Monday, November 7, 2011

persuasion and parenting

The way our kids tell it, they are the only inhabitants of the 5th-12th grades without cell phones. Alas, alack. I know I'm fighting a losing battle here; eventually they will have something plugged into their ears/eyes/fingers every waking moment, but my job, as I currently see it, is to delay the moment as long as possible. They haven't bought the argument that if their parents don't need cell phones, surely they do not as well. Nor are they convinced that the two $12 track phones we picked up for the family at large quite do the trick. Our phone request conversations cycle around something like this:

"But no one knows what number to call me at!"
They can call the phone in the kitchen -- it's never lost.
"But what if I'm not in the kitchen!"
Then you're a) on your bike, b) at school, or c) doing homework. You're not supposed to be on the phone at any of those times.
"But what if I'm out with my friends and I need to talk to you!"
Then take one of the family phones and call me in the kitchen.
"But if I've got one of the family phones, no one knows what number to call me at!"
They can call the phone in the kitchen, and I'll tell them.

Ahhhhh, circles. In general the kids have handled their deprivation well, but every once in awhile we have a flare up. About three years ago the older boys were dying (literally, I'm assured) for a phone and my scholarly husband told them if they wanted to convince us, they would need to write a 5-paragraph persuasive essay. And it had to knock our socks off.

All three of the older kids had drafts to us that week; all three of them were given back drafts with red circles around grammar and spelling issues and comments such as "anything related to the mall is not going to convince me." After the fourth draft, with its increasingly desperate arguments and increasingly comical commentary, the boys took a break while they work on strategy, but the 10 year-old brought a new draft to breakfast this morning. A four-pager which a friend had pre-corrected for spelling:

Cellphones do not have a way of putting pure joy into your heart but they have a way of helping your daily schedules such as time, calling, calendars, notepad, alarm clocks, taking pictures, music, and so forth.

Cellphones can be great to check time on as all you have to do is flip the screen of happiness or push a simple notch.

Cellphone games are pathetic, dinky, little games . . . [that are] no fun anyway – like playing hopscotch with a two year-old.

Cellphones have genius little calendars. If you had a calendar you could note when things are officially due. We could plan when to do jobs around the house.

My goodness. If I were convincible on this point right now, she'd have me for sure.

What is your kids-and-cellphones strategy? I'm all for input on this one -- I know it's only going to intensify.


  1. I love the persuasive paper idea! Channel their energy into constructing a well written, well thought out argument instead of into a debate-style scenario where tempers are likely to flare (on both sides).

    But of course there is the remote danger that they might eventually come up with an argument you couldn't dispute!

    Since my oldest is 5 we haven't yet encountered this issue. I'm enjoying it while it lasts...

  2. Love that essay! Well, I at least can assure you (or your kids) that there indeed are other 5th grade and up-ers that don't have cell phones! I have a 7th grader that has asked for one, but he just wants it for playing games. I told him we'll buy him one when he goes to college, so he can keep in touch. I don't even have one myself (though sometimes I really wish I did), but when I'm ready to make that leap, I think the Tracfone is definitely the way to go.

  3. ah, Tracfone rather than track phone -- I'm so far out of the loop I don't even know how to spell the one we've got.

    I'm so glad to hear someone else has a non-phone 7th grader. They seem to be more rare that people without tv's (into which category we also fall . . . . oh the middle school humiliation).

  4. I am late coming into this discussion but I just wanted to agree that the essay idea is fantastic. Not only does it shuffle all of that pleading energy into something productive, it might very well show your bright kids that a "want" is something that is very hard to actually describe as a "need". I got my first cell phone when I went to college, and that was ahead of the curve back then. A little deprivation is good for any child, right?