Category Archives: Parenting Done Right

Cell Phones for Teens and Tweens

presentsSince the holidays are gift giving at its best, I know a lot of teens and tweens will be receiving cell phones.

Parents, aunts, and uncles…listen up!

Here’s a few important things to consider before gifting a cell phone.

This post is going to make me quite unpopular with the younger crowd, but I’d rather that than have them in danger. As their parent, you should be in this mindset also. If you aren’t, get there…now!

cellphone iconKids think of their cell phone as personal property so it’s off-limits to moms and dads, right? Wrong.

Think of it more like a car. Here’s the keys. you can use it, but I check the gas and where you’ve taken it.

It’s okay to check what your child’s been texting or tweeting, but tell them upfront they’re subject to snap inspections.

If you want to institute this kind of rule later, after a teen’s had their phone a while, sit down and talk it over with them. You’d be surprised; they’ll probably understand.

Oh, you’ll still get the proverbial shock initially.

“Don’t you trust me?”

Your answer to this? “Honey, cell phones are a tremendous responsibility. I love you too much to put you in danger. I’d feel horrible if anything happened to you because of a gift I gave you.” Practice this sentence two to twenty times (or more) until you’re comfortable with it.

Instead, your child might act the part of the angry rebel. If so, your approach is different.

“Man, you’re such a _________ _________[insert inappropriate names here]!”

Here’s your answer, “Um. I’m sorry you think that. I’ll be keeping your cell phone until you apologize.”

I know. I’ve read the news, too. Being a teen or tween is an emotional rollercoaster. Teens have committed suicide because parents take away cell phones. These poor kids probably were never told no, or how much they were loved and needed. Don’t make this mistake.

If you’re not sure how your teen/tween will respond. hold off on snap inspections, spend more time with your child, and fix the communications problem first.

Alligator thumbs upIDEA: Instead of working an extra two hours every few weeks, take your kid (or kids) to a movie. You won’t need to talk much — the usher will shush you if you do — and you’ll toss a huge wrench into your kids’ work-is-more-important-than-me mentality.

Set it up like a date. “Hey, Sam. How about I pick you up from school, and we go out for pizza and a movie next Thursday?”

Schedule it just like you would a business meeting or you’ll be tempted to skip it. And don’t be shy about telling co-workers or your boss you have a date with your kid. Your idea might just rub off on them. If the boss is less than enthusiastic, tell them even though you can’t work late tonight, you’ll be in early tomorrow.

You won’t believe the awesome dividends time with your kid pays. FYI: the next installment of The Hobbit comes out December 17. You can get tickets in advance any time.  😀

When is a kid old enough for a cell phone?girl with package

It’s more about responsibility and maturity levels than an actual age number.

Lori Evans, MD, director of training in psychology at the NYU Child Study Center, says. “Look for the developmental signs. Does your child lose his belongings? Is he generally a responsible kid? Can you trust him? Will he understand how to use the phone safely? The rate at which kids mature varies — it will even be different among siblings.”

What kind of phone to buy?

Younger children need only the basics: no texts, internet access, games, etc.  For now, their phone is about safety, not socializing. If you’re handing down your old phone, turn off these features.

Older children (a.k.a. high schoolers) can be allowed more bells and whistles.

Tips for Parents with “Cell Phone Kids”

Follow me here. I have a lot of tips, but they are all important. Don’t be afraid.

Tip One: Cell Phone Station

Station a basket or a cell phone charging center in a public area of your home. If you set it up by the front door noone forgets the phones when they leave.

Everyone — e.v.e.r.y.o.n.e., you too Mom and Dad — puts their powered-down cell phones in the basket for the night. Or if it’s a charging station, plugs them in.

Why? Cell phones taken to the bedrooms encourage texting and talking when adults and children should be sleeping. Did you know sleep-deprived drivers are as dangerous or worse than drunk drivers? Now you do.

Tdoctorshe only exception is a parent who is a nurse, doctor, firefighter, policeman, or other life-saving career person. They can keep their phone near at night, but not too near. See Tip Six.

By the way, life-saving career parents, thanks. 🙂

Tip Two: No GPS Tracker

Skip the GPS tracker on the phone. Unless your kids have shown dangerous and untrustworthy behavior, you don’t need it.

If it were me, I’d let them know I trust them enough to not use phone GPS; you’d be surprised at the child’s self-esteem boost. The downside of this is a lot of stolen phones have been located due to GPS. Talk it over with your kid. Decide together.

