely is always consequences when she does. As a result, she really does almost never break my rules”

    But she still does break them. Almost never is not never. And you may have a daughter who is a pleaser, or very compliant by nature, which makes her more likely to follow rules.

    Not all kids are pleasers. Some kids are risk takers. Some kids give no thought to the consequences, even when they have strict parents. Your parenting style may make have very little effect on a risk taker.

    And you may be unlucky and have a daughter like me, who obeyed ever rule until about 15, then went batshit crazy and wild and crossed every line, just because I could. 🙂

  37. M May 19, 2015 at 10:05 am #

    If it was one of my boys, I’d be extremely touched by the gesture and tell him so.

    Then I would explain, in great detail, why he shouldn’t do it again.

  38. Donna May 19, 2015 at 10:06 am #

    Pentamon – Exactly.

  39. SKL May 19, 2015 at 10:07 am #

    The reason I mention the time is that I suspect the boy thought he was just going to slip out for a little while after his parents went to bed. He probably had no concept of how long it would take him to get to WalMart. Yes, I think it is different if he slipped out for a short (intended) walk a little after the parents went to bed. Possibly he would have made a different decision at 3:30 vs., say, 1am.

    Am I really the only person here who ever went out of the house while my parents were sleeping?

    Would you feel differently if he’d gone out in the night to pick flowers instead of walking to WalMart to buy them?

    I didn’t say that what he did was good or OK, I just don’t think it was that shocking. 8yos don’t think like adults.

  40. Jill May 19, 2015 at 10:09 am #

    If the boy just wanted to hang out at Wal-Mart in the middle of the night and made up the flower story to lessen any repercussions when he was confronted by the store employees, then he’s a clever lad who may have a bright future ahead of of him as a criminal mastermind, a spy or a politician.
    I think he was telling the truth, but then who knows? Kids get up to things that their parents never thought to warn them about. My parents never warned me not to jump off the garage roof to see if I could fly, for example. (Turned out I couldn’t.)

  41. SKL May 19, 2015 at 10:13 am #

    My kid brother would absolutely do something like this. He was the one who, at age 7, stayed out until 2am one night and nobody could find him. I guess we were lucky to live in a small town where nothing (except bars) stayed open at night. 😛

    Like someone else said, some kids are risk-takers and don’t do strict boundaries. You can try if you want to torture yourself, but it is probably better to teach them street smarts and consideration for those who need to know where they are at certain hours.

  42. Donna May 19, 2015 at 10:47 am #

    SKL – Of course, you aren’t the only one who left the house while your parents were sleeping. Nobody is saying that this boy is evil incarnate and needs to be locked up for the rest of his life without parole. We are saying that his behavior should not be rewarded.

    It doesn’t matter whether it was intended to be a short stroll or a lengthy voyage. This was not a kid who was a little later than he was expected, for which the defense of “I thought it would just take 20 minutes to walk to Wal-Mart, but it took an hour” makes sense. He knew that he wasn’t allowed to go ANYWHERE at 1am or 3am. He made a conscious decision to do something that he knew was wrong. That should not be rewarded, even if you believe that he had altruistic motives.

  43. Beth May 19, 2015 at 11:05 am #

    There are other ways to accomplish this “sweet gesture”. Like…involving dad and dad’s car? During daylight hours or early in the morning?

    Buying roses for Mom doesn’t need to be kept secret from everyone; maybe part of the lesson he needs to learn is what options he should have considered instead of the one he chose.

  44. SKL May 19, 2015 at 11:10 am #

    I never said he should be rewarded.

  45. Donna May 19, 2015 at 11:13 am #

    I agree that my child is very compliant. She is a people pleaser. And I say all the time that I may be in for trouble when she gets older and does a 180.

    That said, I don’t buy the parenting philosophy that some kids are just more risk-taking and object stronger to boundaries so we should just remove the boundaries and let them do whatever they want. Nor do I find the boundary of “you are required stay home from [insert reasonable curfew for age] until daybreak” to be a particular strict boundary.

  46. Donna May 19, 2015 at 11:14 am #

    SKL – You may not of, but Lenore did.

  47. SKL May 19, 2015 at 11:16 am #

    Donna, I think where you and I disagree is on consequences. I don’t know this boy enough to judge his mindset and which adjustments it needs. But from what I do know, it seems the natural consequences plus the talking-to would be enough for many kids in this situation. For a normal 8yo, the natural consequences here are not insignificant. He probably got scared a few different times, and tired, fatigued, maybe cold, and his desire to surprise his mom didn’t work out after all that.

  48. SKL May 19, 2015 at 11:19 am #

    Well actually, he did surprise his mom, but not exactly the way he planned to ….

  49. Katie May 19, 2015 at 11:30 am #

    Simply tell him, thanks for the thought, you really appreciate it, but if he goes out that late at night again with out your permission then he gets grounded .

  50. lollipoplover May 19, 2015 at 11:38 am #

    The subject of rewards came up with the Dad:

    “We don’t want to reward his behavior, but nether do we want to turn him into a timid boy who is afraid of everything.”

    Consequences for broken rules don’t turn boys timid, they make them stronger. Especially when you explain your logic. Children grow up when they learn from their mistakes by parents enforcing rules and consequences for broken ones. They expect you to parent them and teach them. It’s not a reward, it’s communication.

    I would seriously sit him down and question his thought process and explain why it was flawed. I’ve had many “I’m just trying to understand how your brain is working here” conversations with my kids (some more than others) and kids can do impulsive things. As for the late hour, my son has asked several times for permission to go fishing late at night, when they’re biting, in the summer. I don’t see danger immediately just because it’s late. It’s a process of thinking through a decision, not acting impulsively, that parents can help by talking to their kids and keeping the lines of communication open.

  51. anonymous mom May 19, 2015 at 12:02 pm #

    First, am I really the only person who thought “But I wanted to buy flowers for mom!” was a total line designed to mitigate the trouble he knew he was going to get into? If one of my kids was caught doing this and then told me he was out to buy me flowers, I’d be even more annoyed that he thought I was that gullible. I mean, I don’t doubt this kid is a nice boy, but 8yo kids can be quite manipulative, and they often know just what to say to get mom and dad right where they want them.

    Second, there is not a chance in hell I’d congratulate my kid for something like this. His actions were disrespectful, reckless, and violated a number of boundaries that I’m sure he knew he was not allowed to cross. You don’t sneak off in the middle of the night without being aware that you are doing something wrong. Leaving aside any harm that could or could not have come to him late at night (and a child out walking–presumably without any reflective gear–in the dead of night is absolutely in danger from cars, not to mention the trouble the parents could get into), it is not okay in any way to sneak out of the house in the middle of the night. Not at 4 or 8 or 16, and there’d be consequences in each of those circumstances.

    I would absolutely not increase this child’s freedom. Yes, kids are often capable of more than we give them credit for. In this case, he is physically capable of navigating to Wal-Mart. But, he appears to lack the maturity, judgment, and self-control to not make a really bad decision. That is not something to be rewarded.

    I don’t think punishing him or having consequences would or should lead to his being afraid. Even if it were 100% safe to sneak out of the house at 3 a.m., my children would still not be allowed to do it. There’s plenty of perfectly safe things my kids aren’t allowed to do. You can safely jump on the couch and scream at the top of your lungs for several hours, but for the sake of my sanity, it is not allowed. My oldest could safely play video games for 11 hours a day, but for his own good, he is not allowed to. As a matter of respect for the family–and to acknowledge the importance and value of sleep for children–sneaking out for middle-of-the-night Wal-Mart runs is not okay. A child can understand that without feeling like the world is a dangerous place.

  52. Donna May 19, 2015 at 12:15 pm #

    SKL –

    Yes, if the child came back scared, tired and unhappy, the natural consequences may be enough. However, that doesn’t appear to be what happened here as I doubt this letter would have been written to Lenore if that was the case. My guess is that the kid came back pleased as he could be about his adventure except for the fact that he never got to surprise mom (if that was ever his intention). If the child came back never wanting to go on another midnight adventure until he was older, why would this letter have been written?

    I don’t think the failure to surprise mom is a sufficient consequence here (if that was even the motivation for going). As a world-class roamer (not a risk-taker or boundary pusher; just extremely independent and not always particularly considerate of others), that certainly wouldn’t have motivated me to not roam at night if I had been so inclined (never really been a night owl). I might not want to do it to get a surprise for my mother again, but that isn’t actually the behavior we are trying to modify.

  53. anonymous mom May 19, 2015 at 12:19 pm #

    Also, I completely agree with Donna that of course this kid knew it was inappropriate. Honestly, if an 8yo is incapable of figuring out that sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night to go on a shopping trip is not okay, they would seem to lack the capacity necessary for being given even a relatively small amount of freedom. My 5yo would know that sneaking out in the middle of the night is not okay, and I’m pretty sure that even my 3yo would know that. He knew he was doing something wrong. If he didn’t, I’d be MORE concerned, because that would seem to indicate a serious problem with judgment.

    Allowing children freedom is just that: allowing them freedoms, not completely abdicating parental responsibility and congratulating them for violating boundaries. My son is allowed to bike to the homes of his friends in the neighborhood. However, if he were to take off to one of their homes without telling me, there’d be consequences. Just because he *can* safely travel to his friends’ homes doesn’t mean he can leave the house without telling me to roam the neighborhood. First, as members of a family, we respect one another by letting others know where we are going and when (I wouldn’t just walk out the door and leave for a few hours without telling my husband where I was going and when I’d be home), and second, as his mother, I am responsible for him and I need to know where he is going. That doesn’t mean I need the GPS coordinates of where he’ll be at every moment, but I do need to know if he’s playing across the street vs. reading in his room vs. riding his bike around the neighborhood for an hour. And if plans change, he needs to let me know in a timely way.

    I think people are focusing too much on physical safety and not enough on respecting parents and parental boundaries.

  54. Reziac May 19, 2015 at 12:21 pm #

    So what’s different about walking 3 miles at 3am, vs, say the middle of the afternoon? Let’s talk safety, shall we?

    At 3am, there’s no one else about. Even bad guys know this is a lousy time to snag kids off the street (if there were any such bad guys) if only because your choice of kids is slim to none. There’s little or no traffic, either. So — fewer hazards than during daylight. The only difference is whether you believe there are monsters lurking in the dark that magically disappear at the touch of sunlight.

    When I was in 7th grade I walked a mile to school in the dark every day, because I was on the morning shift and I had to be in class at 7am. And I walked down alleys, not streets, because they’re more interesting. Nonetheless, no bogeymen leaped forth from the trash containers in those dark alleys. Perhaps I frightened them off. 😉

  55. Resident Iconoclast May 19, 2015 at 12:23 pm #

    Well Dad, here is your chance to reinforce something of genuine importance.

