For example, my sixth grader recently wanted a cell phone. She told me that she was the last kid in her class not to have one. I realize that now this is true, although I don't understand who these kids are calling... maybe Ghostbusters!
It seems ridiculous to me to pay money for a phone, to look cool -- Razors, Chocolates, Parfaits, Angel phones -- when there is no one to call other than a friend to ask "What's up! Did Angie talk to you today?" Now, if a child needs to reach a parent because of family needs, that's a different story, but these cases are rare. I say to my child, "I know you would like that phone. Who wouldn't when everyone has one?" But I don't think it is necessary to have a phone in sixth grade, and I really can't spend the money for things we don't really need.''
My answer is met with squeaks, anger, endless questions -- but I hold fast and assertively to my idea with understanding of her desires living in a culture where this is the norm in upper middle class towns. If the squeaking gets too out of hand or annoying, I announce my need to leave, she slams the door, I remain calm, and 10 minutes later she comes in to hug me. I accept the hug and nothing is mentioned, It is over and I am happy. For now!
When you have teens, you really need to use this. Always use it with understanding and kindness, not critical judgment. You might say to a teen who gets in trouble for ringing doorbells as a prank, late at night, "I can understand the fun that would bring to a 14 year old, but think of the consequences," and list them. "You might get a really angry person who calls the police." "You could wake up a child, who the parents spent hours trying to get down." "You may scare someone." You are understanding developmentally where the child is, but offering rational thought to influence behavior. Rational parenting stretches children's minds to see more choices and consequences in behavior. The most flexible mind, with the most choices is always the most effective one in dealing with life, people, and life's challenges.
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