Tip Three: Be a Role Model

Be your kids’ number one role model. If you don’t check your texts or messages during __________ [fill in the blank: dinner, theatre, store], they won’t either.

Tip Four: Define Acceptable ActionsHelp

Kids are all about rules. They need guidelines. Help them out and give them some.

  • No gossiping. Gossiping is anything meant to hurt someone else whether it’s true or not.
  • No cyberbullying.
  • No talking to strangers…even if they sound nice.
  • No sending inappropriate photos of themselves to anyone.
  • No sending or posting photos of others without their permission.

Why? Sometimes kids don’t have the loving family yours does. A non-custodial parent might steal a child if they knew where they were. With court approval, these children’s locations are kept secret. They’re in kind of a witness relocation program, only for kids.

Tip Five: Set Limits

Set texting limits, talking limits, any limits you see fit. If your teen goes over the agreed limits, let him or her pay the extra cost. Actually, standard — in my mind there are no normal people, only standard and non-standard — high schoolers should be able to pay for all or some of their phone bill unless you have a reward system worked out, like grades for phones.

radiation symbolTip Six: Limit Radiation Exposure

This tip goes in the “Better Safe Than Sorry” column. Even though the studies are controversial, cell phones do give off a certain amount of radiation, no matter how slight. It’s best to keep radiation exposure to heads and reproductive organs to a minimum.

  • Use headsets. There are wired or wireless/bluetooth.
  • Don’t let your kids sleep with their phones under their pillows. See Tip One.
  • Don’t carry phones in front pockets. Studies show radiation can affect reproductive organs.

Tip Seven: Cyberbullying

Social interaction can be a positive thing. It can also be incredibly destructive. Cyberbullying is a real threat to our children. Many beautiful and talented teens have taken their own lives because they were cyberbullied to the point of no return.

Make certain you tell your kids how much you love them often and how important they are to family and friends. And ask periodically if they’re being harassed or sent nasty text messages. Then do something about it. Don’t ignore it. Sometimes a child can think they’re being bullied when it’s not the case, but the impact on that child’s mental health is no less real. Take it seriously.

Tip Seven A:

Parents! Pay Attention! Watch for signs your children are cyberbullies. Even sweet little Suzy can bully someone else when she thinks nobody is looking. Unfortunately, sometimes anonymity turns even nice people into unrecognizable beings. And no, Suzy’s not a horrible person. She just needs some guidance. See Tip Four.

Check out my blog post on The True Faces of Cyberbullying.

Tip Eight: Texting Jargon

I’m not accusing your child of doing these, but the best prepared parent is a well-informed parent. Watch out for these acronyms and codes.

        • CD9 = Code 9 = Parents around
        • PIR = Parent in room
        • POS = Parent over shoulder
        • 9 = Parent watching
        • 99 = Parent(s) gone or not watching
        • KPC = Keeping parent(s) clueless
        • CID or 420 = codes for drugs
        • ADDY = address
        • N usually means ‘naked’. GNOC = Get naked on camera; NIFOC = Naked in front of camera; IPN = I’m posting naked.
        • PRON = porn (FYI: Don’t freak out about this. Read the sentence and take it in context. Kids benignly joke about things adults wouldn’t with each other a lot. Hey, they’re kids.)
        • (L)MIRL = Let’s meet in real life
        • TWD Texting while driving

I’ve left the most important — life and death — issue to last: texting while driving.

Tip Nine: Absolutely NO texting and driving…for a.n.y.o.n.e.

I’m simply going to ask you to watch this video, then you’ll understand. The video is promoted on Facebook by Kunhadi, a Lebanese non-profit organization concerned with road safety.

If the video isn’t cooperating, you can find it here: Texting While Driving

I hope this blog has prepared you a little bit better for cell phones in the life of your child. More than likely, your parents never had to contend with this issue. You’re breaking new and exciting ground. Do it responsibly.

Today’s assignment: When you  see your child next, tell them how important they are to you and others. Then say, “I love you.” It’s not that tough. Look at a picture of your kid and practice saying “I love you” to it five to twenty times until you are comfortable. Try it right now. 😉

CAUTION: If your child has disabilities, chill out and approach them as is best for their situation. If you haven’t been the parent addressing their needs, talk it over with that person first.

Do not…I repeat, do not ride in like Wyatt Earp thinking you’ll clean up Dodge City. Never has, and never will, work. You’ll just make matters worse. Been there, lived that.

