Janelle Burley Hofmann gave her 13-year-old son an iPhone for Christmas. That was the fun part.
She also gave him an 18-point contract for its use that’s turning out to be a blueprint for any parent who wants to help their kids become more responsible, mannerly and thoughtful, all while reminding them about parent-child roles.
Contracts for teens tend to read like a set of rules: what they can do, when, where, and how late they can be out doing it. Oh, and if they mess up, letting them know who to call so the mess does not escalate into something tragic and irreversible. There’s nothing wrong with parents putting these things in writing. It sets the boundaries in black and white, and the child will have a hard time saying, “But, gee, I didn’t know.”
Hofmann’s contract is different. She keeps the tone lighthearted and loving from the start, but lets her son Gregory know who’s in charge:
Merry Christmas! You are now the proud owner of an iPhone. Hot Damn! You are a good & responsible 13-year-old boy and you deserve this gift. But with the acceptance of this present comes rules and regulations. Please read through the following contract. I hope that you understand it is my job to raise you into a well rounded, healthy young man that can function in the world and coexist with technology, not be ruled by it. Failure to comply with the following list will result in termination of your iPhone ownership.
Just a few sentences sets it up: Gregory knows what is expected of him, and knows that technology is a privilege, not a right. He also knows from the outset that there are consequences for not following the contract. However, his mother is wise enough to know that $!*% happens:
You will mess up. I will take away your phone. We will sit down and talk about it. We will start over again. You & I, we are always learning. I am on your team. We are in this together.
Mother encourages son to enjoy his device by playing games and downloading music, but exercise caution in its use, lest he cause harm:
Do not use this technology to lie, fool, or deceive another human being. Do not involve yourself in conversations that are hurtful to others. Be a good friend first or stay the hell out of the crossfire.
Do not send or receive pictures of your private parts or anyone else’s private parts. Don’t laugh. Someday you will be tempted to do this despite your high intelligence. It is risky and could ruin your teenage/college/adult life. It is always a bad idea. Cyberspace is vast and more powerful than you. And it is hard to make anything of this magnitude disappear – including a bad reputation.
Holy sensitive subject matter, Batman! How many of you could do this, and do it as well as Hofmann? And do it with humor, letting your child know that you love and respect their intelligence, while reminding them that failure to communicate is no longer an option?
You can see the full contract at http://www.janellburleyhofmann.com/gregorys-iphone-contract/.
And think about using one like it, whether your kids have technology in hand or not. It can be applied to their driving, college study, dating, foreign study/travel or anything else they do where parental guidance is needed, but teenage freedom is desired. You’ll likely get a dandy amount of eye-rolling, sighing and “OMG, you are the weirdest parents ever!!!” but that’s not going to kill you, or your kids. You may get the satisfaction of being around the day your kids have kids, and present the same contracts to their kids.
- Would You Make Your Kid Sign a Contract to Use an iPhone? (mashable.com)
- Mom gives son iPhone with strict 18-rule contract (myfox8.com)