    For whatever reason, your kid decided he needed to do that for his mother. It was his decision. And it appears to me to be a good decision. Certainly the last thing to teach him at this point is that the “government” or “people” will think it is odd that he would do such a thing. To reward taking a step of personal responsibility with warnings about his parents going to jail for child abuse would most likely not be the right approach.

    It’s absolutely true that Walmart could have called CPS. Most of the time that would be the outcome. And you could in fact be in jail. But you should reward your son for marching to an inner voice that seems constructive and positive. You can remind him that you’d like to stay out of trouble, but that you admire his thoughtfulness and dedication.

    A trip to the Uniform Crime Reports over at fbi.gov will convince you that he didn’t really take much risk, going out at 3:30 in the morning to go to Walmart (unless you live in downtown D.C. or someplace like that).

    I think your kid was showing an awareness of leadership. Don’t let the lemmings who falsely say (as one woman in my community did) that “one of six children” is murdered shame you into hopping on the Stupid fad. He’s going to need all the good impulses he can save up to get through middle school.

  56. SKL May 19, 2015 at 12:24 pm #

    And in my part of the world, sometimes it gets dark by 5pm, so being outside in the dark is not automatically a no-no.

  57. anonymous mom May 19, 2015 at 12:29 pm #

    @Reziac: I think there is absolutely a difference, safety-wise, between being out walking at 3 p.m. and being out walking at 3 a.m. I live in a city with a high crime rate, and things like muggings are far more likely to happen after dark. Even beyond that, unless a pedestrian is wearing reflective gear or the streets are very well-lit, it is going to be far harder to see a pedestrian, and a driver will be less likely to be looking for one (especially a small one). Not too long ago, the ninety-year-old aunt of a friend of mine was killed after being hit by a car while she was on her scooter riding home from a casino at 3 a.m. Now, leaving aside that being killed on your way home from a casino in the middle of the night at 90 may not be a bad way to go, the problem was that the driver–who was not doing anything wrong–did not see her, because she was not wearing reflective clothing and the roads were not well-lit.

    So even if the main issue were safety, there are good reason to not want a child out walking at 3 a.m. as opposed to 3 p.m., mostly related to visibility.

    But, safety is not the issue. Sleep is. Respect for a family’s rules is. There is nothing my kids are supposed to be doing at 3 a.m. other than sleeping. Sure, if somebody is sick or has insomnia or otherwise can’t sleep and is up reading or playing quietly or something, that could be understandable, but if one of my kids decided to get up at 2 a.m. and sneak downstairs and make Lego creations, just because they wanted to play rather than sleep, that would not be okay.

  58. SKL May 19, 2015 at 12:31 pm #

    The dad’s letter didn’t indicate anything about previously stated rules or curfew.

    Possibly they don’t have a curfew on the weekends.

    I think that if you didn’t have a specific rule being broken, normally the appropriate course of action is to establish the rule and provide a warning should it be broken in the future.

    I might be a lax parent, I don’t know, but for my kids, normally a talking-to is sufficient for most things. There are exceptions depending on the kid.

    While I would probably freak out if I found my kid missing from her bed in the middle of the night, I don’t know that it is fair to expect my 8yo to understand it from my perspective. But maybe I am wrong about that.

  59. Emily Morris May 19, 2015 at 12:40 pm #

    No, I don’t think I would throw a party for the kid. No, I don’t think anyone, kid or adult, should be wandering the streets, at 3 AM. But I’m still secretly impressed the kid pulled this off.

    Whether or not the kid “knew better” is beside the point–if you feel he knew better, a stern talking to about sense should do the trick. Plenty of kids “know better” but this age is so literal and, yes, sneaky that if you don’t have an established rule or prior discussion, they will call you on it.

  60. SanityAnyone? May 19, 2015 at 12:41 pm #

    I’d have a talk with your son saying “I guess I never thought I had to explicitly say you can’t go out in the middle of the night so let’s discuss the rules and why they exist. I need to know where you are going and what time you’ll be home so I can find you if I need you. You don’t want me to be worried, so tell me. If you want to surprise someone and it involves leaving home, get permission from the other parent. Also, you can explore, but your limits are x, y, and z. If you want to go outside those, you must have both permission and a buddy. As you get older, you can go farther if we can trust you. ”

    Your boy has a beautiful heart and guts to match! When I was his age, I clearly remember feeling invincible and had no doubt I could ride my bike from Cincinnati to South Carolina with a pocketful of money for food. If I had been a tiny bit more grandiose in my thinking, I might have jumped on my bike and just started. It isn’t wrong for a kid to feel that way. Luckily I asked first and in my case it wasn’t a plan we could carry out in real life but my Mom “let me have my wish in my fantasies” by talking it all out with me. (The quote was because I got that language from “How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk”.)

  61. anonymous mom May 19, 2015 at 12:46 pm #

    @SKL, it possible it was never explicitly stated that he was not allowed to leave the house at 3 a.m. But, I think common sense would lead most 8yos to that conclusion and an 8yo who does not realize that probably does not have the judgment to be making those sorts of decisions.

    But, I also don’t believe the child was going to get flowers for his mom. My kids seem to have two main goals in life: obtaining snacks and doing whatever they want without consequences. And, as per the second, when they are caught doing something wrong, I rarely ask “Why?” because 99% of the time what they tell me will be a lie designed to keep them from consequences, and I don’t want to tempt them to lie.

    If an 8yo has the wherewithal to navigate to Wal-Mart on his own at 3 a.m., I also imagine he has the wherewithal to realize and break an unstated rule and to lie to avoid trouble. Unless it were the night before Mother’s Day–in which case I’d say there might be SOME chance he was indeed on a middle-of-the-night flower run–I call B.S. on the flower story and think he knew full well he was supposed to be in bed sleeping and his parents would not be happy about his being out.

  62. Kimberly May 19, 2015 at 12:52 pm #

    I can see both sides to this discussion, but I’m totally on the fence and here’s why:

    Every summer, my mom’s side of the family goes camping. It’s a big family (my mom, her 4 brothers & sisters, their spouses, my 12 cousins and their spouses, and all of our kids) and like most big families, there are those that aren’t huge fans of the real camping experience. Last year we ended up at a camping resort at Lake Tahoe and like most of the rural areas in CA, bears are becoming a huge problem because they aren’t afraid of humans and have taken to wandering into the camps in search of food.

    My then 9 year old son woke up in the middle of the night, needed to go to the bathroom, and went. He didn’t wake me up because he knew that I’m not a huge fan of the dark and will only go wandering through a pitch black campground if only absolutely necessary.

    The next morning, we were all sitting around the fire talking about the bear that had wandered through our camp during the night and that’s when my son admitted that he’d left the tent and had gone off on his own.

    In this circumstance (and with 20/20 hindsight vision), I believe that the likelihood of him encountering this bear was much greater than any harm coming to this other boy. I had never considered the fact that he would EVER leave the tent at night without waking me up (he obviously has some serious brass ones), so he didn’t break any rules, though I would have much preferred him waking me up so that I could go with him. That all being said, I was seriously impressed that he had done that on his own and didn’t punish him or have any sort of talk with him.

    Granted, he didn’t know that there was ACTUALLY a bear in our camp, but he DID know that we had been warned by the rangers that this was happening. I guess we’ll find out this summer if his adventure last year will have any impact.

  63. Aimee May 19, 2015 at 12:54 pm #

    A person close to me had one of her children do a very similar thing (leave the house in the middle of the night for a reason that “seems” sensible to a kid… but really isn’t). Twice. One of those times it was extremely, bitterly cold (below zero fahrenheit), and he had some low-level hypothermia by the time he got back. These incidents scared the be-jeezus out of his parents…. it actually turned out that he had some psychological issues going on – these nighttime wanderings were part of a manifestation of his issues – and those are now being addressed.

  64. anonymous mom May 19, 2015 at 12:59 pm #

    @Kimberly, I’d respond very differently to a child deciding to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night while camping without informing an adult, and promptly returning to the tend, than to the same child deciding to get up in the middle of the night and go for a two-hour hike alone. And then if that child told me they were on the hike to get me wildflowers, I’d be even more annoyed that they were lying to me. 😉

    A child determining that they can pee without needing to wake an adult on a camping trip seems vastly different than a child deciding on a middle-of-the-night jaunt to a store.

  65. Andrea Drummond May 19, 2015 at 1:00 pm #

    Heidi, do you really think only boys would do something like this? I don’t think this is a gender thing AT ALL. Girls can and are JUST as adventurous as boys. Sure, some girls may have the self-control not to do this, but some boys may as well, just as plenty of girls could do the exact same thing. As the mother of a headstrong girl I could see her doing something like this someday, except we live way more than three miles from the Wal Mart. 🙂

    Bringing gender into it only confuses the matter and allows people to pigeonhole children and brush aside behaviors that aren’t appropriate for ANY gender. This way of thinking also tends to punish girls while letting boys get away with things, in this case something that turned out well and had good intentions, but in other cases do not so much.

  66. Nadine May 19, 2015 at 1:02 pm #

    Yup, a good talking to is the thing. But his intentions where right, his excecution left something to be desired for. I think that is the way to adress it. Remember, you want roses in the future too. He is old enough to reason through his own behavior and see where he went of the deep end. And real men ask for help too when they need it (i know it’s hard and you rather drive on not knowing where you re going)so maybe he should have come to you for help realizing his plan. Would you have let him go at sun rise?

  67. Alex R. May 19, 2015 at 1:08 pm #

    Punishment? Not necessary. Enlisting this clearly self-motivated and capable child in creating some agreements that support his and his parents’ values? YES.

    This right here. This.

  68. anonymous mom May 19, 2015 at 1:10 pm #

    I snuck out of my house more than a few times as a teen, and not a single time was the purpose to buy my parents a surprise present. Just sayin’. 😉

  69. anonymous mom May 19, 2015 at 1:11 pm #

    Although, I’d wish I’d thought of that as an excuse.

    But, really, if we took “But I was buying my mom roses!” out of it would people feel differently? Because I think the kid is playing his parents, and I would NOT base my response on his supposed intentions.

  70. JP Merzetti May 19, 2015 at 1:12 pm #

    aw shucks.
    I was an 8 year-old boy once. I can relate.
    My father would have been furious. (My mother slightly less so – but she would have loved the flowers.)
    Danger – would have been the last thing on Dad’s mind.
    It was all about rules.

    The kid made it to the store fine. He probably would have made it home fine, too. Thumbs up to walmart for doing the sensible thing and calling the dad – and not the cops, the fire dept., the army.
    Outside of our Disneyfied, modified and codified lives a boy can have a sense of adventure. A mission to buy roses. Rewards and punishments…..we all get our shorts in a knot trying to figure out what to do with it.

