Teenagers and Phones!
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I don’t have a teenager yet, but if I keep feeding and watering the child I do have then chances are I’m going to end up with one soon. I’m going to continue for a while yet to enjoy being, in the eyes of my daughter:
- Always right
- Extremely intelligent and beautiful
- Someone she loves to be seen with
Because from what I hear these things may change. I was a bit of a ‘difficult’ teen from what I’ve been told. As the youngest of five my parents had all but given up on one on one parenting as they figured the other four had turned out alright so the odds were in their favour that I would too.
Good theory; seemed to have worked.
I recall finally finishing the arduous career that was secondary school and was mooching around the kitchen one day looking for vegetarian, not tested on animals, locally sourced, organic food when my Mum casually dropped into the conversation that it was time I moved out and went flatting. Like now.
So I did. I gathered up a bunch of people and off we went to live in a cold, draughty old house in North East Valley, Dunedin. It’s a pub now, which is fitting because it had pub like qualities when we lived in it too! I took my old bed, old linen, old desk, old stereo, old kitchen utensils, old couch and anything else that my parents would let me boost from their house. Apart from buying beer, my new flatties and I Iived as cheaply as we possibly could, amongst all our old stuff.
Nothing was new and EVERYTHING about the experience was awesome.
Fast forward to a conversation I had this week with my sister, who had a dilemma. Her 15 year old son, my nephew, has been pushing for the latest iPhone. Its an essential tool of the trade when you are a teenager and he is in desperate need of an update apparently. How else is he going to communicate with Mum and Dad and let them know he is safe and well? The good young man has a job now and he is saving hard (because his aunt and parents told him to) so it is his own money that he is contemplating spending. But he is still at the cusp of understanding that his parents are (mostly) always right, so he asked them first.
And they said:
Son, there are two parallel conversations that we, your extremely intelligent parents are having with each other at the moment:
A. It is your money that you have worked hard for, but understand it is a huge chunk of change that took you a long time to earn. It is a lot to spend on a phone. At what point do we let you make your own financial decisions/mistakes?
B. Oh My Freaking Goodness, when I was your age I would never have considered spending that amount of money on a phone (except in ‘our day’ it was a Sony Walkman).
This conversation was thrown out into the room where the 15 year old was lolling on the sofa, ear buds in watching something on his laptop. You don’t directly speak to them at this age or they feel like a caged bear, so you just have a general conversation with the room and hope that something sticks.
Then my sister went to work and left it hanging. Also an excellent ‘dealing with teenagers’ strategy.
Later in the day, a decision was reached. He cannot buy the phone. Whether he made the money or not, it is the responsibility of these extremely intelligent parents to guide and teach their son how to be good with money. Yes, he might be working out how to make money now, but that in no way means he is any good with making good decisions about where to spend money. Yet. Spending so much on a phone is a really DUMB thing to do when you are 15. If he was an adult, it would be the equivalent of spending his entire net worth on ONE purchase.
If a child starts out with the expectation that everything they want is either given or bought, then moving forward everything they ‘need’ will have to be brand new. What will his expectations be when he gets his licence and ‘needs’ a car? By indulging his every whim you are throwing him head on into our “consume at all costs” lifestyle.
Fast forward to when he finishes school and the day comes where he is “advised” that moving out of home would be an excellent idea... it would be far better that he takes a shopping trip around his own house to gather up the old and used things he needs, instead of taking a trip to Harvey Norman for his new bed, new sofa, new desk and new kitchen utensils. Ka-ching!
I think his parents made an excellent call and apparently when the decision was made, he barely reacted! Perhaps, as a teenager, he thought it was a ridiculous idea too but worth giving it a shot? Or perhaps when the bombshell was dropped that he would have to put up with his current phone he still had his earbuds in and he STILL DOES NOT KNOW he is not getting a phone?
Good parenting Sis! I’m taking notes for when it’s my turn to face these expensive teenage dilemmas. Wish me luck.