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Alli Worthington

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Alli Worthington is a digital strategist, business coach, author and speaker. She's a wife, a mom to five sons, and a stepmom to an awesome daughter. Some of her interests: social good, startups, photography, transmedia, tech, photography, gardening, and ice cream. You can learn more about her on her website, Alli Worthington. She is the founder of Blissfully Domestic online magazine, and the co-founder of Blissdom Conference.

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Tough Love and the iPhone 4S: Good Parents are Bad Guys

By Alli Worthington |

Iphone 4s,

The iPhone that wasn’t

This strange thing happens as your kids get older.They show you that your illusions of control are just that- illusions. As parents we do all we can for our kids. We try to instill our values, provide an education that actually teaches them to think for themselves, and keep them healthy. One of the hardest things I have to do as a parent is be the bad guy.

The bad guy enforces the rules and enforces consequences. Life would be so simple if good parents didn’t have to ever be the bad guy. I wish I could coddle, excuse their failings and make life easy for my kids and they would magically become self reliant, responsible humans capable of making the world a better place.

Good parents are bad guys.

On December 23rd I found out our eldest son had been lying to us all week. He uses my old iPhone 3 as a touch (no service for kids in this house. I survived without a cell, so can they) and he told us for 3 days that he couldn’t find it. As it turned out, it was in his room and he was just tired of his little brothers running down the battery.

Dang, I thought, now I have to deal with this?

Good parents are bad guys when they have to be, right?  I knew I had to come up with some sort of memorable consequence because lying is serious. The more you get away with lying, the more you lie.

All the boy wanted for Christmas was the iPhone 4 when I had the 4S. He dreamed of using the new photo apps on the 4 and the cool video editing software. The iphone 3 mocked his dreams of new cooler apps.

I hid the fact that I had the 4S for days. I told Siri to hush and kept little hands away. I knew that Christmas morning would be the perfect time to teach him just why lying doesn’t pay off in the end.

I scribbled a short note in the 4S case and waited.

“If you had been honest you would have the 4 right now, you big doof!”

When he saw the case he knew I had the 4S and that would mean he would receive the 4 as his big gift.

Luckily, he took it like a man. He laughed and said, “Aw man, I blew it! Why did I ruin it?”

We let him know that when he builds up a trust level with us again, he can have the gift that had to be delayed. We aren’t sure when that will be, but we’ll all be relieved when we get there.

In the mean time, his 4 little brothers can be seen carrying the 4 around the house taking 900 pictures, tons of hipstamatics and hours of retro looking videos of absolutely nothing. Every single thing reminds him why lying doesn’t pay off.

When he isn’t frustrated about the whole thing, he admits that he deserves it and I did the right thing. “Yeah Mom, if you didn’t want me to be a man one day, you’d have let it slide” he says with a shrug.

I won the battle but I’m still fighting the war. Parenting is not for sissies!

How about you? Any stories from your childhood of tough love? How are you handling the pressure of keeping kids happy with beingthe bad guy for their own good? I would love to hear!



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About Alli Worthington


Alli Worthington

Alli Worthington is a digital strategist, business coach, speaker and author. Alli Worthington is also a wife, mother to five boys and one stepdaughter, as well as the founder of the online women's magazine Blissfully Domestic and the founder of the BlissDom conference. Read bio and latest posts → Read Alli's latest posts →

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12 thoughts on “Tough Love and the iPhone 4S: Good Parents are Bad Guys

  1. Laura Creekmore says:

    Parenting IS hard. Good job — his reaction shows he is definitely on the right track. :) I’ll bet he has that 4 in his hands before we know it!!

  2. Michelle Frick says:

    Good job Alli – that’s not an easy thing to follow through on…I know my kids manage to weasel way more out of me than I should let them. I’m proud of you and your son – my kids would still be whining, fussing and pouting – which is just one more thing that proves you are doing it right! I need to remember that the next time I want to give in just to get a bit of peace and quiet.

    Happy New Year!

  3. Dedra says:

    I couldn’t agree more with this statement: “I won the battle but I’m still fighting the war. Parenting is not for sissies!”

    Great job and awesome parenting fruit shown in his acceptance of responsibility. LOVE that you guys stuck to your guns and followed through. You are raising great MEN girl.