    When I was 9, I began to do wilderness hikes on my own. The reason I never got lost was because I carried a compass, and knew how to use it. Wood-lore.
    Reactions now – it’s all about age. Bump it up a few years and this becomes a prank.

    Do father and son need to have a serious discussion? No doubt. The impulsiveness of a kid requires some guidance and learning curves. According to the reality of the situation.

    And yeah…..it is a “boy” thing. Read a little Mark Twain. The gender hasn’t been morphed out of recognition – yet.
    That’s exactly how I raised my son. Did he go off the deep end a little, and at basically the same age?Yep- he did…the learning curves of his young life. And grew up fine.

  71. Braaainz May 19, 2015 at 1:21 pm #

    I was older by a bit, but i remember going ninja and sneaking out of the house in the wee hours.

    It was magical. The world was so quiet and still, and everything looked so different in the dark. I was exploring, being independent, having an adventure.

    Even now, i look back to those excursions and feel a twinge of that earlier excitement and wonder.

    I repeated those excursions once or twice a summer for years, until I was in early high school actually, when i was finally caught.

    Im glad CPS wasn’t involved. As to how to handle it, I think explaining that you as parents can get in trouble would be best, and then maybe finding some more avenues for your 8 year old to adventure. Maybe a climbing gym, taking them camping with their own tent, going with them on a late night excursion some time and sharing the experience while having them lead the way.

  72. E May 19, 2015 at 1:29 pm #

    There’s probably not a viewpoint that hasn’t been covered, but I side with those that say this was something that deserves consequences. Not being a member of this family and what ‘consequences’ look like, it’s hard to go beyond that with any specifics.

    If an 8 yo thinks that going out after midnight, walking 3 miles in the dark of night, regardless of the reason (short of medical emergency and no access to telephones), indicates that this kid clearly needs more maturity/development before they should be trusted with some decision making. And I’m sure that most 8 yo kids fall in that category in regard to some things.

    You can surprise Mom while still enlisting the help of other family members. And if the kid had some level of freedom, he could have gone during daylight hours anyway right?

    Dad clearly states they don’t want to reward him (and they shouldn’t), but I don’t see how consequences make him timid. If being timid means he’s afraid to go out w/o telling anyone, then that’s the reaction you’d want right?

    Getting something for Mom might be the “reason” he went out, but it’s not an excuse, because there is no legit excuse.

  73. E May 19, 2015 at 1:33 pm #

    Oh and whomever said that 3am is less safe than 3pm? Of course. Locally we’ve recently had 2 kids hit by cars while on their bikes after dark (and sadly, die). In both cases the kids made mistakes, but in daylight hours, they may have been seen by the drivers before it was too late.

  74. SKL May 19, 2015 at 1:38 pm #

    I’m giving the boy the benefit of the doubt about the roses, because it seems his parents think he was telling the truth about that. Wouldn’t they be the ones most likely to figure out a lie?

  75. Marybeth Norgren May 19, 2015 at 1:39 pm #

    My husband lived in Sweden as a kid where summer days were really long. As a young child (pre-kindergarten) my husband made friends with the older, childless couple across the street. My husband went over there at 5 am to have some company not realizing how early it was since the sun was up. His mom put some markings on the wall clock so that he did not go over there and wake the neighbors up before 7am. It’s a really cute story. Maybe wall clock markings will help your son too:-)

  76. Kimberly May 19, 2015 at 1:46 pm #

    Anonymous Mom:

    The point I was trying to make was that in a situation where I had pick between a serial killer or a bear — I would go with the serial killer every time. I’m not saying that a sit-down talk isn’t in the cards or even some sort of consequence isn’t necessary, but it IS quite possible that this child didn’t consider that his actions were breaking any sort of rule. Since you don’t know the situation or the people involved, you (or any of us) have no opinion in how this particular family should proceed. Any opinions we voice can only pertain to our own individual families.

    On that note, I’d also like to point out that your viewpoint that any child claiming to have altruistic motives is lying is super sad. When my son was seven, he decided to give a gift card he’d received for Xmas to Walmart to the homeless woman outside. He didn’t ask me, he just did it. He gave up $50 of free toys (and video games) because he decided that food for the woman was more important. My 13 year old daughter routinely comes home from school with flowers she picked for me and my son will often come home with leaves from trees that he thinks I would like.

  77. Donna May 19, 2015 at 1:49 pm #

    SKL –

    I can’t possibly come up with rules that address every single situation that my child will ever encounter or think up to do. Nor would such an extensive list of parent prescribed rules be desirable. We expect our children to be able to do some deductive reasoning about how a new situation should be handled based on their knowledge about how we handle other situations that they have already encountered and the rules that they already know. That is the only way free range parenting works.

    I don’t expect perfect deductive reasoning from my child, but this isn’t even a close call. Good grief, this wasn’t a kid that just stayed out later than his parents were comfortable with. This kid consciously stayed awake after being put to bed, waited until everyone else went to sleep and then sneaked out of the house. He then traveled to a place that he has never been allowed to go alone before, even during daylight hours when he was allowed to wander some. If you have a child that needs to specifically be told that neither of those things are okay, your child does not have sufficient deductive reasoning to be allowed without adult supervision for even a second.

    This is not to say that I don’t understand that kids sometimes break rules. It is to say that there is no way that this child didn’t KNOW he was doing something he was not supposed to do. This whole idea that it isn’t a punishable offense unless the child was specifically told not to do it is really very juvenile. It is akin to my child telling me that she didn’t know that she wasn’t allowed to walk to Baskin Robbins alone when we’ve already discussed several times that I don’t want her walking alone to the Taco Stand, which is right next door to Baskin Robbins, yet. I expect such lame attempts at getting out of trouble from my 9 year old, but not from adults.

  78. anonymous mom May 19, 2015 at 1:49 pm #

    My kids will do nice things, sure. But if they do something wrong, and I ask why, and they tell me it’s because they had some altruistic motive, that’s going to raise my suspicions. There’s plenty of ways to surprise mom with flowers that do not involve middle-of-the-night forays to Wal-Mart.

    I just think we have to at least be open to the possibility that the child’s stated motive was given to mitigate the consequences he’d face.

  79. Tamara May 19, 2015 at 1:56 pm #

    I simply don’t understand the concept of “punishing” children. How does it help a child learn or expand? I feel that kids want to do good things and be good by default, and sometimes mistakes are made because they temporarily do not have the same reasoning skills or life experience as most adults.

    I feel that the kinds of punishments people are talking about – grounding, taking away privileges, alarm systems to alert you if someone leaves the house? are punitive, are the result of fear, and only serve to attempt to control and will only work because the child now fears you.

    I would speak to my child and explain the reasons why this situation was scary to me, without listing all the “what ifs” because ultimately nothing did happen. People also talk of natural consequences – it sounds like the outcome here WAS a natural consequence – now we have to talk about it and try to be a decent guide or advisor for the child. Anything more feels like overkill.

    I would advocate more communication, less arbitrary punishments.

  80. anonymous mom May 19, 2015 at 2:06 pm #

    @Kimberly, I also don’t think that “serial killer” is the real danger in the 3 a.m. scenario. Yes, a person is more likely to be a victim of a crime if they are out walking at 3 a.m. than if they are out walking at 3 p.m. But, the real danger is cars. If I’m driving around at 3 p.m., not only am I going to be able to see any children out walking, I’m going to be alert to the possibility that they are walking around. At 3 a.m., not only will I not be able to see a child, I’m going to be operating on the assumption that there aren’t children out walking, so I’m not going to be scanning the environment for them, either.

    But something doesn’t have to be dangerous to not be allowed, when we’re talking house rules. It’s one thing to say that the government shouldn’t pass laws against things that aren’t genuinely harmful/dangerous. I agree. But, parents aren’t governments. They are allowed to have house rules based upon their child’s best interests. I wouldn’t want to see the government punish parents who allow their children to stay up until 3:30 a.m., but of course it’s fine for a parent to decide that their child cannot stay up that late. When we discovered that our oldest was turning on his DS after we all went to bed and playing video games until the wee hours of the night–and then waking up cranky and tired the next day–there were consequences. He lost all screens for a week and he is not allowed to bring electronic devices into his room until further notice (which has not yet come).

    We had never explicitly told him “You may not play video games from 12-3 a.m.” But, given what he did know–that screen time is over at 8:30 p.m., that he’s tucked in to bed around 10 (we homeschool, so he doesn’t have to get up until 8 or 9)–he certainly was capable of deducing that he was breaking the rules by playing video games late at night, and that’s why he was hiding it from us.

  81. Donna May 19, 2015 at 2:09 pm #


    The difference between the camping story and this situation is that the deductive reasoning is a bit more questionable. I assume that you do allow your child to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night at home without waking you. Making the leap to “I can go to the bathroom by myself without waking anyone at the camp ground just like I do at home” is not huge and is certainly not clearly wrong.

    There was absolutely nothing in this scenario that this boy was allowed to do. He wasn’t allowed to walk to Wal-Mart. He wasn’t allowed to roam around at 3am. He wasn’t supposed to even be awake.

    And, I don’t question children’s ability to be altruistic. My kid does nice things for people all the time. She also lies like a rug when she gets caught in trouble. The timing is what is questionable, not the fact that a kid might want to buy his mother flowers.

  82. Betsy in Michigan May 19, 2015 at 2:09 pm #

    I saw the headline and immediately thought “That sounds like something MY kid would do!” (not that I would ever encourage such a thing, but parents DO forget to cover Every Single Circumstance by telling our kids “Please don’t eat the daisies”). Too funny, but yes, it absolutely should be impressed upon him that ONE parent needs to know ahead of time.

    Wow – I just read many of the comments and was shocked at some of the responders, who seem to not understand child development (and differences among individual children). Childhood shouldn’t be that regimented – misadventures are how kids learn! Others have the same thought as me: this is why 8 year olds are still to be taught by their parents; to talk about what parts of this story were not appropriate. Sheesh. Great family story to be shared in years to come, BTW. Sort of like my family can now laugh about the 5 year old who pulled fire alarms and called 911 for a while (yes – repeatedly – he has ADHD and Asperger’s. Now, at 9, he is old enough and mature enough to laugh about it (and profess that he doesn’t do that anymore, which is very true). Live and learn, always.

  83. SKL May 19, 2015 at 2:11 pm #

    The difference with the Baskin Robbins example is that the natural consequences would reward instead of punish. The night-time WalMart trip probably wasn’t nearly as rewarding as a Baskin Robbins trip. Now there may be some kids who would have found the WalMart trip worth doing again, and for those kids, they might need imposed consequences, but I think most kids would not be in a hurry to try that again.

