So as not to poison the well, I won’t remark on the kid’s current punishment in the OP.
Last night, our 14 year old was caught with garbage stashed around his room. Bunches of it. Under the dresser, under the best, under clothes in one of his drawers, etc. Empty chip bags, Pop-Tart wrappers, candy wrappers, soda bottles (some still partially full), water bottles, etc. Thankfully very little actual biological food waste as opposed to wrappers and boxes. This isn’t the first time this has happened. This would actually be the fourth. The first time was a pretty big blow up, the second time I just left it at “I know you have stuff in your room, have it gone before I get home from work” and the third was somewhere in between.
Just cut off the obvious remarks: Yes, I know it’s not drugs or alcohol or endangered seal pups or immigrant child slaves being hidden. He’s basically a good kid, does well in school, is in an after-school activity, all that good stuff. That’s why I’m asking for opinions beyond just “ground him for [time]!”. But this repeated behavior links in to other bad choices and decision making (deceit, lack of responsibility, etc) so I’d like to handle it for what it is than hear about what it’s not.
He has no real reason to be doing this. It’s just teenage stupidity, I suspect. I’ve made clear before that I buy food with the intent for it to be eaten so, provided he’s respectful in how he eats it (no eating a whole bag of cookies or drinking a whole thing of juice without any one else having any) there’s no reason to hide the fact that he had some chips. It’s not really laziness – half the stuff took more effort to hide than to stick in the trash. I suspect it starts with thinking he’ll be in trouble for eating it, so he hides it and then he hides more and then it just becomes “okay” in his mind to cram garbage into places. That’s obviously not a mindset we want to encourage. But I can’t think of a way to get across that I don’t give a shit about a package of Pop-Tarts aside from plainly stating “Look, I don’t give a shit about the package of Pop-Tarts just throw the wrapper away”.
I don’t really see it as “hording”, at least not as I see it depicted on the TV shows. He has no attachment to the garbage and it’s obviously just garbage (even to him). It just isn’t going where the garbage goes. Our house can be cluttered and messy (we have a 14 year old, a 3 year old and two working parents) but it’s definitely livable, the kitchen especially is kept clean and the “stuff” is legitimate stuff that needs organizing, not garbage. I wouldn’t want the Pope to visit but I’m not ashamed to have friends and family drop by.
Although the title says “punishment”, I’m curious for any insight. Or discipline that could prove more fruitful than just “take away the video games”. And, again, I’m well aware and thankful that a bajillion other parents would love to have this be their biggest problem but that’s not a good reason for not taking care of this one.