If you want to make a difference in your child’s life, now is a great time to start. See the idea at the top of this blog. Psst. It’s by the alligator.

puppy presentHave a safe and happy holiday season, and thanks again for following Patti’s Pathways. 😀

DISCLAIMER: Any and all ideas presented in this blog are solely my own. Any health related advice is what seems logical to me after research and investigation. At no time, have I suggested or implied that I hold any medical degrees or certificates related to nutrition, psychological, pharmaceutical, or medical health.



Helping Kids Understand Finances

I was sorting through articles I’ve kept over the years again and found several on helping kids manage money. Some of these tips were too good not to pass along. Many of them are great for adults, too.

Money Tip 1:dollar sign

I heard this tip on John Tesh’s radio show, Intelligence For Your Life. The tip’s geared toward adults, but could be tweaked for older children, tweens and high schoolers.

  • Instead of one big savings account, open several small accounts, earmarking them for different goals: Car, Computer/Electronics, Vacation, even Nights Out/Party. People who have earmarked savings accounts save 31% more. They have a goal and are excited to work toward it. Thirty-one percent seems an incredible number, but would John Tesh lie?

Money Tip 2:

Some people just aren’t cut out to budget. They are short every month. Plus kids don’t understand the concept yet. Enter The Money Envelope System. I don’t know the original person who came up with this idea, but it’s super.

  • Here’s how MES works:

envelope money1) Take large-sized letter envelopes.

2) Label them. Each monthly bill or priority gets its own envelope.

For adults: Rent, Food, Insurance, Phone, Utilities, etc. For kids: Games/Game Consoles, Bike, Friend Birthdays, etc.

Be sure to Include an envelope for Savings and Entertainment (movie rentals, dinner out, concert tickets, etc.).

3) Place cash from your paycheck/allowance into each envelope to cover that month’s expense. Example: if your rent is $350, $350 in cash goes into the Rent envelope. Don’t touch it for anything else.

MES Tip #1: IMPORTANT: Keep these envelopes somewhere very safe! After all, there’s cash in them.

4) After you’ve paid the month’s bills, any money remaining in any other envelope gets split between savings and entertainment.

5) Deposit the savings immediately. Your extra entertainment funds roll over to the next month to enjoy.

MES Tip #2: Your gas and electricity no doubt fluctuate monthly depending on the temperature. You should probably  leave the Utility envelope out of the savings/entertainment split at the end of the month. The money in it will grow and shrink depending upon the need.

Remember old television show moms who kept a wad of cash in their cookie jars? These envelopes are your cookie jars.Dave Ramsey Envelope System Wallets

Dave Ramsey has great wallets on sale for the money envelope system. I didn’t hear the original idea from him, but stumbled on these while visiting his great site. Dave Ramsey Envelope System Wallet

Money Tip 3:

Next time you give money to a child/grandchild/godchild for a birthcheckbookday or special occasion, split your gift in two.

The article says write two checks: one to the child, one to the charity of the child’s choice.

Personally, I’d give cash to the kid and a check to the charity. Have a  few charity suggestions in mind. Me? I’d suggest Make-A-Wish, March of Dimes, Special Olympics, Wounded Warrior Project, a local homeless mission, and a local animal shelter.

This idea works great for babysitting payments also. Pay the sitter the money they’ve earned and then give them an additional check for the charity of their choice. Or being the great person you are, tell them you’ll send the donation and ask where.

Set a wonderful example for our future charitable givers. It’s important.

Money Tip 4:

Rememmoney treeber when (and how often) your parents use to say, “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” You probably learned that the hard way after you got your first paycheck.

It’s important to talk specifics about money with your child.

  •  Show your child a paycheck. Tell them how you earn money. Explain how taxes are deducted, or savings are automatically deposited each pay period.
  • Show your child a credit card statement. Explain interest and what happens when you can’t pay off the amount charged. Be sure to tell them when it’s appropriate to use credit cards and how to avoid sinking into debt. Tell them they should never let others use their card or know the number.

***Insert here the discussion about why Mommy knows Daddy’s credit card number and uses it a lot…or vice versa.


  • Your child should be given a weekly/monthly allowance. Even if it’s only a few dollars. This teaches saving and fiscal responsibility.

I know, I know. I’m sure many congressmen and congresswomen got childhood allowances; I’m just not sure what happened during their college years.

