The Runaway Child

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Back in July, I announced that a 12-year old girl was moving in with my roommate and I to temporarily care for while her father get back on his feet. Over the course of raising her in the months leading up to this day, we’ve found out she’s a problem child, a strong-willed one that doesn’t want to learn from the mistakes of others, but rather learn them herself the hard way. It has taught me many lessons that will be valuable for when I have my own kid(s) someday. Painful lessons, but necessary ones, regardless.

Here’s the things I learned:

  • She’s boy crazy to the point that it is ridiculous
  • Can and will talk on the phone for hours, neglecting homework, chores, and so on
  • No interest in school at all, only wants to socialize and get in trouble
  • Reported to smoke pot in the bathroom, and rumors that she took uppers
  • Bad mouths teachers in the classroom to get supposed reputation with the kids
  • Stole both my digital camera and iPod on seperate days to show off at school
  • No respect for property, has broken glasses, my digital camera, my iPod, and many other objects
  • Listens to gangsta rap with lyrics that have lewd content, and incessant swearing
  • Swears constantly, and throws temper tantrums often, throwing objects around her room with abandon
  • Repeatedly brags about how she kisses boys and likes to be a slut

There are a lot more I’m not listing, though. Repeated attempts to discipline her with chores, writing assignments, and taking away her possessions like the radio, CD’s, television, and worst of all, the phone, have all failed in curbing her enthusiasm for trouble. What she really needed was a spanking, but I wasn’t under any legal obligations to do so, and her father is a wimp and won’t spank her. She’s a spoiled rotten brat who wants her way, and when she didn’t, she would throw temper tantrums, scream, and pout.

It all came to a head last week when she got in trouble, again, at school for talking back to a teacher and disrupting the class repeatedly by faking burps and giggling incessantly. She was one referral away from getting a trip to Gateway, which is an alternate school for troubled kids. She knew this, and couldn’t handle the fact that the consequences of all her actions were catching up to her, so when she pulled a temper tantrum again at home, she decided to sneak out the window and “cool off” according to her note. She wrote to not call the police, that she will be back. However, her father told us to call the police, which we did.

She didn’t come home that night, she spent the night with a boy she liked, and slept in his bed. She said nothing happened, but she is fond of lying. A detective, 3 police officers, and 2 police officers with bloodhounds all spent their time looking for her, tracking her friends down, finding out if there was any word on the street. The way it went, was that she walked to a nearby church, met two older boys, went to their house with them to watch two movies, and then went to another house filled with 4 18-year old boys, and the one 13-year old boy she likes who she slept with. According to the cops, the house was a bad one, and has a bad reputation. They likely are pressing charges on these people, for being accessories to kidnapping, and harboring a runaway who is a minor.

A friend and her dad found her walking down the street about 22 hours after she had originally snuck out, and drove her home. She was defiant at first, acting like she was upset that there was police out looking for her, but they snatched her up, had her tell them where she spent the night out, gave her stern lecturing, and recommended to her father that he spank her (which he never did.) Since she was capable of this, there was no way she could live with us anymore. After a long talk, her father decided to put her in a shelter where there was counseling, home-schooling, and such for troubled kids. That will last for 21 days and then he has to find a girl’s home to put her for a while. If she continues the path she is walking, she may end up in a juvenile detention facility, which will most likely change her for the better, and fix her bad attitude.

She’s only 12 years old, yet she doesn’t care. Before she came, I was against spanking, but now I realize why it is necessary. One day she will realize what a really good opportunity she had here, that she threw away with reckless disregard. For now, she needs to be in a situation where she’s so miserable that she will realize she needs to change her ways, her attitude, and the paths she keeps walking. I just hope she does it before she gets hurt too bad and falls in a dark hole.

13 Responses to “The Runaway Child”

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  1. I’m sorry it worked out so badly for you Matt. You really put some time and effort into this situation to try and make it work and it just hasn’t. I never had any of these sort of problems with my children, in fact I had to persuade Pippa to start going out a bit more when she was late 17 so I cannot comment on the youngsters behaviour other than to say how sad I am you had to experience this and I hope that eventually she starts to realise just how badly she has treated someone who cared and tried to help.

  2. It’s very unfortunate that you had to go through that. My wife and I took in a 12 year old last spring that was a bit troublesome, but not to the degree that you are talking about. I’m a firm believer in the benefits of disciplinary spanking.

