Monday, November 2, 2009

The Cell Phone Contract

My middle daughter - aged 8 - has been asking for a cell phone for about a year now. I personally think it's ridiculous for an 8-year-old to have a cell phone, so she has gotten nowhere with me so far. That is all about to change. Let me explain why.

When my oldest (now 10) was 8, he was introduced to video games. He worked, saved his money, and I matched him dollar for dollar to purchase a GameCube. He was hooked. We have to stay vigilant to make sure he doesn't spend every waking minute playing games (now in a Wii or the computer), but it has had benefits. One HUGE benefit I discovered rather quickly was that the punishment of taking video games away got his attention. It still works wonders. All it takes is the threat of losing game privileges and he straightens up immediately. Every parent needs something like it. I have a friend here who told me she was challenged by her children because no punishment bothered them. They didn't care about losing anything. So, how do you discipline when you have no punishment that works as a motivator? Fortunately, for my oldest boy, I do.

I thought the same tactic might work with my middle child as well. Add to that the fact that she has been getting herself up and ready for school every morning and catching the bus at 6:30. She doesn't have to ride the bus. We carpool with a neighbor and get to school even earlier that we have any other year. But, she likes the time to herself and getting to school as early as possible. School starts at 7:45, and 6:30 is early (she is the first one on the bus and the last off in the afternoon), but she has been faithfully doing it. I think that shows a lot of responsibility.

So, we are going to negotiate over the cell phone. I told her I would write up a contract for her to get a cell phone. There will be rules like she has to turn the phone over to me after bedtime and she has to pay the $10 a month extra for the phone service (which means she'll have to earn her $5 a week allowance at least twice each month, see my earlier post for how that works). Of course, grades must be maintained and homework done without a fight.

I hope this turns out to be a good thing. As much as I have heard about the dangers of cell phones, I still don't think she needs to have one, but if she can show responsibility and I set some very strict rules about usage that she follows, I think this exercise can be beneficial.

We'll see how it works. Our cell phone contract is up in January, so I'll be shopping carriers and getting her phone then. Suggestions for service offerings or rules are welcome.

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