Phone Rules for Tweens (8 Tips)

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Words by
Inger Erickson

Published on

09.20.2019

One of the hardest things to do in this life is create phone rules for tweens.

Have you ever had an experience where your best intentions produced the exact opposite of what you wanted? I sure have! 

What has surprised me is that over the last 21 years I’ve been a mom, my failures and mistakes have become the greatest tools in helping me figure out how to parent smarter, empower my kids, and create a stronger bond between us.

Having the cell-phone-do’s-and-dont’s conversation is something we all kind of dread. So.. In this article, I’ll share 8 ideas that I’ve found successful when talking to my kids that have had a really positive impact on my family.

My hope is that they can help parents create a successful cell phone plan their kids will stick to—and accomplish in a way that fosters unity, empathy, and love!

8 Tips for Establishing Phone Rules for Tweens:

1. Make It a Special Event 

A sure way to get your kids to whine and sulk is for them to think they’re being called together to hear new rules they believe will make their lives harder. 

So how do you get around this while still talking about a difficult subject? 

One way is to gather your family in a way that feels unique and fun. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to get your creative juices flowing:

• What is a dessert you rarely serve that your kids love?
• Is there a place you could go to make the gathering unique? Outside on the lawn, a park, or a restaurant?
• Is there a fun activity you could do before or afterward? Movie, swimming, or a bike ride?

Whatever you end up doing, your goal is to create a good, positive feeling among everyone! 

2. Get Rid of the Word “Rules”

It’s part of our human nature to rebel against absolute authority or anything that takes away our ability to choose. Because the word rules has an especially negative connotation among kids, it can easily provoke this same reaction.

Instead of calling them “phone rules for tweens,” use words that evoke a sense of choice. Try using synonyms like guidelines, plans, boundaries, or healthy habits. If you choose your words carefully, you’ll be able to foster a feeling of openness, encourage participation, and get the outcome you’re looking for.

3. Are Cell Phones Bad or Good?

Kids are always hearing the negative things about cell phones, so clarify that a phone has the ability to be positive and negative. It all depends on how we use them. 

The easiest way to explain this is to compare a cell phone to money. Ask your kids these questions:

• What are some ways money can be spent to make our lives better? 

• What are some ways money can be spent that can hurt us or others?

Explain that cell phones are like money. Discuss ways they can enrich our lives and how they can negatively affect us. Talking about this will encourage your kids to recognize and think about the type of influence their phones can play in their lives.

4. Make It Their Idea

Getting kids to want to do something can be tough, especially if you know they’re not going to want to do it in the first place. So what’s the answer? 

Get them to think your idea is theirs. 

All you need to do is ask the right questions and get them thinking:

• “What do you think about ______________?” 

• “What are some of the positive/negative things that can come from doing ______________?”

• “How can we help each other do better at ______________?” 

• “How can Mom and Dad do a better job at ______________?” (This will be their favorite question of all and there’s an excellent chance that whatever they suggest, they’ll recognize they should do, too.)

It really is possible to get your kids to do something they don’t want. It’s all in your approach!

5. Listen 

Have you ever heard that being listened to is so close to being loved that many cannot tell the difference? Listening to our kids is one of the greatest gifts we can give them. In fact, it’s one of the greatest gifts we can give anyone!

The sure way to skip the all-to-familiar frustration and contention that accompanies the cell phone discussion is to ask your kids for their opinions, ideas, and advice. Let them know they’ve got your full attention, too:

• Make direct eye contact.

• Don’t interrupt. Let them share their entire thought and wait a few seconds before commenting, so you know they’re totally finished.

• Repeat back what they’ve said. “Thanks for sharing that! So what I’m hearing you say is that you want to ______________. Is that right?” If you’ve got it wrong, they’ll let you know.

6. Empower 

As parents, our comments play a significant role in how our kids feel about themselves, their ability to overcome challenges, and how they treat others. During the phone rules for tweens conversation, look for opportunities to build them up and make them feel awesome:

• Validate their ideas and build their confidence. “That’s a great idea! How did you think of that?” 

• Make them feel knowledgeable. “You’re so smart!” “Wow, you have the best ideas!”

• Try to understand. Regardless of what they say, let them state their opinion without any judgment or criticism. Even if you don’t agree, you can always comment, “That’s a different way of looking at it. I really appreciate you sharing that.”

7. Nobody’s Perfect 

Let your kids know we all make mistakes. Find out what ideas they have for being consistent and how they can kindly remind each other when someone messes up. Instead of focusing on the consequences of not following the guidelines, encourage your kids to keep trying and compliment them when you see they’re following the rules. 

Most importantly, mention how much you trust them to make good decisions. Our kids will do their very best to live up to whatever we think they’re capable of doing! 

8. Thank Them for Their Awesome Ideas

Last but not least, it’s a good idea to thank each of your kids for their suggestions, ideas, and willingness to participate. Mention how excited you are to get started on this new plan and how it’s going to be such a wonderful thing for the whole family!

I hope these ideas can help your family when it comes time to creating your own phone rules for tweens.


Inger Erickson

Strategic Partnerships at Gabb Wireless

Inger is a mother of two kids who is passionate about helping parents develop deep and lasting relationships with their children.

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