  84. Kathleen May 19, 2015 at 2:14 pm #

    To all those saying “it’s a boy thing”. It isn’t and you’re confusing the issue. And yes, I’ve read books by Mark Twain. In fact, I remember that Tom had a friend named Becky get lost in the mine with him. I’ve also read ” Caddie Woodlawn ” and “Little House on the Prairie”, and “The Great Brain” and “Anne of Green Gables”, and countless other books about kids having adventures, and you know what every single one of them has in common? There are consequences when kids break rules, even unspoken ones, because part of growing up is learning how to navigate boundaries and rules and respecting other people. This kid is far too old to think that this is acceptable behavior, not because he could get hurt, not because his parents could be arrested, but *because sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night is not something his parents would be ok with and he should know that by now.* In fact, if he were 4 or 5, I’d understand the lack of impulse control or “misunderstanding” of what’s acceptable behavior in that family. 8 is way too old to not have basic comprehension of those kinds of things.

  85. Julie May 19, 2015 at 2:19 pm #

    In my opinion the boy needs no consequences of any kind. He is unafraid, bold and loving. Were I his Mother I would boast about him to my friends and never put doubt in his mind about his intention or behavior. His parents are to be commended for raising men.

  86. Donna May 19, 2015 at 2:19 pm #

    SKL – What is not to love about the Wal-Mart trip other than mom never got her flowers (and even if we accept that as the childlike rational behind the trip that was not really WHY he went; he went for the adventure of going)? I guess that I am failing to see the big negative here that should discourage him from doing it again. I don’t know a single child who would actually do that trip that wouldn’t love it. I know many who would definitely not love it, including mine, but they would never do it at all.

  87. Jennifer May 19, 2015 at 2:20 pm #

    I think this father needs to talk to his son that with independence and freedom, comes responsibility. When I was 18, I made the decision to live at home while going to university so that I could save money for my post-graduate work (which I knew would most likely take me out of the country). I told my parents that if I had chosen to go away to university, they would have no idea what I was up to, so, some new expectations around curfews were needed. I told them that I would have no curfew but instead I would inform them of where I was going, who I was with and when I planned to be back. Should things change, I was to call (in the days before cell phones). My parents had raised me to realize that curfews weren’t intended to restrict or control their teens but a means of keeping us safe, within reason. In return, when my parents were out for the night, they shared details about their plans as well. My husband and I do the same today and my mother, now living on her own, also gives updates about her planned whereabouts. It’s not that we expect bad things to happen, but that it’s courteous to share, with the people you care about, when you are coming and going, to avoid unnecessary worry. Being the oldest, I opened up a new curfew model for our family, which my younger siblings appreciated. The new family rule became, curfews are for those who don’t share details about their planned whereabouts. We came and went as we pleased, letting parents know when we would be home for dinner, and when we wouldn’t (because in fairness to the cook, who wants to cook for 6, to find out that no one will be home!). This father can explain to his son that because you share a home with others, it is courteous to share with others your plans for going out.

  88. SKL May 19, 2015 at 2:21 pm #

    When I was a kid, one of the things kids would do in the wee hours was sneak into the public swimming pool. That kind of makes a walk to WalMart seem tame. 😉

  89. SKL May 19, 2015 at 2:26 pm #

    Donna, I don’t think most 8yos would really enjoy a secret, lonely, 3 mile walk in the dark night.

    Especially if, at the end of all that walking, they didn’t get what they went for – whether that was flowers or candy – but instead got intercepted and handed over to their parents.

    But again, that is really for the parents to figure out. If the kid seemed energized by the experience, that would call for a different reaction than a kid who was a little freaked out himself.

  90. Tamara May 19, 2015 at 2:30 pm #

    Regarding children staying up late – this happened in our home last year as well and here is how we handled it.

    My 10 year old would also stay up late using her computer or watching videos on the iPad. She would go to “bed” about ten but still be up at 3:00 am. I asked her why she would stay up so late and she said she is just not tired. She slept until 2 or 3 pm some day but is usually awake by 11.

    It was a bit nerve wracking at first but I watched to see if there were any negative consequences – crankiness etc. there were not. She would still get up at 9 am if there was something occurring at that time otherwise she just goes to sleep when she is tired and sleeps until she no longer is. It works for our family – also homeschooled – and she is learning to trust her body and what works for her. I spent the first 9 years of her life trying to get her to sleep “properly” and when I stopped trying finally, it worked itself out. Not everyone is a 9-5 person, maybe my daughter is one of them and I respect that.

  91. anonymous mom May 19, 2015 at 2:30 pm #

    “In my opinion the boy needs no consequences of any kind. He is unafraid, bold and loving. Were I his Mother I would boast about him to my friends and never put doubt in his mind about his intention or behavior. His parents are to be commended for raising men.”

    If my husband were to leave the house at 3:30 a.m. without letting me know he was going out, I wouldn’t consider that unafraid, bold, and loving, and he’s a grown man. It would be a selfish and irresponsible thing to do, and I would expect that if he were to have a need to leave at 3:30 a.m., he’d leave me a note letting me know he was gone and giving me some idea of when he’d be back.

    I guess I just do not understand this mindset. Should parents just have no rules at all? Let kids do whatever they want? There might be some kids for whom that would be workable, but most kids–mine, certainly–require a good deal of parental guidance and some established boundaries to learn how to get along in the world and behave appropriately, and they also need consequences when they violate those boundaries so that they understand that the boundaries are not simply optional.

  92. Labyrinth May 19, 2015 at 2:31 pm #

    The thirst for adventure isn’t male, it’s human. Every kid longs to grow up. Viewing four of your six kids as people yearning for responsibility, maturity and freedom, and the other two as… not?

    What punishment would a daughter ger for sneaking out at night? Would it be okay if the kid became “timid” if he’d been a girl? Do girls not need to be brave? News to me, in a world that does what it does to women.

    Girls don’t want to be caged either. Release your daughters too.

  93. Donna May 19, 2015 at 2:36 pm #

    SKL – I agree. And that is why the streets are not filled with renegade 8 year olds walking to Wal-Mart alone at 3am. However, the fact that this boy planned and actually did this indicates that he DOES like such things. It was probably a longer walk than he intended, but everything else was a known entity before he went and he did it anyway. While he may be dissuaded from walking to Wal-Mart by the long nature of the walk, the Wal-Mart part isn’t the most troubling and I don’t see anything to dissuade him from going on other, less strenuous, late night adventures.

    As I said before, I think if this boy was freaked out by this whole experience, we are not having this discussion. The fact that the father wrote to Lenore to ask for advise about where to go from here indicates that this is not a traumatic experience for the boy.

  94. Tamara May 19, 2015 at 2:44 pm #

    Anonymous mom

    I’m wondering about your scenario where your husband leaves at three am and doesn’t tell you. How would you deal with him, if he did? Would you punish him? Would there be consequences like not speaking to him or denying affection? Or would you speak with him and try to discover why it’s happening?

    Children deserve respect too. Knee jerk punishments just does not work, it only appears to because the other person is now frightened of you or of losing your love. I don’t want my children or my husband to feel that way. I want them to know that they have my support no matter what they do!

  95. E May 19, 2015 at 2:45 pm #

    @Tamara — it would be great if every kid would respond to discussion and never make a similar decision in the future. That’s not really my experience as a parent. At some point, you have to acknowledge that there are rules (some for safety, some for household/family management, etc) and if a child breaks those rules there are consequences.

    In this case, if this 8 yo really thought it was perfectly fine to sneak out while his family was asleep and walk 3 miles to Walmart, then he is demonstrating that he made a bad decision and his decision making is not up to the level that his parents thought (otherwise he would not have written Lenore). The parents need to evaluate the level of freedom and responsibility he is truly able to handle.

    The consequences don’t need to be punitive, but appropriate to the choice the kid made.

  96. Tamara May 19, 2015 at 2:57 pm #


    I respectfully disagree. I think if you give people – and that includes children, respect, choice and freedom they will choose well. That doesn’t mean it’s always the best decision, but one based on their current knowledge and skills. If you feel the decision is wrong, then you can provide them with information you feel is important. Not punishment. I do not punish my children, we talk things out and it may take more time that way but it does work. They simply have nothing to rebel against because they are treated equally with other members of the household.

  97. lollipoplover May 19, 2015 at 2:58 pm #

    “If my husband were to leave the house at 3:30 a.m. without letting me know he was going out, I wouldn’t consider that unafraid, bold, and loving, and he’s a grown man. It would be a selfish and irresponsible thing to do, and I would expect that if he were to have a need to leave at 3:30 a.m., he’d leave me a note letting me know he was gone and giving me some idea of when he’d be back.”

    So my husband leaving at 3:30 am a few weeks ago to gas up the car and get supplies for a road trip while i sleep in, happily unaware, requires a note? Not in our house.
    I’m not that anal. And love sleep.
    Honestly, I don’t wake up freaking out he’s not there and go worst first and accuse him of being selfish and irresponsible. I talk to him, thank him for not waking me, and don’t try to control everything around me.

    But back to this boy shopping at Walmart…yeah, I’d be pissed he did this. But what a great story!

    And when you refer to the People of Walmart calling to get him..I think of that website and crack up. THAT is what scares me about him going out so late. That, and the lack of visibility in the dark. Maybe he work neon. Who knows, it’s a funny story.

  98. anonymous mom May 19, 2015 at 2:59 pm #

    Tamara, my husband is not my child. It would be an abdication of my responsibility as a parent if I were to treat my children the way I treat my husband.

    I don’t think the right response to the infantilizing of children is to treat them as if they are mature, responsible adults. An 8yo is not an adult. He lacks both the cognitive capabilities and the life experience of an adult, and it would be unfair to the child to treat him as if he were capable of adult-like decision-making.

    But, I don’t support my children no matter what they do. I love them, always, but there are things they may do that I do not support, and will in fact act against. Sneaking out in the middle of the night would be one of those things. My supporting my child as a person (rather than supporting every bad decision they make) would require that I not simple ignore a situation like this. If my child really did not understand that it was not okay to sneak out in the middle of the night, then there’s some issues of decision-making and judgment that would need to be seriously considered and that would likely affect other areas of the child’s life (I’m not sure a child who couldn’t reasonably deduce at 8 that sneaking out to go to a place they aren’t allowed to walk to during the day was not okay is really responsible or mature enough to be without the supervision of somebody older and more mature for any period of time). If my child did understand that what they were doing was not okay and did it anyway, then we’d need to deal with their disrespect of me and their father and their disregard for the boundaries we set for them.

    I think we do need to realize that, back in the day when children were given more freedom to roam, they were also expected to respect authority. Yes, we can go overboard with respect for authority, but I think a healthy respect for caring, responsible authority in their lives is good for kids. It’s not like in the 1940s a kid could have snuck out at 3:30 a.m. and walked to the general store without consequences, even if they were allowed to make that walk during the day. If you have free range without any boundaries and enforcement of those boundaries, you just have anarchy, and children deciding for themselves what they want to do and when. That is not going to lead to well-adjusted, mature, responsible adults who are capable of dealing with the demands of adult life.

