I don’t classify myself as a helicopter parent, but my kids are still young. At ages eight and ten when the school bell rings to end the day, I am with them until they schlepp to school the next morning. Since they are always with me, or at least near me there was no need for a phone. I mean a cell phone with a phone line which they can use to call or text. Like every modern child, they have an electronic pacifier including MY phone. They have begged me for phones. BEGGED I say, and I really never saw the need for it. But yesterday I buckled down, went to the store, and got them their own cell phones. Here’s why and how.
We live in a gated community with it’s own basket ball court. I told the boys to go play and come back in one hour. As soon as they went down the elevator I thought: they have no way to communicate with me! I wanted to go downstairs to check on them, but also felt like I needed to trust them. Enter the one hour of unease.
Are they okay? Of course they are okay. Did they make it? Sure they made it. Are they behaving? They must be behaving. They better be behaving.
Unsurprisingly they came back alive, well, and sweaty. Just what I wanted. It was actually quite perfect. They got out of the house to be active and for the first time ever, I didn’t have to go with them. It was a window of liberty I haven’t had before … a glimpse of a future I simultaneously long for and dread.
So the next day they went out again, but they took my phone with them so we could reach each other through the land line. I didn’t hear from them, and I didn’t call them either. But knowing I could was a relief. After a few days of this, I no longer wanted to share my phone.
So we went to the AT&T store since that is the carrier I use to find options. We were able to add two lines to our plan with unlimited text and phone at a reasonable price. I can block data usage so they are only able to use the internet when on Wifi. But we needed to get two new phones.
We made a deal. These are the basic premises:
Each boy paid for their own phone from their savings and is responsible for it. You lose it, you break it, you replace it. We would pay for the monthly fee to use the phone as long as the boys do their chores. No chores, no phone.
They understand the primary purpose for having a phone is to communicate. Anything else they do … as in games, or watching music videos… is gravy. No complaining if there is no Wifi available because they can still communicate.
When I was in college I learned a good negotiation is one where both sides believe they got a good deal. I believe this was a good negotiation.
From my perspective I got:
- Ability to let my boys be more independent
- Teach my boys responsibility for something they purchased and owned
- Put chores into perspective. I don’t believe children should be paid to do things they should be doing because they are part of a family. I don’t believe you should pay a child for making their bed or cleaning their plates. We all have to work to get the things we want. I am teaching them how to take care of themselves but I am not really “paying” them to do it. I am, but they don’t see it that way.
When I asked Dreamer what he got with the phone he said:
- I can talk to my friends
- I don’t have to hassle you for your phone
- I can text people
- I can have my OWN phone, my own space like it’s my phone and I can do whatever I want with it
Works for me.
We put our new found independence to the test. Dreamer (age 10) wanted something from CVS. I didn’t want to go. CVS is two blocks away from us and across a major road with a stop light. He said “I can go by myself mami, trust me! I have a phone.”
Unlike his brother, (age 8), Dreamer has a little more common sense and I let him go by himself. My heart in my hand, his phone in his.
He called me from the store to ask me a question, and then he called me asking if he could stop at the condominium playground to play with a dog that was there. He came back about an hour later sweaty, dirty, and feeling independent.
I have a feeling this will work out for us.
Do your children have phones? How do they use it? What do I need to worry about?