    Being a good parent is 50% affection, and 50% discipline. The problem here is that the father (although he probably loves her very much) didn’t care enough about his child to do the not-fun part of parenting — disciplining. If he’d spanked her when it was appropriate when she was younger, she wouldn’t be like this because she’d know that behavior like that is unacceptable.

    The thing that sucks is that spanking is really only effective until a child is between 7-9. After that age, things like grounding tend to me more effective.

    When our 12 year old was with us, she had a real problem with talking back and not doing her homework. Her grades were failing, and she had a horrible attitude. We decided to be strict with her because that was what she needed. Loving strictness. We made sure that she did her homework, we then corrected it, and made her go back and fix mistakes. We had a zero-tolerance talking-back policy, and she got grounded frequently. But you know what? After 3 months, she was getting A’s and B’s, and was MUCH better behaved.

    I’m sure this guy is your friend, and I don’t mean to be disrespectful to him, but he has assisted his daughter in destroying her own life by not doing the right thing and putting his foot down when he should have.

    Spanking is not the same as “hitting” or “beating” your child, as long as it is done in a spirit of betterment for your child. Parents who decide that they’ll never “physically hit” their child (A) don’t understand what kind of tool spanking actually is, and (B) are doing more harm to their child than any kind “good” they THINK they’re doing by “sparing the rod”.

  3. horai: I’m sure someday she’ll realize it. For now, she has lots of growing up to do.

    Ryan: I agree with everything you said, and that’s one of the lesson I’ve learned. You got to learn to balance being a good guy, and being the bad guy. I find that it is necessary to employ both roles when the situation calls for it. Reward the child for good behavior, and give consequences for bad choices.

    We’ve made her father well aware that he is hurting his daughter by not spanking her. He admitted it today that he was wrong, but whether or not he learned his lesson remains to be seen. It’s just all out of my hand now, and I hope he takes a better initiative to turn her around.

    Thank you both very much for commenting, it means a lot to me.

  4. Khing

    Matt, kudos to you for trying. I admire your efforts, regardless of what happens. Not many people would take on the responsibility that you have taken, and although it did not work as well as you (and many of us) have hoped, you have put all you have into this and thats what matter.

    Yes, doing a good thing may mean having to be a very bad person. I’m 19 myself and I had the priviledge of good upbringing, and I have my parents to thanks for that. I do despise them sometimes for the way they have treated me but on hindsight, I’d have to say I’m glad that they did what they did. The lessons that I’ve learnt will make me a better person.

    I’m wishing all the best for you, you have been noble, and I hope that all turns out well at the end of it all. I also wish Kimberly the best, hoping that she would soon come to realisation, and that she will turn out to be a much better person.

  5. People don’t typically understand the point (or method) for spanking. Scripturally, discipline is for two specific purposes; to change wrong or destructful behavior, and to restore relationship. Discipline is supposed to be quick, memorable, and put behind you (which, ironically, is the best place to administer it, on the bottom, which has the benefit of being padded). Scripture has an interesting connotation about discipline. When we admit we’ve done something wrong, the text says that “God remembers it no more”. In other words, he doesn’t throw it back in your face later. Note that it doesn’t say he forgets, just that he doesn’t use it as a weapon.

    I’ve got two kids and have spanked them both as required in their earlier years. However, as they grow, we’ve had to do that less and less until other, more cerebral methods accomplish the job. (My son’s 12 and while he’s all boy, he’s not the sort of reckless, headstrong case that you had going there. My heart goes out to you for attempting this. I’ve had many years to gradually learn some degree of parental wisdom – you were thrown into a wild situation relatively cold. You’re a braver man than I am, Matt.)