    Children aren’t all babies–and teens aren’t small children–but children are also not adults. Children are children. They need freedoms that are appropriate for their developmental stage, but they also need appropriate boundaries and guidance. And that will look different at 2 than it does at 8 than it does at 14, but as long as my children are legally my responsibility I can’t relate to them in the same way I’d relate to another adult.

  99. Tamara May 19, 2015 at 3:03 pm #

    Anonymous mom

    I think the world would be a better place if there was LESS “respect for authority” and more respect for each person as a human being. I have no respect for authority simply for authority’s sake.

  100. anonymous mom May 19, 2015 at 3:07 pm #

    “I think if you give people – and that includes children, respect, choice and freedom they will choose well. That doesn’t mean it’s always the best decision, but one based on their current knowledge and skills. If you feel the decision is wrong, then you can provide them with information you feel is important.”


    The problem is that children–especially younger children–do not have the cognitive skills necessary to actually synthesize the information you provide them with into a good decisions, or the impulse control to actually act on that decision even if they do come to it.

    But, I think I disagree that people choose well when given choice, respect, and freedom. I see examples all around me, all the time, proving the opposite. Many people, despite being afforded respect and freedom, make terrible choices. I sometimes make terrible choices despite respect and freedom. I know the relative nutritional value of a chicken salad versus a big slice of turtle cheesecake, but put them both in front of me and offer me a choice and 9 times out of 10 I’m going with the cheesecake. I know that cleaning my kitchen is a better choice than surfing the web, yet here I am.

    Not only do children have less ability to self-regulate and to inhibit than adults do–and we certainly find those things hard enough!–but they also have more limited cognitive abilities and aren’t as able to process information to make good decisions. I think it’s unfair to put a child in the position of making decisions about things that they are incapable of making wise decisions about, like their own boundaries or their own curfew. That’s expecting more out of a child than they are capable of, and it seems no more developmentally appropriate to me than expecting children to be able to read in kindergarten.

  101. E May 19, 2015 at 3:09 pm #

    @Tamara — who has suggested that we not “support” our families? Having consequences for actions doesn’t indicate a lack of support. When we are talking about raising little people into adults, learning about consequences is part of growing up and maturing.

  102. SKL May 19, 2015 at 3:10 pm #

    My kids are 8 and so far I’ve never had very many rules. A couple years ago I remember telling my kids that they were not allowed to leave the property without telling me. (Before that, I told them there were coyotes outside at night – which was true). They do have a bedtime, but they know it’s because they need that much sleep before getting up for school/activities in the morning; and we don’t follow it strictly, it’s more of a target.

    Would they leave the house at night? One of mine might if needed to carry out a bigger plan. She gets single-minded at times and doesn’t let go of a goal easily. She isn’t afraid to tell me most things, but sometimes she quietly does something she isn’t supposed to do. I let her know that I’m aware and not pleased, and if it becomes a repetitive thing, then I will place restrictions on her for a while or give her extra chores. Assuming I remember to.

    I don’t fuss too much about these little infractions, because these are things all kids do, and they all grow out of it.

    So the comments about “house rules” and all that – I don’t really relate. Maybe I will when my kids are older and coming/going on their own all the time.

  103. Buffy May 19, 2015 at 3:13 pm #

    ” misadventures are how kids learn!” and something about all of us not understanding child development.

    If this is behavior that the parents *don’t* want to continue, I don’t see how this misadventure is a learning experience if he is celebrated and congratulated. How does that teach him anything but that leaving in the middle of the night and walking wherever he pleases is 100% acceptable in his family?

  104. Donna May 19, 2015 at 3:15 pm #

    Tamara – Children WANT structure and boundaries. They don’t want to be responsible for decisions that they are not developmentally ready to make. Putting them in such a position actually places an extreme amount of stress on them.

    Children are not short adults. They don’t want to be treated as short adults. They don’t want to be asked to make adult decisions or understand adult rationale. They want us to put up boundaries so that they don’t have to make decisions that are above their developmental abilities. They want us to put the brakes on their actions before they spiral out of control. We need to respect them as human beings, but we don’t need to treat them the same as we would an adult.

    And the fact that I never lack for criminal clients indicates that people don’t always choose well. I am not talking about questionable Meitiv-type cases, but true actual guilty criminal clients who for the most part are nice people who simply wouldn’t know a good decision if it smacked them in the head.

  105. Papilio May 19, 2015 at 3:28 pm #

    @Hineata: “You have department stores open at 3 a.m? Damn. …” Yeah, that’s what I thought: over here nothing would have been open at that time! (And rightfully so, I think.)

    Walking three miles at night also sounds cold, so my second thought was ‘doesn’t that kid have a bike?’ 😀 At 3:30 in the night, I guess that would’ve been safe even without the magical protection helmet.

  106. Papilio May 19, 2015 at 3:35 pm #

    Actually, I think Little Brother and I were 6 and 8 or so when we snuck out (with bikes) to see if the toy store had a certain item. But that was in the afternoon when our parents were in the garden or so. It was a quite disappointing trip, because 1) the store didn’t have that toy we wanted, and 2) our parents had noticed our absence and were not amused.

  107. Donna May 19, 2015 at 3:35 pm #

    SKL – I’m pretty slack and I can think of tons of “rules” in our house. The vast majority are rules that I follow as well as they keep the house running smoothly and are just general healthy life practices in my opinion. Almost all give way in special circumstances.

  108. E May 19, 2015 at 3:50 pm #

    @Tamara — it’s wonderful if talking/discussing works for your kids — and congrats.

    I don’t believe that works for all kids — and probably very few teens. My kids as teens were expected to perform to a certain standard in school (which dealt with behavior & effort rather than grades, but they came hand in hand) and conduct themselves in a certain manner when behind the wheel of a car. When they got a speeding ticket, there were natural consequences (financial) and imposed consequences (me reducing the amount of access to the car). One would hope that the natural consequences would be enough to dissuade them from making that choice again, but I own the car and can decide if I want to grant anyone else the privilege of using it.

    It’s wonderful if kids don’t ever make mistakes more than once, but that’s not my experience. So my choices are to acknowledge that my “rules/expectations” are really just suggestions, or to hold them accountable at some level that makes sense to our family.

  109. Warren May 19, 2015 at 3:59 pm #

    Just a note, for all of you saying the kids was lying about getting flowers for mom……………………..then shame on you for not getting flowers for your moms. Or do we only celebrate Mother’s Day up here.

  110. E May 19, 2015 at 4:14 pm #

    @Warren, Mother’s Day was over a week ago, so maybe the way it was presented was misleading (getting the email just now that said this happened “last night”), but sure, people do nice things for their Moms on Mother’s Day.

    I think, if you are are throwing this out there for public commentary, considering all things is ok. We don’t have many details about the family (which is perfectly fine).

    Certainly kids DO come up with lots of different reasons/excuses/explanations when they get busted. We’ve all done it. So, a consideration would be if it’s possible this was a mitigating reason provided or was it the truth. I’m sure any parent that find themselves in this position wonders if it’s happened before or if it will happen again.

    The parents are the best ones to determine that part, but when it’s open discussion, that’s certainly a consideration. Was the trip completely altruistic or was it just an adventure stopped short? If it’s the former…good enough.

  111. Tamara May 19, 2015 at 4:26 pm #

    @anonymous mom

    it is not about treating children like little adults. a person can provide children with boundaries and still do it in a respectful manner.

    You see people making bad choices all the time? You choose poorly yourself when you know you can do “better? Perhaps this is because many people were raised without respect or choice. You think if you treat a person with respect once or twice they should “get it” and make good choices? Maybe you are the first person in their life to afford them any respect at all. Maybe it would take a bit more respect for people to decide its not a trap and choose well.

    I feel like my way of communicating with my kids means that when I tell them that I don’t think a choice they want to make is a good one, they listen to me and understand that I am there to help them and guide them and not to impose my own choices on them. They take my words into consideration because I don’t punish them arbitrarily.


    I don’t know, who did say you don’t support your family? I said I like my family to know that I support them no matter what. And I mean no matter what. And that does not mean I condone any ‘bad’ thing they may do, but I would not abandon them or tell them they are horrible people because they made a bad choice.

    I do find it interesting that people think the kid in question lied about why he left the house. It says a lot about how people view children.

  112. anonymous mom May 19, 2015 at 4:33 pm #

    @E, yes, many kids don’t learn immediately from their mistakes. Of course they don’t. Some kids are what I’ve seen referred to as “persistent testers”–I’ve got a couple of those. They will push at a boundary many times before they accept that it’s actually a real boundary rather than just an option. It takes my kids a long time to realize that “Don’t push your brother” doesn’t mean “Don’t push your brother, unless it’s Wednesday” or “Don’t push your brother, unless he has on a blue shirt” or “Don’t push your brother, unless you really, really want to” but actually means that you are never, ever to push your brother. I can explain the rationale forever, but they need to simply bump up against the boundary and have consequences for it enough times for it to sink in that it’s something they need to take seriously.

    I also think it’s just wrong to assume that, because a child knows the right thing to do, they will always do it. Or even mostly do it. Sure, my daughter knows that pushing her little brother is wrong. But, if he’s being really, really, really annoying, she sometimes cannot inhibit her desire to push him. Kids can know the right thing to do but lack the impulse control to actually do it (or know the wrong thing to do and lack the impulse control to not do it). And that’s always where consequences can come in, because it means that children have some external pressures to help guide their behavior, beyond their own unreliable inner resources. Yes, my kids still misbehave, quite a bit. But I’m sure that if they never had consequences (both natural and logical) for their behavior they’d misbehave quite a bit more.

  113. anonymous mom May 19, 2015 at 4:37 pm #

    “I do find it interesting that people think the kid in question lied about why he left the house. It says a lot about how people view children.”


    It’s certainly a possibility. Did you never lie to avoid not even consequences, but just parental disappointment/disapproval as a child? I know I did. My parents rarely punished me–I think I was grounded once in my entire time at home (and this was after I stayed out all night without permission AND burned a cigarette hole in the front seat of my parents’ car)–but I would lie just in the hopes of preventing them from being even a tiny bit disappointed in me. I know my kids do–ask who made a particular mess, and we suddenly must have an invisible fifth child, because nobody I know did it. It’s pretty much a natural instinct to lie when you are confronted about a bad choice you made. And, frankly, if anybody thinks their child would never, ever lie to avoid trouble/disapproval, I think they might be a bit deluded about their special little snowflake.

