Iz wants a cell phone. Desperately. Her lobbying reached a fever pitch one year ago, and irked even her usually unflappable dad. So we struck a deal: She both stops perseverating on the topic and hits a certain grade plateau for three trimesters in a row, she gets a phone.

She stopped the daily campaigning. She also hit the marks easily for the first two grade cycles. But this Friday, when the third cycle's grades came in, she missed the bar in one class: her hardest, the one she likes the most. By .58%.

She earned a 89.42 B+.

She's not getting the phone.

Because that's the way the world works. Sometimes you fail, despite putting in your all and doing your best. And, you can't argue with math. It's a lesson kids needs to learn, in a way that really sticks. When they're young. Before they get to high school, college, the work force -- before they start believing they can negotiate anything, before they start dealing with people who are not their parents.

This lesson is sticking.

I completely empathize with Iz wanting a phone -- most of her friends have them, and they text each other all the time. She's out of some social loops, and that sucks. But I also see some of her friends treat their expensive devices casually, losing or breaking them without much concern. And Iz is like her mom -- she spends much of her life in her head, untethered to the material world, which means we both misplace important stuff due to inattention. She needs to understand that having a phone is a huge responsibility, a big cash-intensive deal, and one that requires constant locational awareness. These points can't be emphasized strongly enough.

And she will get a phone on her thirteenth birthday, which is in two months. That's been a given since she was wee, since she first started making noises about apps and texting. I think a phone is a good idea, given that she'll be in high school next year, and her activities and independence will only ramp up.

But two months is an eon, from her perspective. She's really bummed. I don't blame her, and told her so.

She handled the missed mark with good grace, though she was initially extremely upset -- she did work her ass off, after all. She also said that she'd rather get a B+ in that class -- which in her opinion is taught by the more invested teacher -- than be in the less challenging class and not learn as much and get an easy A. Her eyes are on learning and mastery, not primarily on the grades -- though she understands that they're important, too. And she did get a consolation prize for the hard work that resulted in such good marks: The first season of a trashy teen soap opera on iTunes.

It's important that our kids to learn how to fail. In that way -- and even though I would never intentionally cause my sweet, thoughtful, hardworking girl distress -- I'm almost glad she didn't get that final A. Better she learns this lesson from someone who loves her unconditionally.


  1. Wow, I commend you. I'd have been so tempted to cave in. Probably would have caved in. But now I'll have this to remember. And you're 100% right. Valuable lesson, lucky girl. Super mom.

  2. I was going to argue with you on that...until you said she was getting it in two months anyway. Now, I applaud. We've done similar with Em, making her deal with the results of her own actions, no matter how tempting it is to turn her frown upside down. You done good.

  3. Applause to the Iz parents for standing firm. Sympathy to the Iz for missing the bar by such a narrow margin.

  4. That's the way the world works ?! Well, yes in that people with authority make arbitrary rules and decisions. But the world also works to where crappy things happen and people work together to improve them and console each other. People also can develop the valuable skill of persuading the arbitrary rule-makers to make exceptions.

    Would you want to teach Iz to just shrug in the face of some future petty bureaucrat who tells her she can't (do whatever) because she hasn't (whatever it is)? I hope not.

    I hope Iz will also learn how to subvert power and authority. Even though right now that means you, what about in the future when it's not and when the rules suck and don't make sense? Then the answer is not "Oh well, I guess I'll just have to scrabble to make myself "better" by someone else's standards".

    I have apparently not given you enough anarchist tracts.

  5. She's honoring her agreement. I think she's spent enough time with kick-ass role models like her mom and her Auntie Badger that there's no way in hell she'd tolerate a scenario that was arbitrarily unfair. But this arrangement is both fair and not arbitrary in the least.

  6. For any parents that stick to their agreed upon strategy, Yeah for you! When we back down, give in (or give up) the parental authority is undermined.When we give in we are actually confusing the child. They think, "Wait a minute. It was okay yesterday. Not today. Maybe if I just keep pushing & complaining, they'll give in. I know I can beat them at that game. Easy." You will be confusing them, but they have a game plan ahead of you.

    Being in agreement with what the parameters are for "earning" a cell phone is great, but sometimes we don't even agree with our children on that front. That's okay. Your rules are there for boundaries to keep your child safe while they are learning some hard lessons that do come with age. Remember that they do not have the prefrontal lobe connected totally. They do not see the consequence coming, the thought process to "keep track" of everything and what that means to them.Adults get confused with the size of their child meaning that the brain is functioning as an adult. This is not true. Therefore, we do have to be diligent in teaching behavior=consequence. They can learn. Talking about the basics may seem too elementary to parents but the repetition of different circumstances and what they resulted in are teaching moments. Asking them what could they have done differently helps them to use their own cognition to understand and hopefully choose differently the next time.

    The expense incurred with a cell phone can be shared with the child. I like the talk of how much time it takes Dad or Mom to accumulate that amount of money to pay for the privilege (break it down to hours) may help in the appreciation of even having one. Let them do the math, don't just tell them. If they don't have a job outside of the house, perhaps other chores could be listed to contribute toward this expense. There still have to be regular chores that need to be done just because they live with you and everyone contributes to the "team." See what you can come up with that is adding to this list but can be accepted as paid for.
    If you do not agree on the itunes show that the child wants, for whatever reason, say you might feel it's inappropriate; you are the parent. Your vote comes first with your own reasons. State them and walk away. Being a parent means being the last word. The trap of, "But Johnny has it!" (whatever the dire situation is), you are in charge as the parent. What have you both decided? Talk it over, give an answer in your time frame. Be the adult. Do your homework together. That means be honest with each other about what you feel is okay and not okay. When our children disagree with us we can "cave" because we are doubting ourselves. Talk to some other parents, if ya like. Collect information and then make a unified decision and STICK TO IT. Yes, things can change but only when you have both come to the same conclusion and at least give the first shot a good amount of time or they'll know you have "caved."

  7. I am still going to buy her a pillow pet. Whether you like it or not.


Respectful disagreement encouraged.