  • Don’t tie your child’s allowance to behavior. You’ll be tempted to removekid piggybankmoney allowance for bad deeds, but don’t. Yes, I wanted to say dirty deeds done dirt cheap, but I refrained. 😉

If you want to charge a quarter for each cuss word or leaving Legos on the floor so Daddy screams in pain during middle of night, give the child an extra few dollars earmarked for that.

Tell them why. Hey, kids are smart. They know you don’t like them cussing or to be screaming in pain during the middle of the night. Also tell them if there’s any money left at the end of a certain time period, it’s theirs to keep.

If it were me, I’d give the extra funds to them in quarters and keep a quarter ‘cussing/bad habit’ jar handy for them to deposit their fines. I’d also reward good behaviors by giving back quarters.

Those are my suggestions. You may use two, one or none of them, but consider the benefits of talking over finances with your kids. It could put them on a path to a sound future.

Have a safe and prosperous week, and thanks for following Patti’s Pathways. 😀

 DISCLAIMER: Any and all ideas presented in this blog are solely my own unless otherwise noted. I experience troubles with technology just like any other person, and if I stumble upon a fix or suggestion I feel could benefit others I pass it along. At no time, have I suggested or implied that I hold any degrees or certificates related to computer repair.

I have during my career assembled parts into working computers; done troubleshooting on hardware and software; utilized a great many computer programs and software; designed and updated websites and blogs; as well as created brochures, banners, and flyers.

Brainstorming With Your Child

I inherited a form of OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) from at least one of my grandparents—I can’t throw away a perfectly good box. Included with that is the inability to toss a magazine article that might someday prove helpful.

While sorting through papers—the paper monster was eating my desk alive—I stumbled across two small articles from a 1995 Family Circle magazine. In my never-to-be-humble opinion, the info in them is very good.

The examples are school related, but could be used in a number of settings. The first article is titled “Problem Solving” and the second, “Effective Praise”.

Print them out and reread them after each time you wish you’d remembered them first. Don’t worry, you can ask for a do-over. Kids are great that way. But be warned…lo and behold, someday you’ll remember them when the time is right.

PROBLEM SOLVING [September 1, 1995 Family Circle]

Listen to the child’s feelings or needs.
Parent: You seem very upset about failing your Spanish test.
Child:   I am! I only got 12 words right, and I studied for an hour last night! Maybe I’m not good at languages.

Summarize his point of view.
Parent: You sound pretty discouraged. Even through you tried to cram all those new words into your head, some of them just refused to stick.

Express your feelings or needs.
Parent: My concern is that if you don’t memorize the basic vocabulary, you’ll get further and further behind.

[Calmly] Invite the child to brainstorm with you in order to find a solution.
Parent: I wonder, if we put our heads together, could we come up with some more effective ways to study?

Write down all ideas — without evaluating. [Do not insert comments or criticism here]
Child: Drop Spanish.
Parent (writing): I’ve got that. What else?
Child: Maybe I could…

Decide which ideas you don’t like, which you do, and how you plan to put them into action.
Parent: What do you think of this idea: making flash cards and studying four new words each night instead of 20 at once?
Child:   That’s okay. But instead of flash cards, I like the idea of saying words into a tape recorder [this was printed in 1995. Insert your own technological device name here] and testing myself until I know them.

EFFECTIVE PRAISE [September 1, 1995 Family Circle]

Excited Child: Listen to my poem about a train. Tell me if it’s good.

Instead of just saying “Beautiful! You’re a really terrific poet.” try these techniques…

Describe what you see or hear:
“You caught the ‘chug-a-chug’ rhythm of a train, and you found a way to rhyme track with clickity   clack.”

Describe what you feel:
“It makes me feel as if I’m sitting in a railroad car speeding through the countryside.”

Avoid criticism:
“Look at these misspelled words—you can do better than that!”

Point out what needs to be done:
“All this poem needs now is the correct spelling of ‘caboose’ and ‘freight’.”



No, I don’t have a Master’s in Child Psychology—I got my degree at the school of hard knocks. Yes, these sound cheesy when you read them, but they might just work. What have you got to lose? Possibly another bad grade on a Spanish test or a missed opportunity to encourage a future poet laureate. 😉

The True Faces of Cyberbullying


My nephew did a project for a college class on cyberbullying. The resulting reactions aren’t surprising.

With several people in my life having Asperger’s Syndrome, bullying has been a real problem–sometimes intended, sometimes merely perceived as real. Trust me, misinterpreted comments are no less traumatic when the recipient thinks they are real in intent.

Most often saying nothing is best.

Click to Watch Video
The True Face of Cyberbullying