  114. Tamara May 19, 2015 at 4:55 pm #

    Anonymous mom

    Yes I lied to my mother. In order to avoid her frequent disapproval of me and my choices. At times she literally would not speak to me for days because I did something against her rules or that she felt showed that I didn’t care about her feelings. That certainly sounds like what I would like for my kids.

  115. anonymous mom May 19, 2015 at 5:04 pm #

    My parents were wonderful, loving people who honestly never showed me anything but support and love. And, because of that, I wanted to please them and not disappoint them. My motivation for lying about things I’d done wrong was also pride: I didn’t want to mar the good image they had of me, because I wanted them, and everybody else, thinking good things about me, even if they weren’t true.

    When I had my first, I really thought that if I parented just right, I’d just automatically raise a great, moral, empathetic kid. If I loved him unconditionally, he’d never lie. If I modeled empathy toward him, he’d show empathy toward others. But, it didn’t work that way. He’s an awesome kid–as are my other kids–but they are no less flawed than I was as a child, no less prone to lying, and no less prone to misbehavior. If anything, I was more of a goody-goody people-pleaser by nature, so they get into more trouble. And, that’s okay. They are kids and they need to learn. But I am fully aware that they are, by nature, prone to bad things like selfishness, deceit, manipulation, and cruelty no less than they are prone to good things like kindness, helpfulness, compassion, and sharing, and my parenting has to take that into consideration instead of on the assumption that kids are solely good and all bad behavior is learned. The first time I saw my two-year-old first child–who I had never so much as raised a hand at, much less spanked or hit–grab a toy tea kettle out of another child’s hand and then whack that other child over the head with it, I realize that parenting quite as straightforward as I’d thought it would be.

  116. Tamara May 19, 2015 at 5:11 pm #

    Agree to disagree anonymous mom. I don’t think perfect parenting exists or will prevent any bad behaviour – your examples are of very young children acting completely like children should. I just believe that I can parent without coercion, force or punishment

  117. Papa Fred May 19, 2015 at 5:23 pm #

    First, to defend Lenore (who certainly doesn’t need it from me): she gave her typically “safe and sound” advice. Recognize the positive in his behavior, and counsel him on the potential harm. He is only eight; he’s still learning!

    Secondly, I also wonder if the workers there know the family as regulars. I would be concerned that otherwise the corporate legal dept. might terminate the employee for exposing the company to legal and financial troubles resulting from the compassionate, sensible, and human response to the boy’s awesome adventure.

  118. Puzzled May 19, 2015 at 5:40 pm #

    Well, I agree with Tamara’s anti-authority sentiment in general, but I’d view an 8 year old leaving the house in the middle of the night as roughly parallel to a 2 year old walking into the street. Or, for that matter, an incompetent adult walking into the street. The 8 year old simply doesn’t have the development to visualize the potential dangers involved, or the foresight to see why this is a bad idea.

    More importantly (since this particular episode already happened) we don’t know what else the 8 year old can’t forsee all the dangers of. (Yes, I did end that sentence with a preposition.) Yes, I agree with Donna, the 8 year old surely knew he wasn’t supposed to do this – but there is a huge difference between knowing something is forbidden, which may be malum prohibitum or malum en se, and understanding the dangers. Only the latter allows for appropriate generalization and full appreciation of the issue.

    You deal with the person stepping into the road now, and worry about them understanding why when they’re older and have more appreciation for nuance. In fact, explaining all the reasons here could be hard and confusing. I’d hate the message sent by “CPS will come and take you,” but I’d also hate for it to happen, so I’d want to make sure he won’t do this again, or something sufficiently similar, and let him understand why when he gets older.

    I’d worry more about that than not killing his adventurous spirit – those things are a lot harder to kill than people appreciate, I think.

    I also, by the way, hate the use of the word ‘consequences’ when punishment is meant. I get it, it’s supposed to convey that this is the result of the chosen action, but in my mind, it only makes sense for natural consequences, not punishments.

  119. Brandi May 19, 2015 at 5:46 pm #

    Terrifying and wonderful all at once! There is such a fine line there between teaching responsibility FOR HIS OWN SAFETY and also independence! In this position, I would probably sit down and talk about limitations on when he could leave the house by himself and that someone needs to know where he’s headed. Great job to parents for not overreacting!

  120. Mark West May 19, 2015 at 8:32 pm #

    Obviously doing something at 3 am is NOT appropriate but his thought was nice. I’m not even a big fan of walking around at 330 am and I’m 24. Reminding your son that if he wants to go out at 3 am he needs to tell you.

    In regards to the world being more dangerous for kids today is simply not true. In fact it is currently the safest time ever for kids.

  121. Dhewco May 19, 2015 at 8:58 pm #

    I agree there should be consequences. I also agree he could be lying about his reasons. I also agree he probably knew it was inappropriate.

    However, if you (as an 8yo child) truly wanted to surprise your parent with a gift, you wouldn’t necessarily trust your father not to tell your mother your plans. He might treat it as a ‘sweet’ story that he wanted to get his mother a gift and tell her before his father could take him. For that reason, in a kid’s mind, it might makes sense to sneak out while everyone is asleep. As others have said, he probably didn’t realize how long his trip would take and figured he’d be to Wal-Mart and back before anyone was the wiser. He sure didn’t figure on the clerks calling anyone.

    As a kid, we stayed out very late in our neighborhood. (It helped the parents that the police station was a block from the house.) One of the biggest thrills in this very small town (4.5k people) for a kid was to visit the historic, abandoned jail house. We’d heard it was haunted so, at the tender age of 10/11…there were younger in our group…we’d climb in this dangerous old building in the less-safe part of town.

    My point in that little story is that kids are adventurous (sp?) and will do things that will strike fear in the hearts of parents, if they found out.

  122. Becca O May 19, 2015 at 9:54 pm #

    If you have any kind of rule about staying in your room after X or being inside before X than he should be given the usual punishment for that rule. You can still hold up that it was a lovely thing to want to do for his mom. If there is no rule like that than use your judgement if you have talk about why it was not a great choice will he not do it again? I have one child that would be enough …. the other one well she needs more convincing 😉

  123. Warren May 19, 2015 at 10:11 pm #

    Emily Morris,

    Why shouldn’t adults be out and about at 3am? I prefer to be out and about at those hours. Less morons and idiots to put up with, usually cooler, less traffic, and even the largest city is a lot quieter at those hours.

    Anon mom,

    Yes, your husband has to answer to you. I can see the note he would leave,
    “Sweetie, Have gone to the store to get you flowers. Please act surprised when you get them.”

    I guess some people just need to control others.

  124. sexhysteria May 20, 2015 at 2:58 am #

    Among the traditional dangers to children parents must now add “police taking our children away”!!! With a government like that protecting us, who’s going to protect us from the government?

  125. hineata May 20, 2015 at 5:34 am #

    @Warren – it does depend just a little on the circumstances. My hubby does a lot of call-out work at weird hours, so I wouldn’t find it odd at all to wake up and find him out at 3 a.m. I could imagine, though, that if I had a spouse who kept regular hours, that if they were suddenly missing at 3 a.m., I might wonder if they’d had a psychotic break …. 🙂

    Personally, I would be happy to get flowers at any time of the day. …Western style romance having rather bypassed my man :-).

  126. Stephanie Mesler May 20, 2015 at 6:53 am #

    Wow. I am so impressed with this kid! How thoughtful! And, as you pointed out already, the planning was well done too! I have a 17-year old who would have asked for a ride, thus giving away any possible surprise. I am even more impressed with the Walmart staff who made a sensible phone call instead of over-reacting. If I were his mom, I’d just say thanks for the flowers and the surprise and I’d let it go. Maybe the next day, I’d quiz him on how he would have handled various scenarios (including being held at Walmart until his Dad could come get him) had they arisen.

    Of course, if he has a curfew, I’d bring down the hammer with the vengeance of a protective god.

  127. Buffy May 20, 2015 at 8:28 am #

    Seriously, Warren? You just walk out of the house whenever you feel like it, never letting your wife know that you’re even leaving, much less a “goodbye” or “I’m running to the hardware store”? I’m sorry, that’s has nothing to do with not allowing yourself to be “controlled”, it has to do with being rude..

  128. Emily May 20, 2015 at 8:40 am #

    @Buffy–Life isn’t black and white. I’m sure Warren tells his wife his plans when they’re going to affect the household, like if he’s going to be gone overnight, or gone all day and won’t be home for dinner, et cetera. I think he meant that not every quick errand requires a prior notification and an itinerary.

  129. Rachel May 20, 2015 at 9:43 am #

    my daughter snuck out at age 8…every morning for a week before everyone woke up for the day. One day she took her younger step-brother and they were found crossing the Main Street on bikes in PJs, so the police were called. The police picked her up but the brother got away and ran home. When they got to the house she took off inside and woke all the other kids and told them to hide. By this time it was 6 AM (still dark out, and wake time for us was 7:15). With no doorbell and a large house with all the rooms upstairs and the door shut, we didn’t hear them knocking, so the police came in the house and upstairs while we were asleep, hollering for us, because they wanted to make sure someone was home and that both kids were in the house. So an hour before get-up time we were startled awake by a police officer coming up the stairs to the hallway outside our bedroom, waving a flashlight and hollering my name (given to him by one kid brave enough to go talk to him). It was ridiculous. He then took down the names of all our kids and reported us to DHS, but thankfully our DHS uses this thing called common sense, and didn’t even follow up on the call. The kids never snuck out again.

  130. Warren May 20, 2015 at 9:44 am #


    You really need to get a grip.

    On average I am gone during the night three or so times a week. I do my best not to wake anyone up, and exit quickly and quietly. If and when they wake up, if they need me, all they have to do is text or call me. You try and exit a home with three dogs quietly. I figure getting out of the house without waking them to be a hell of a lot more important than leaving a note.

    Again, you are one of those people that have to have control. Sucks to be you.

  131. E May 20, 2015 at 9:56 am #

    @puzzled…perhaps we’re just talking semantics, but if I create guidelines that are appropriate based on a behavior, I believe that’s different than punishment.

    Since the kid thought a 3am 3 mile walk was okay, then I would create guidelines/consequences that related to his level of independence. Since I’m not in the household, I would be silly to try to craft those, we have no idea what level of independence and responsibility was granted prior to now. I would call these guidelines: a consequence. I would call ‘sitting in your room every day after school for a week’ or “no tv” a punishment.

    Again, maybe it’s just semantics.

  132. Buffy May 20, 2015 at 10:52 am #

    Fine. Being polite and respectful of the people in your home is a control issue, not being polite and respectful. Got it.

  133. anonymous mom May 20, 2015 at 11:06 am #

    The issue is courtesy and respect. If Warren is, as he has said, routinely out and about at 3 a.m., then his being out at 3 a.m. is likely of no concern to his wife, and that’s fine.