  4. cakeburnette says:

    We did a similar thing. Son didn’t do chores, homework or respond when called. Daughter did. Both had saved up money to buy iPhone 4s (original 4; not 4S). Girl got hers as soon as her contract was up; boy was still disobeying. When school was out and final grades were in and better behavior was exhibited, boy was allowed to buy his. However, Verizon had by there discontinued unlimited service. Result: person in household who most wanted unlimited downloads cannot download videos at all if he is not in a WIFI area because he’s the ONLY one with limited service. Moral: Sucks to disobey and be irresponsible.

  5. Christine says:

    Parenting IS hard. I have a 16 year old boy, who in the last few months has decided to be defiant, dishonest and just down right ornery. I hate that the result has to be restriction and punishment, but if I don’t teach him, who will?

    As an aside, I know I shouldn’t take it personally, but that’s really hard.

  6. Adrian says:

    You are my kind of Mom. I adore my sons more than they will ever know, but I am quite strict when it comes to their behavior. I’ve been bugging DS13 about using his Stridex pads. I put the date I bought them on top so I could see if he was using them regularly. I thought he was doing well on them until I found 5 pristine, unused pads in the trash this morning. Good thing they’re so dumb, or we’d never catch them! Guess he’ll be paying for a new pack of them out of his allowance.

  7. Heather @ Not a DIY Life says:

    Because of two days of unacceptable behavior, our 4 year old awoke on Christmas morning to no presents. We had warned her numerous times that she would not have any presents if she didn’t shape up and start being respectful. We had to be bad guys, and it was HARD. She had to earn every present with “yes ma’am” and “yes sir” and no lip. I hope this lesson sticks with her a while. Mama doesn’t put up with sass.

  8. the muskrat says:

    Our oldest is saving for a car. She has her own cell (thanks to the grandparents, who gave it to her without consulting us), but we cap her texts, a point she likes to whine about, since she’s apparently the only person without unlimited texting in the known universe. We’ve told her if she goes over, she pays the charges. Last month, she was over at the halfway point. I told her to quit texting, since she’s saving up for a car to buy this month. She did it anyway. So, last night, I got the bill and told her we’re taking $150 from her savings for her text overages, which means she’s losing $300 toward the car she’s hoping to buy in a few weeks (since we’re matching what she saves up). I don’t pissing away $300 to text, but she did it. Hoping she learns some self control out of this.

  9. [...] I know what I want to see in a daughter-in-law – self-respect, smarts, appropriate modesty, a strong backbone, and solid character. Hot chicks are a dime a dozen. Real women are rare [...]

  10. Kat says:

    My 15YO daughter has a cell phone; last year we’d upgraded her to the Samsung Captivate (a Galaxy S phone) and a couple months ago she chose to step down to her old slider phone; so the Captivate went to her 13YO brother. For Christmas I got my oldest an iPhone 3GS and she absolutely LOVES it, to the point where she almost DOUBLED the limit on her data plan in three DAYS. I called AT&T to ensure it was actually her usage, and they upped her data plan to the higher one and backdated it so we’d pay less for her overage. I had to teach her how to check her data usage on the phone and warned her that another overage would cost her (thankfully I have unlimited data on my iPhone 4S, and we have an unlimited family text plan). Thanks to AT&T’s SmartLimits, I am easily able to sign in and either block usage of the phone during certain times (i.e. when the kids should be asleep), or report the phone lost and have service suspended altogether, which I do resort to when someone misbehaves terribly. So far, only one child – the oldest – has had her phone cut off completely, and only for certain transgressions. The other two (the 13YO and their 10YO sister) have never gotten that bad that I felt the need to suspend their service. The oldest has improved; in the beginning, a couple of years ago, I found myself cutting her phone off at least once a month. Now, it’s maybe once every 3-4 months, if that. She is slowly learning that there are consequences for not behaving or obeying our rules.

  11. Jenny says:

    I like your style! I’m glad to hear that your son acknowledged his mistake and accepted his consequences. For me, that right there would earn him mega “becoming a man and earning my trust” points.

    Good for you! Stand firm.

  12. April says:

    I love it. Good parenting without the “I hate you because you make me follow the rules!” drama. BRAVO!

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