In the comedy film Home Alone, the parents of 8-year-old Kevin McCallister mistakenly leave him behind when they fly to Paris for a Christmas holiday. At first, Kevin revels in the chance to watch whatever he wants on TV and eat all of the junk food in sight. Then two burglars intrude, bringing his fun to an abrupt end.
It’s a far-fetched concept—or is it? Like young Kevin, teenagers left home alone usually enjoy the freedom to play their music loud, leave dirty dishes in the sink, and invite friends over to play video games. But the fun can end quickly if the friends get out of hand.
Situations like these test the balance between loyalty to family and loyalty to friends, and they show what little control teens have over other people’s actions. When presented as ethical dilemmas, they can also help your Scouts explore the limits of friendship and the fragility of parental trust.
Fifteen-year-old Sam Nguyen, an only child, has spent plenty of time home alone. For the first time, though, his parents have decided to leave him overnight. They need to visit Sam’s grandparents, who live about two hours away, and Sam has a required lacrosse practice the next morning.
While Sam’s dad packs the car, his mom orders the boy a pizza and makes sure he has a ride to practice. Then his dad comes in to say good-bye. “Call Mrs. Huggins next door if you need anything,” he says. “I trust you, bud.”
A few minutes later, Sam is vegging out on the couch, eating pizza, and watching TV. There’s not much on, so he calls his friend Alex from the lacrosse team. They talk for a while, and then Alex invites himself over. Sam wonders how he would get there since he doesn’t have a car, but Alex says his older brother, Tommy, can drop him off.
Tommy does more than drop off Alex. He comes to stay, bringing along his girlfriend and a 12-pack of beer. Soon, two more carloads of teens pull up, and Sam realizes that the Nguyen house has become party central.
Before long, the party is in full swing, and the house is a complete mess. A lacrosse player breaks a lamp, a girl Sam doesn’t even know gets sick on the floor, and Tommy and his girlfriend disappear into the master bedroom. Sam does his best to get the uninvited guests to leave or at least settle down, but they just ignore him. In fact, the party doesn’t break up until 3 a.m., when the police, called by Mrs. Huggins next door, show up at the door.
When he’s finally alone again, Sam surveys the damage. He doesn’t know how he’ll get the mess cleaned up before his parents come home. Even if he does, Mrs. Huggins is bound to tell his parents about the party.
How can you help your Scouts deal with situations like this?
Sam never intended to let anyone come over while his parents were away—even though they didn’t say he couldn’t. He certainly didn’t intended to throw a wild party, but that’s what happened. Now he’s stuck dealing with the party’s aftermath.
To explore Sam’s dilemma, ask your Scouts these questions:
- At what point or points did Sam do something that led to his trouble?
- At what point or points did Sam not do something that could have prevented the trouble from happening? What could he have done?
- Did Sam reach a point when he was powerless to control the situation? When?
- What actions could he have taken at that point?
- What do you think the positive and negative outcomes of each of those actions would have been?
- What’s the best action Sam could have taken?
- What actions could Sam take after the party that would make the situation better or worse?
- The last thing Sam’s dad said to him was “I trust you, bud.” What do you think that means?
- Did Sam break his parents’ trust? Why or why not?
- Is the trust of parents important? Why or why not?
- Does being trustworthy mean never making a mistake?
- Assuming Sam has lost his parents’ trust, what can he do to regain it?
The difficulty is like many in the path to maturity…can you translate your experience and training into behavior. Having been accustomed to having the decisions made for him, (pizza ordered, call the neighbor) Sam was unable to manage the delima of uninvited guest. No guests should have been the stated rule and expectation. A call from the parents, particularly if this is the first overnight, as a checkup. Arrange with the neighbor or someone to actually come over to the house and survey the venue. — look it over. Let Sam know that “Neighbor will be by sometime this evening to check on you.” Sam watched things going from bad to worse but he didn’t have an action plan until the police showed up. His management tool box needed an earlier intervention plan. In adition to the parenting suggestions (phone call and actual check up) Sam needed instruction on being responsible for the house. Here’s the question, “If something is taking place in this house while you are here, will you without hesitation tell your parents, or would you announce the behavior at the next scout meeting or in church.” If there is a hesitancy claim the behavior to parents or church, then that is the cognitive trigger for Sam to know he must act. What are the options, ask people to leave, if they refuse, call the neighbor, if the party gets destructive call police – first. .