A reader asks if I have ever written a column on texting while eating in restaurants. She writes: “Recently my husband and I observed a small group at a table near us in a local restaurant. There were two teenage boys and a mother. They never talked to one another the entire time. All they did was text and play with various electronic gadgets. I asked our waiter if this happened a lot and he said it was the norm. He also told us that he often has to wait while taking an order until a person gets off their cell phone. My daughter-in-law thinks I am old-fashioned in thinking this because, she says, it’s so difficult to talk to teens these days. What do you think?”
For the umpteenth time, I do not believe children should have cell phones until they are old enough to pay for them, including the monthly bills. The usual argument is that the parent wants the child to have a cell phone in case of emergency, but this isn’t why teens want cell phones, and the evidence is strong to the effect that they cause emergencies (as in car crashes), not prevent them. The fact is, most teens who have cell phones have parents who can’t say no.
As this reader points out, parents give children cell phones, but don’t teach them cell phone manners, which include not using a cell phone during social conversation (to make or receive a call), in someone else’s home, in a restaurant, in a quiet location, and when using a cell phone, don’t use your “outside voice.” As for it being difficult to talk to teens these days, my reaction, to borrow from their own vernacular: Duh.
And now, on to a more uplifting topic: Several weeks ago, a mom wrote complaining that her 4-year-old daughter would not wear the clothes picked out the night before, even if she had agreed to the selection when it was made, even if she had picked them out herself! Mom said, “When we’re at home, she can wear what she wants, but if we’re going out, I pick her outfit for her. She never fails to cry and pitch a fit. I make her wear it anyway. Am I taking this too seriously?”
I replied, “No, you're not taking this too seriously. This is the start of even bigger problems if not nipped in the bud. Tell her that her doctor says YOU are to pick out her clothes the night before. Wake her up in the morning, set a timer for 15 minutes, and leave her room. If she's not dressed by the time the timer goes off, then ‘the doctor’ says that means she needs more sleep and has to go to bed right after supper that night. Do this like clockwork for a week and let me know how it's going.”
One week later, mom wrote, “Thank you so much for your advice. I have used your ‘doctor’ technique with my daughter continually for about a week. She has yet to go to bed early. She tells me she just ‘loves’ whatever outfit I pick out. I even tried an outfit I had problems getting her to wear and she complained to me about it for a minute. I simply said ‘Oh, well you can wear it or go to sleep early tonight, you decide.’ It worked like a charm! No more clothing drama! Yey!”
From “Oy vey!” to “Yey!” in a week. Not bad. Another diagnosis averted. I will keep saying it and trying to prove it until I’m no longer able to say anything coherent: Raising children is not rocket science. You simply take one part cool, calm, and collected, blend that in with one part confidence in the legitimacy of your authority, sprinkle with a sense of humor and a dash of ingenuity, and you’ve got it!