    On the other hand, my husband and I have been together for almost 20 years now, and I cannot think of a single time in those 20 years when one of us has left the house in the middle of the night. (We have both left the house in the middle of the night if we’ve been taking a road trip and wanted to get a very, very early start, and when I was in labor, but that’s it.) So if one of us were to wake up at 3 a.m. and discover that the other person was not at home, that would be cause for worry and alarm. Basic courtesy and respect would dictate that we let the other person know, via a text or a note, what was going on.

    I think that “free-range” without civility and courtesy is just anarchy. We’re not all little islands unto ourselves, beholden to nobody. My husband would have every right to be scared, worried, and angry if I decided to just get up at 2 a.m., after we’d gone to sleep, and run some errands without letting him know what was going on. I’d have every right to be scared, worried, and angry if my 11 year old decided to sneak out in the middle of the night, even if were for totally altruistic reasons.

    As somebody else noted, with freedom comes responsibility. As an adult, I’m free to come and go as I please, but I also have a responsibility to my family. And that means that I inform my husband if I’m going somewhere, especially if my doing so is really out of the ordinary. (If he comes home from work at 5:30 and the kids and I aren’t home, he’s going to assume we’re at a friends’ house or out for a walk, because we often do those things around 3 or 4 and are sometimes out for a while, and I don’t always remember to text him. If he woke up at 7 a.m. and the kids and I were all gone and I hadn’t left a note/text, he’d be very concerned, because that’s something that has never happened before.) I expect my children, as they have more freedom, to inform us of where they’ll be and when they’ll be home, at least in a general way. That’s just basic respect for others who you live with.

  134. E May 20, 2015 at 11:11 am #

    @Buffy and @Warren — what 2 adults that share a home/bed do in regard to communication is worked out between them. If Warren is a night owl that likes to go out I presume he works that out with his significant other.

    If you live in a home where that is not common (as in, it has never happened in the history of my marriage, lol) then it would be rather odd to suddenly wake up after a few decades of marriage to find them not there. Clearly, waking me (or leaving a note) would be the logical considerate thing to do.

    And what adults do to communicate their whereabouts has zero to do with an 8 year old at 3am. The only way I can even begin to associate the 2 would be if one (or both) of the parents talked to the kids about running errands while everyone slept as a standard thing. If that’s the case, the parents probably wouldn’t be shocked that the kid chose to do the same.

  135. E May 20, 2015 at 11:12 am #

    @anon mom — yes exactly.

  136. anonymous mom May 20, 2015 at 11:18 am #

    @Puzzled, I think there’s a few reasons why people use “consequence” instead of “punishment.” I’m often hesitant to say “punishment” because many people still associate “punishment” with physical discipline, and that’s not what I’m ever talking about. I think sometimes people are nervous about saying “punishment” because others will hear that as “spanking” or “beating,” instead of “time out” or “loss of privileges.”

    But, like E, I’d also distinguish between a consequence as a direct or logical result of the action, and a punishment as something done to deter the behavior again. When my kid was playing video games in his room in the middle of the night, the consequence was having to keep his devices downstairs. He has proven that he lacked the self-control to have video games available to him without playing them at night, and so at this point he is not able to keep them in his room. The punishment was not being allowed to play any video games for a week. He had broken a rule, and he had tried to hide it, and he’d directly lied to us (when we’d asked him why he was so tired, he kept making up different reasons), and so for that he lost the privilege of video games for a period of time.

  137. Rachel May 20, 2015 at 11:48 am #

    Oh and for the record, I’m with those who think sneaking out without your parents being told your whereabouts–ANY time of the day–warrants a consequence. He is not an adult and therefore needs to answer to his parents and their authority in the household as such. You don’t go somewhere without permission when you are not an adult (and even as an adult it is wise to have someone who knows your whereabouts).

  138. Warren May 20, 2015 at 11:55 am #


    You must be one of those people that have never worked shift work, done night service calls, worked weekends, been on call or many other reasons why being gone in the middle of the night is no big deal.
    There is a very large portion of the population that does have these sort of schedules and lives. So do not put your standards on the rest of us.

    Just as an example of how things go for people like us. The other day I was gone at 4am on a call. My bride woke up at her regular time and texted me. I told her where I was, that I would be there for another hour or so, and then would head straight to the shop. She brought me a fresh coffee on her way into work.

    Until you have walked in our shoes, do not call how we do things rude. Because that in itself is just rude.

  139. Puzzled May 20, 2015 at 12:33 pm #

    E and anon mom – I more or less agree with what you’re saying, but I often see the things you would call punishments described as ‘consequences.’ I think, like anon mom suggested, that people just don’t like the word punishment.

    Suppose a boarding school has a rule against leaving the dorm after 11PM, and also locks the doors. If you leave after, say, 2AM, I’d say the consequence is not being able to get back inside and ending up sleeping outside, being tired the next day – maybe being late the next day to school and being punished for that. All that flows from what you did. I’d say whatever the school does when they find you sleeping outside is the punishment.

    Maybe I’m just overly sensitive on this. I worked for a boarding school for 10 years that refused to use the word punishment, yet was still, in my mind, overly punitive. They just insisted on calling everything a consequence. To me, it was a way of insisting “you did this to yourself” regardless of how little the punishment might fit the crime.

  140. anonymous mom May 20, 2015 at 12:36 pm #

    @Warren, you described people who do not do things the way you do as control freaks before you were accused of being “rude.”

    In 20 years of being together, not once has either my husband or I left in the middle of the night on a whim. In fact, neither of us has ever left alone for any reason. So, it would be out of the ordinary and strange if it happened, and it would absolutely warrant either a waking or a note. That’s not making my husband answer to me–he’d expect the same from me–or requiring control. It’s the kind of basic courtesy that couples exercise to make life better for each other.

  141. John May 20, 2015 at 12:41 pm #

    Sounds like you’ve got a great kid who will grow up into a big strong man someday! You’re raising him right so keep on doing what you’re doing!!

  142. Emily May 20, 2015 at 12:43 pm #

    As for the “adults don’t leave without telling their partner” thing, I say it depends on what’s normal for those particular people, in that particular relationship. So, suppose Warren wakes up in the middle of the night to get a snack, and while he’s getting his snack, he realizes that there’s no cereal for the family’s breakfast in the morning. Not wanting to wake anyone up, he slips out, drives to the store, buys cereal, returns home, and goes back to bed, without anyone noticing. Suppose the same scenario plays out, except Warren’s wife wakes up and finds his half of the bed empty. If this wasn’t something Warren normally did, she might worry about him, but since he says he does it often (and probably told his wife this early in their relationship), she’d have no reason to worry, unless he didn’t come back in the morning. If she was worried, she could call or text him. That’s what works for that family, but it might not work for Anonymous Mom and her husband. That’s fine, but I don’t think we should devolve into bickering and name-calling over it.

  143. E May 20, 2015 at 5:04 pm #

    @puzzled — I see what you are saying and I guess it’s just semantics like I said.

    I knew a kid that had to wash baseboards any time his Mom caught him not putting the seat down on the toilet. That seemed kind of harsh, but there really aren’t any natural consequences (like getting locked out) that go along with that, so punishment it was. He learned.

    I keep going back to the obvious (to me anyway), the kid displayed that he is not able to make decisions in a reliable fashion that his parents can trust (or approve of), so I would adjust the rules/freedom to account for that. If that’s a punishment, so be it.

  144. Barry May 20, 2015 at 9:35 pm #

    I do not believe any punishment is in order if the child was never told not to walk to Walmart. Does he walk to Walmart during the daytime? What I would do is speak to the child, calmly and clearly, and lay out what he may or may not do. I personally feel that the biggest risk with him walking to Walmart in the middle of the night is police or cps – NOT criminal predators. I used to walk around NYC at all hours of the day or night. I found it to be much safer than people think.

  145. Rina Ledeman May 20, 2015 at 9:37 pm #

    I think you should talk to the kid and explain that what he did was wrong because every parent wants to know where their kids are in the middle of the night, but you should not punish him because he sounds like a responsibile kid, he did it for and good reason, and he doesn’t know better.

  146. Ceridwen May 21, 2015 at 1:32 am #

    Flowers or no flowers is beside the point. I think the kid knew it was wrong to go out after bedtime. Most parents have a set rule, even if it’s different on the weekend, about the time to be home for the night. Sometimes it’s an actual time – be home by six – and sometimes it’s a noticeable thing – be home when the street lights come on – but there is usually a time to be in. After bedtime is definitely after the curfew, even if it isn’t called a curfew, and an eight year old will know that.

    So, I do think there should be consequences. Whether punishment is one of those would be up to the parents, but at the least, I think there should be a talk about appropriate behavior and appropriate times to go out. Quite a few people have mentioned rights and responsibilities. With increasing rights, people get increased responsibilities as well. If the parents are raising their child free-range, even if they don’t call it that, this won’t be a foreign concept to the kid. People have mentioned checking in, letting parents know where the child will be and when he expects to be home. This is a responsibility that comes from having free range. Abdicating the responsibility is cause for something more than just the kid’s internal guilt or fear of the dark or realizing that feet get tired walking three miles. It needs to be explicitly addressed, according to the usual practices of the family. It could even be couched as a Spiderman thing. Isn’t that the franchise’s mantra? – with great power comes great responsibility.

    *If* I were asked for my advice, I’d suggest curtailing his outings for a week. Can’t go beyond the block, can’t go more than five houses away, whatever would restrict the child from his usual habits, so that he realizes that he can’t just go off willy-nilly. The fear of a child not being noticed by a car after midnight is a real, concrete danger. It’s dark, and drivers won’t be expecting a child-sized human to be out walking at that time. Also, some drivers are more likely to be drunk or at least slightly under the influence at bar-closing time and less able to react quickly. Of course, it depend on the area, the lighting, the clothes the kid wore, and so on. That is beyond what we have from Dad.

    In the end, we have a child out at a time which concerned the parents. This at least deserves a stern talking-to, imo.

  147. hineata May 21, 2015 at 1:49 am #

    @Tamara – just couldn’t parent like you, end of story. I have an authoritative style, and my kids seem to get with it….even Stroppy likes her boundaries. Boy (18 and at Uni) is free to do what he likes now, of course, and still lets us know roughly when he’s likely to be in. Am sure your kids get with your style, too, or I expect you would have changed it by now.

    Puzzled, how old were the ‘kids’ in the boarding school, whom you’ve mentioned before had been removed from other establishments?

  148. Beth May 21, 2015 at 11:35 am #

    What about daylight hours? Is a person a control freak only during the night, but if they like at least a “goodbye” from their spouse or the kids to check in that they’re leaving during the day, that’s OK?

  149. Puzzled May 21, 2015 at 1:06 pm #

    Middle and high school, so 12-21, heaviest on the 16-18 bit.

