So tell me, what would you do?

I faced a dilemma last night and I would like your collective advice please. I have great neighbors who have wonderful children. Now one particular neighbor has a child about 14/15 years old and is begining to run with a “bad” crowd. Everytime I see him he is very polite to me and we always chat for a while. So I don’t want to see him get in trouble. Well, last night he was hanging out with a group of his friends in front of his house making a racket. I was cool with that although it was around 11pm. Then I hear a bottle smash. So I’m thinking to myself I have a few options: I can go outside and talk to them or I can call 311 or I can do nothing. What would you have chosen? I decided not to go outside because I figured he probably wouldn’t be receptive to a talk in front of all his friends. I decided not to call 311 because he is a good kid and I didn’t really want to see him get in trouble. So I gritted my teeth and did nothing. This morning, I went outside and sure enough there was a Grey Goose bottle of vodka smashed near my house. So I clean up the bottle, thinking to myself at least they have very good taste in vodka. Wait, a second, now they are drinking. What do I do? I don’t want to rat him out. But I don’t want to see him get into even worse trouble. So let’s say he is hanging out with his friends and I spot them drinking – do I go over and talk to him? Plus I don’t want to be a huge hypocrite because I am known to enjoy a beer or two. I’m leaning towards having a chat with him when his friends aren’t around. Any advice would be most appreciated.

9 Comment

  • Well, sure, you can enjoy a beer or two or a dozen — I’m assuming you’re not a teenager, and you’re not breaking bottles in front of your neighbors’ houses. So don’t worry about hypocrisy.

    This is a tough one. I think I probably would have done what you did, but maybe next time you see the young man one-on-one, you might want to talk to him, like you are already thinking. Keep it light, but say, hey man, that wasn’t cool. It sounds like you already have a good foundation to work with. Good luck, let us know how it turns out…

  • Like Christina, I think you’re on the right track. A private chat gives you a chance to give the kid a nudge in the right direction. It may also get you information to help you decide whether further action is a good idea, and what that action ought to be.

    Also, it sounds like it is the step you feel most comfortable with, which is probably a large factor in making something work.

  • I’m not exactly sure what to think, but you are really wonderful for caring about your neighbor’s kid. Good for you.

  • without a doubt one on one.
    Ask him to encourage his friends not to break bottles in front of peoples houses…..

    personally i would hit the lecture on drinking and such… but then again when i was his age nobody could tell me anything……..

  • You were doing the same thing when you were his age(more or less). Running around late at night,trying new things with your friends, acting cool. Just pick up the broken glass and move on. If he takes your “advice” the wrong way, you may find yourself the target of his next bout of boredom.

  • I think you should have a word with him the next time you see him. Could make a difference in his life, you never know. Also — and maybe this is unique to me and my family and where I grew up — I didn’t get to hang out at after dark in front of my house or anyone else’s house when I was a teenager. Didn’t his parents hear the bottle break, too? They weren’t concerned? They didn’t care he was outside at 11 p.m. and beyond? Maybe I’m out of touch at 30.

  • You should have called the police. And, the parent(s) or guardian(s) of the teenager should have been aware of the teenager’s wherabouts. When I was growing up in Petworth, I knew that neighbors’ eyes were always watching out for trouble in the neighborhood. This “brother’s keeper” principle helped keep me out of trouble.

  • Me and my 15-year-old were just on this topic. We were just reading and talking about issues in schools (especially) with zero tolerance and the tough times that boys get by “authorities.” Of course, there’s no right answer, just our attempts to navigate rocky waters. Ignoring the potential danger seems pretty dumb. Making too much out of it can make things worse.

    I think that you should talk to him. Let’s face it, you don’t know that HE smashed the bottle. Yeah, he was there, but there is information that you are missing. If you ask him what happened, it gives you an opportunity to learn more, rather than to accuse and lecture.

    The 15 year old is reading over my shoulder and agrees that there’s no right answer and that you should know that the kid is going to feel accused regardless.

    Good luck!

  • Thanks Doc. I’ll appreciate what you say about not trying to be too accusatory. That would be a mistake. Appreciate your advice especially since you have a 15 year old.

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