  6. Melissa

    I understand exactly where you are coming from. My husband and I took in a girl at the age of 12 and it has not been easy. Her mom fied when she was 10 and she never knew her dad. She is a compulsive liar, she steals and is good at it all. Her grades in school have been awful. I have her on an IEP which is extra help resourse room and she won’t use the time. She has started hanging around a new group of friends during the summer and life has been HE–. These are boys with juvinille records so long you wouldn’t believe. Jr. High drop outs and on constant probation. She will not talk to her 3 GOOD friends and has run away 3 times. I had her brought back home the first 2 but after that I thought she should have to stick it out. She has now been on the streets or bouncing from house to house for the past 8 weeks. (She is 17) I went to court, called child intake, crisis and there is nothing anyone will help with. She has not been going to school and for the past 3 nights been living with 3 young men all 20 or older.
    I have 3 of my own children ages 12, 9 and 7 and they are extremely upset with the situation. My 7 year old cries all night when she comes home then runs away again.
    We have decided until she gets some medical help we can not let her live in the house unfortunatlly because of her age she neeeds to want help to get it believe me I tried and still am even though I get rejected everytime.
    It is tuff but we need to stand our grounds also. If we let them walk all over us they will and with no respect. It is hard enough this day and age to get the kid to respect.

  7. Wow, what a horror story. It sounds like you did your best, but you were at a disadvantage from the start. All of this bad behavior started long ago and to stop it now will take drastic measures most likely. Also, you aren’t her parents, so you could never have the respect that they would, which makes it even more difficult to discipline.

    If this is going to continue, then hopefully she gets sent away somewhere before she’s an adult so she can learn about consequences before consequences = jail.

    As for spanking, it isn’t a magical cure for bad behavior. My brother and I were spanked more than I care to remember, and my brother still ended up in prison for drugs.

  8. Ashley

    HEY umm i use to be a problem clild like that i got sent to a group home and my parent never took me bak and now im in a foster home doing good but i HATE it dont be so hard on her and tell her you love her alot and make her feel at home because i know noone loves me i just had the worst birthday of my life saturday and there are several times i feel like just running away with th boy i like and i never do it im trying to get my life together i just want to go home with my family your daughter is very lucky to have a father like she does and email me if you or her ever want to talk about it ok thank you

  9. Jack Mehoffa

    i’m getting snipped after reading that story. if she broke my ipod i’d sell her on ebay.

  10. Stumbly Tupac

    Jack> lol. Snipped? A bit drastic. And as for Ebay….authorities might not be too kind about that. ;-)

    First and foremost, Matt you pretty much a saint.

    Discipline is a tricky thing. Especially physical discipline. I feel (and it’s just my view) the older the child gets, the less effective it is as a deterrant. I think it has an impact when where younger because of the immeadiate shock of it, related to the unwanted action/behaviour. But as we get older and more cognitive, it becomes less about the “oh I did this wrong” and more “oh he/she is hitting me”. As we get older, I feel that physical discipline for the child is less about what they’ve just done wrong, and more about a form of violence between whoever and the child. I mean you can see for yourself. Spank a six year old or a four yeard old and tell them how it relates to what they’ve done, see the reaction, then try do that with a 12 year old!

    I just speak from my own experience.

  11. Urlik

    Reminds me of my son at that age. He was a HUGE handful and still hasn’t sompletely adjusted to adult life now that he’s 24. Thanks God my daughter has been much easier.

  12. Peachy

    Hi Matt – have you heard anything about how Kimberley is getting on? I really admire you for trying so hard to change her life for the better – I feel so old when I say this, but kids these days seem to have no respect whatsoever. I live in London UK and we see kids like this everywhere, I used to think it was becuase they are bored with nothing to do, but I realise that is rubbish – we have a sports ground, leisure centres, cinemas, youth clubs all in a 3-4 mile radius, but they are still intent on standing on street corners or at bus stops smoking or worse – and at the risk of sounding old again – this didn’t happen in my day!!

  13. Barbara B.

    I am 13 and i know that spanking is one of the most unaffective punishment you can give to a disrespectful child. my father has tried this method of punishment every time i back talked him, by him hurting me it only makes me hate him more and hit him back. what i would really like my father to do is have a long talk WITH me not to me but with me so that he will listen to what i have to say. try compromising like letting her freely go anywhere she wants fro an hour a day without you sending the police force on her if she deos her homework each night. she probably does’t do iot because it is either a hastle for her to bring home books or she feels that she can’t do the work. try helping her do it sit with her the whole time if she doesn’t know how to do anything refer to her book (because you probably dont remember either.)and teach her. take it step by step and dont send he rto reform school she will probably acquire thoughts of suicide, or she’ll run away from there or she hate you more, help her never let her out of your site until your sure that she will agree to your compromise.

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