  150. Vicky May 21, 2015 at 1:44 pm #

    Got to have rules. With an eight year old there’s not much about ‘sneaking’ that’s good. Most of time when a child is hiding something, it’s because he KNOWS he isn’t supposed to do it and there will be consequences if he is found out.
    According to the bible and US law, withholding information is the same as lying.
    It’s a bad precedent to set.

  151. Tamara May 21, 2015 at 6:51 pm #

    People commented on how spouses or adults communicate has nothing to do with the topic, but I think it is the point of the topic. If your spouse/partner/child whoever did something unusual (like Walmart at 3:00 am, or running errands without telling anyone) HOW would you react? It’s the same thing except in our society we punish children and speak with adults.

  152. anonymous mom May 21, 2015 at 7:54 pm #

    @Tamara, children are not adults. Children cannot and should not be treated like adults. So, yes, it’s true that if my husband left our home at 3 a.m. without telling me and had me worried sick, I could not and would not try to, say, take away his screen time for a week, the way I might if my 11 year old did the same thing.

    As unfair as that might seem to you, treating children like adults would not logically work in many circumstances. My kids, in their toddler and preschool years, did things that would have gotten them arrested and locked up for assault if they did them as adults, like biting and kicking others. But, because they are children, when my 3 year old bites his older sister because she took a toy from him, and then she pushes him over, I do not call the police and have them both arrested for assault, the way I might do if two adults in front of my house were rolling around on the ground biting and kicking.

    Kids do not have the cognitive capacities of adults, and do not have the impulse control of adults, either. I don’t disagree that as kids get older, that changes. I do think that, by the time a child is a teenager, they should absolutely be moving more and more toward responsibility for their own actions and being talked to like an adult. But, you can’t talk things out with an 8yo the way you would with an adult, because an 8yo is not the same cognitively as an adult (or even as they will be at 10 or 11 or 12).

    There might be problems with the way we treat children, but the fact that we do not treat them the same way we treat adults is not one of them. Treating children as adults would be simply unworkable. Most kids would be serving 25 to life before they were in kindergarten if we didn’t have a different set of rules governing how we respond to children and how we respond to adults.

  153. E May 22, 2015 at 8:47 am #

    @anon mom, well said.

    The more I think about this story, the more I feel like its’ not at all a FR issue (other than the observation that Walmart called the parents, not the ‘authorities’, that’s good news).

    This is straight up parenting and discipline. I don’t think my opinion on this matters any more so than it does on if their kids does homework before or after dinner or if their kid said he was going to be at his friend’s house and walked to Walmart instead.

    Context matters, precedent matters, family dynamics matter.

    And for anyone that might think this deserves a pat on the back, well I just presume they don’t have teenagers yet, lol.

  154. Michele May 22, 2015 at 12:49 pm #

    Are you people insane? Lauding a little child for leaving the house in the middle of the night without telling anyone where he’s going, and walking three miles away? I wouldn’t accept it even if happened during the day. It’s one thing to give them independence, another to just let them roam wherever the F they want whenever they want. By condoning this behavior you give your “movement” a bad name. RIDICULOUS.

  155. Tamara May 22, 2015 at 2:16 pm #

    Anonymous mom – you mistake my philosophy of suggesting children should be treated with respect to mean treat them like adults. That is not what I say. I feel it is disrespectful to force my will on another person – be it child or adult – period. I feel there is a better way than punishment that may take longer and involves more communication. You sound so afraid that you may raise that disrespectful, selfish partner who does leave the house in the night without letting someone know that you simply MUST show them by force that it is wrong, all in the interests of the child, of course.

    I just let my kids be themselves, wherever that may lead them, with my guidance if and when they need it, without worrying that I need to lead them to a certain end goal.

    I don’t understand what people think parenting was supposed to be – kids are messy, curious and loud – that’s how they should be!

  156. E May 22, 2015 at 3:16 pm #

    @Tamara, kids can be messy, curious, and loud and still be expected to abide by the rules or guidelines that make a home manageable. If I have dinner on the table at a certain time, and my kids are expected to eat dinner with me at a communicated time, then if they ignore that request, it’s not ok. Those people are not treating ME with respect, so yes, it’s time to discuss. And if the behavior continues with my kids, I would expect to modify THEIR level of freedom so that I don’t get stood up again.

    If I expect my teen to be home by 11pm because I want to go to bed knowing my car is in the driveway and we all have to get up to work the next day, and they choose not to do that, they are disrespecting the house rules. They can expect to have an earlier curfew or not get the privilege of driving the car the next time.

    I mean, unless your home is devoid of expectations or commitments at given times (and maybe it is) or your house is filled with perfect people, there will come a time that your kids test you. As a parent you have to evaluate if you are going to accept that level if disregard for your expectations, or you are going to have to address them. I am certain my kids would love to do whatever they want if they only had to endure a brief discussion if they break a rule. That’s a pretty easy trade off.

  157. anonymous mom May 22, 2015 at 5:29 pm #

    @Tamara, I feel that my job as a parent is forcing not my will, but what is right, upon my children. I could certainly try to convince my children via discussion that eating nothing but cookies is bad for them, and wait until they decided that was true to feed them a healthy, balanced diet. But, I feel I’d be abdicating my responsibility as their parent if I did that. Instead, my job is to provide them with a reasonably healthy and balanced diet, whether it’s what they want or not. Because they lack the capacity to decide how to feed themselves well, even if I provide them with a lot of information. My children would prefer to play video games all day rather than play outside, or to watch TV rather than do school, but these are choices I do not allow them to make. I’m not going to wait until my son understands the value of an education and chooses to learn to educate him. Education is indeed forced upon him. Because that’s my responsibility to him and to society.

    And, I fully expect my children will make selfish, irresponsible choices when they grow up. I sometimes do. They are human, as we all are. But if they leave my home feeling that making selfish, irresponsible choices is just life, and that they are beholden to nothing but their own whims and desires, then I will feel like I did not do my job well.

  158. Tamara May 23, 2015 at 11:27 am #

    What I am hearing continuously is an awful lot of what is important to the parent, but no one considering what is actually important to their children. My way or the highway sounds fun. Oh right, I guess childhood is not supposed to be fun, unless there’s a lot of rules to go with it.

  159. Beth May 24, 2015 at 9:41 pm #

    Yup Tamara, you got us. Not a single one of us consider what is actually important to our children. Darn, and we thought we were keeping that secret so well……

  160. E May 26, 2015 at 8:43 am #

    @Tamara, I shouldn’t even bother replying any further, but I feel I’m being punk’d. Unless one lives completely alone, you simply cannot go thru life doing ONLY what you feel like doing and when you feel like doing it. You absolutely have to compromise in order the have any level of peace and normalcy. If it’s important for me to have dinner with my family each night to share our lives and exchange conversation and viewpoints, then it’s perfectly ok for me to expect my family members to show up. There are enough hours in the day for kids to do X, without missing dinner with their family.

    Life can be fun for everyone, but I’m not going to defer to my children on every point in the spirit of giving my child a “fun” childhood.

    And since I presume there is a high probability that my kids will grow up and choose to share their lives with someone else, the idea of compromise and respect for others’ wishes is an important skill to have.

    And all of the above ignores the fact that children do not have the maturity at every point of their lives to make appropriate/safe/healthy decisions. Can they decide not to go to school? Can they decide they want to sleep in my bed instead of their own? Can they decide that their bedtime is midnight? Can they decide to eat cookies at 5pm when I’m serving a healthy dinner at 6pm?

  161. Tamara May 28, 2015 at 12:25 pm #

    “And all of the above ignores the fact that children do not have the maturity at every point of their lives to make appropriate/safe/healthy decisions. Can they decide not to go to school? Can they decide they want to sleep in my bed instead of their own? Can they decide that their bedtime is midnight? Can they decide to eat cookies at 5pm when I’m serving a healthy dinner at 6pm?”

    Yes, in my house they can do all of these things. We work together to try to get everyone to get as much of what they want as often as possible.

    Beth – you are correct, I did say “no one” when I really should have said “many” and I stand by it – I don’t hear “my child”will be happier, learn more, etc, very often. I hear “I” need, or “I” feel it’s important for my child to do x…

    Which, great, I’m hoping it works out. I’m trying to point out that there is another way that also works and doesn’t involve treating kids like so much property and where children do not really have a voice.

  162. E May 29, 2015 at 1:45 pm #

    @Tamara, I was wondering if that was going to be your answer. If your kids can do all of those things just because they want to, then your style of parenting is an outlier on anyone’s scale.

  163. Warren May 29, 2015 at 6:09 pm #

    My dad never worked at night, but on occassion did slip out. Mostly for things like milk or whatever, and mostly to surprise my mom. Like going over to his buddies to get mom’s new car, so that it was parked in the driveway with one of those huge bows, when she woke up.

    Either you trust or you don’t. If it was an emergency yeah you tell them. If it is not, they don’t need to be bothered while sleeping.

  164. Amanda Matthews May 31, 2015 at 5:16 pm #

    3am is not late at night – it’s early in the morning.
    You may tell your kids “no video games after 9pm” – but do you tell them “no video games until 6am”?
    My 8 year old has a bedtime, but not a waketime. The only rule in this house is that the kids must keep their video games, videos etc. QUIET if they wake up before the others. And that they can’t ask me for permission for things while I am asleep, but that had to be added later (because I sleep talk and my 8 year old figured out that early morning questions could lead to me giving permission for things I normally wouldn’t).

    Unless the parents had given a specific time that it’s okay to go outside again, I wouldn’t assume that the kid knew this was “inappropriate” or “not okay” (and I don’t really see why it was, other than not letting a parent know, as the kid is obviously fully capable of walking to the store. Why are so many people afraid of the dark?). And I wouldn’t punish him, personally. I’d say “That was very sweet that you surprised Mom. But in the future, you have to tell at least one parent where you’ll be going and when, even if it’s for a surprise.”

  165. Amanda Matthews May 31, 2015 at 5:29 pm #

    RE: anonymous mom

    A mentally healthy child, if left to make their own choices, will choose to eat nothing but cookies for maybe a day.
    Then, they will begin to feel unwell. They will either figure out that they need to eat some healthier foods with the rest of the family, or they will ask mom for help feeling better and she will explain that they feel bad because they ate so many cookies.

    A child that is not taught to hate education (by being forced into it) will naturally want to learn.

    Video game time is not limited in this house, and on the occasional bad weather days a kid may spend most of the day playing. But they do choose to go outside a lot of the time. Honestly, I don’t want to go outside, so I don’t see much of a point in forcing the kids out there. Still, they go outside much more often than I do.

    Kids are not adults, but they are human, they are alive, and therefore won’t choose to harm themselves more often than not. You can teach a child which actions are harmful and which are helpful, without having to force your opinion onto them.