By Marnita Coleman, Special to AFRO

It is wonderful to provide your children with good things. I have given my children two types of gifts: ones that were useful and enjoyable, and ones that were beyond their ability to manage. Truth be told, my daughter’s first cell phone was taken from her because she could not handle the responsibility. According to T-Mobile, she had sent 11,000 text messages in the first 30-day billing cycle.

My word of caution to parents as our children grow and develop, is to be careful not to reward them before they are mature enough to master what you give them. When your kids are ready for the next level, they will exhibit behavior that is indicative of next-level living. For example, one does not get promoted to second grade until they pass the first grade, having met all of the requirements. It’s elementary.

This AFRO Archive shows the students of Bates High School in Annapolis, Md. having a good time at the ‘50s record hop dance competition.

In my daughter’s case, she was allowed another 30 days to use her cell phone because texting was a new feature on cell phones, at the time, and none of us knew how it worked. Unlimited plans had not been introduced yet, but once we were told how it worked, we thought she would be mindful of her cell phone usage. When the bill came, the texting was still into the thousands, which proved she was clearly not ready for a cell phone.

Children will want to test the waters of their next level, especially if they see their friends
with something new, it’s natural for them to want it too.  However, they may not be ready for it. With overall growth, a developmental chart is an excellent resource if you are not sure where your child’s progress should be at a particular age. It is not conclusive, of course, but it can be helpful. The chart provides a range of abilities in various areas of growth that are common at certain ages.

Still, our children are the best indicator of how they are evolving. When your teen asks to borrow the car on Saturday night, but doesn’t make an effort to be home by curfew, you can reasonably assume that the next time will be the same. Most likely, there are some add-ons that they haven’t told you about, which by their non-conforming behavior indicates they are not prepared for this level of responsibility.

Instead of giving them the keys, wait until their routine behavior warrants a promotion.
When they are really ready for the responsibility of using your car on Saturday night,
they are going to prove it by following your instructions to the letter. Their behavior will
demonstrate their readiness to repeat this process in the future. For now, don’t give in to your children’s whims unless it is time for promotion. You won’t regret it!

The opinions on this page are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the AFRO.
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