Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Amanda Lamb: Contractually bound

Posted February 2, 2014

It’s easy to talk intellectually about parenting challenges. It’s another thing completely to find ways to overcome them. Lately, phone etiquette has taken center stage in my house.

I hear it from my friends all the time: “He won’t put his phone down. He’s on it constantly. He completely ignores us.”

We too have had the same intermittent issues in my house. For a while, I ignored them preferring to think that’s what teenagers do these days, it’s just part of our culture. My husband kept wanting to make a plan — guidelines, rules, something to make it better. But I just kept my head in the sand and decided that I had two good girls who worked hard in school and never got in trouble and I didn’t need to put more restrictions on them.

But this week, things came to a head when a family dinner turned ugly. My husband and I found ourselves speaking into a black hole as our girls sat with their noses buried in their phones as we tried to hold a conversation with them. He had had it, and frankly so had I, but I was too exhausted to do anything about it.

He wasn’t.

And, so, now we have a phone contract in our home signed by everyone in the family.

I won’t bore you with the details, but it basically states that having a smart phone is a privilege and responsibility granted by us and paid for by us. If they don’t follow the rules as we state them, they lose their phones, no argument. The rules are pretty simple — speak to everyone with respect, no phones at the dinner table, no digital communication that is inappropriate (foul language, hurtful or disrespectful texts or posts), and no phones behind the wheel of a car (when they get to that point).

Both girls signed the contract without argument. While it won’t guarantee perfect behavior, it guarantees the consequences for bad behavior.

So far, so good, although it’s only been a few days. One side effect is that it has whetted my 10-year-old’s appetite for contracts.

I found the draft of one by my computer the other night written by her that guarantees that she can ride in the front seat of my car when she turns 11. I had already told her that would not happen until she turns 12. The contract states the penalty for me not allowing her to ride in the front seat is 50 cents a week.

So, in honor of her effort, I signed it and told her I would gladly pay $24 a year to keep her safe. Let’s just hope she doesn’t come up with more contracts that cost me money!

Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including three on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.


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  • amymwitt Feb 12, 2014

    What on earth is a child who has two years left before she can safely ride in the front seat of a car doing with a smart phone?!

  • DontVote4LiarsCheatsOrThieves Feb 6, 2014

    View quoted thread

    What makes you think all who countered this were liberals?
    You people who try to slap labels on people you don't even know make me laugh, especially because you're usually wrong.

  • DontVote4LiarsCheatsOrThieves Feb 6, 2014

    Great solution!!!
    I hope there is just as little problem when you try to enforce its terms as when they signed it.

  • LibertarianTechie Feb 6, 2014

    Made me laugh, thanks.

  • A Libertarian Feb 6, 2014

    you liberals on here trying tell the author what is right and wrong with her kids and the family rules. Let me give you a hint, even though you on the left prefer the government to dictate how you live you lives, most of us prefer to raise our own kids by our own rules. I may disagree with the author, she has every right to set any rules or contracts she like and I support her 100%

  • Alexia.1 Feb 6, 2014

    View quoted thread

    There are tools one can install on phones to restrict access to certain web sites and applications. Smartphones and tablets can be controlled, so that's not a valid excuse for not enabling children with the latest technology.

  • sinew1 Feb 6, 2014

    pay my child for keeping them safe?!?!
    Are you kidding me! Who's in control here, clearly not the parent.

  • KittenClaws Feb 6, 2014

    "* It's more powerful than the computer of your day"

    And that's the reason younger children should not have them. They have access to the internet without any oversight. They could be putting info out there that they shouldn't as well as receiving info that they are too young to handle. If Ms. Lamb is too tired to or putting her head in the sand, you can bet she's not checking phones to see websites that have been visited or any communication that may be inappropriate.

  • Alexia.1 Feb 6, 2014

    So many of the parents here make me laugh. A smartphone isn't your parents' phone. It's an Internet communication device. Most kids these days don't care to be on the phone talking, but rather they like the power of the Internet in their hands.

    Think of it this way:
    * It's better than the Atari 2600 of your day, but better
    * It's more powerful than the computer of your day
    * It's the instant messaging tool you probably never mastered
    * It's the Walkman of your day, but one can steam any music on demand or load MP3 files
    * It's the TV of your day (kinda .. YouTube is a very different kind of TV; more personal, but definitely the HBO of your day -- NetFlix)
    * It's the videoconferencing tool you never used (Skype, etc.) * It's the phone of your day... yeah, that tool is still there

    Too much of anything is bad, but there is no reason to hold your kids back in the 20th century.

  • mah1226 Feb 5, 2014

    "no phones behind the wheel of a car- when they get to that point," I was shocked that you have purchased and pay monthly for smart phones for children who can not even drive yet....meaning they have NO JOB to help pay for that privilege. A BASIC phone is good enough for pre-teens and I am even opposed to that. Our 4 children did not get a phone until they were in high school and HAD JOBS at the local Chick Fil A. smart phones this young--what on earth will they have to look forward to when they are older? I'm sure you know the benefits of delayed gratification. Habitually bringing the phone to the table means they don't fully acknowledge the responsibility that comes w/ privilege. Too often I see this in stores: teens walking BEHIND their moms, faces glued to the phone in their hand. No interaction w/ each other. Or WORSE I see a parent yaking away on a cell while the baby/toddler in cart amuses themselves. Or the child walks aimlessly behind bored. They watch/they learn!