My 2nd Grader Asked For A Phone!

2nd graders getting phonesSchool has been back in session for about 5 weeks now, and second grade is fantastic for the most part. However, I had and interesting conversation with my 7 year old a few weeks ago. I expected it at some point, just not so soon. Yes, my 2nd grader has already asked for a phone!

It’s Not The Students

From being casual observer parents plus all of Jim’s insight as a teacher and principal over the past 14 years, we’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not the students who have problems. It’s the parents!

From the kid in my daughter’s class who brings a Starbuck’s iced coffee drink every morning to the parent who yelled at one of Jim’s teachers because the class policy is healthy snacks only, there are some real winners out there. (Lady with the kid having Doritos for breakfast, I’m talking to you!)  I try really hard not to judge, but come on people.

My bottom lip must have hit the floor when our daugher told us about one of her friends who has a phone she brings to school. To be fair, I have no idea what kind, but it is a working cell phone. Is there any reason why a 2nd grader would need a phone? Can’t drive. Too young to go on road trips for sports or activities. The only thing I can think would be if she has to go home to an empty house, but even then, wouldn’t you leave the phone at home?

But All My Friends Have One

I never want to be the cool parent or the friend parent, but it’s really hard to try and tell a 7 year old why she can’t do or have something when she sees kids who do or have the exact thing every day.

I remember my Mom saying something like, “If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?” It drove me nuts, but I get the point now. It’s normal to want what other kids have. I don’t think brains are developed enough at age 7 to know that what your friends have might be ridiculous.

Jim and I told our daughter that she really doesn’t need a phone at this point in life and that seemed to be the end of the conversation. I don’t think she even wants or knows how to use one. She was just trying to be like her friend.

What To Do When Your Child Asks To Spend Money

I don’t think it’s good to always control your kid’s money. We are trying to let her choose what to buy within reason. We’ve told her that if she wants to partake in all these rip off valuable school fundraisers, she’ll have to use her own money. I know that may sound harsh, but it’s never too early to learn that lesson.

Just this month, there was a Scholastic book order that came home, a spirit stick (another stupid school fundraiser) sale, and a PTA book fair the following week. Of course, our daughter wanted to do them all.

Show Me The Money

Since we agreed not to touch her savings in the bank, she had $5 in liquid cash. The 2 Scholastic books she wanted cost $12. I told her if she wanted $7, she could either do extra work or sell something from her closet. She did both and made $10.

She then decided to buy the books from Scholastic and save $3 for the book fair. She said she really doesn’t need a spirit stick after coming to the conclusion that she just can’t do everything the school offers.

I also showed her how we could buy books on Ebay for about $1 each, and I reminded her we could go to the library for free. She did not choose either of those options, but at least they are out there.

It’s Really Hard To Follow Through

Before I congratulate myself on having such a financially savvy 7 year old, I have to admit that on the morning of the spirit stick sale, we did have tears. Something to the effect of, “I really, really want a spirit stick, waaaaaah!” I really, really wanted to just fork over $1, but I held firm. She was out of money, and we can’t buy things we can’t pay for. Amazingly, she lived through the day and it really wasn’t that big of a deal.

I think a big part of her want is just to be like the other kids who bring money to buy things at school. I’m sure this will be an ongoing struggle. I also don’t want to give her a complex where she worries about the cost of every little thing.

In this case, it probably took more effort to sell a princess costume on Ebay and come up with extra chores to make money than it would have to write a check and be done with it. All in all, we’re talking less than $20. Don’t we already spend $40 a month on dance lessons and way more than that to take trips? Yes, but we value those things and they are well planned.

If I give $20 today, what will pop up next week or next month? Before you know it we’ve bought a phone! I don’t like to think that 2nd graders already feel the need to keep up with the Joneses, but it’s there, like it or not, and it is only going to get worse. We’ll fight the battle today in the hopes that she won’t have to in the future.

What is the craziest thing your kids have ever asked for? Can 7 year olds really understand needs vs wants and budgeting?




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Written By
Sydney White is a Texas-born stay at home mom who enjoys spending time with her family, bargain hunting and, of course, writing. She is currently the editor-in-chief of


  1. I think a 7 year old can understand the difference between something they need and something they want. I’m not surprised by the request for a phone though…I saw it happening younger and younger at my old school. And I agree the parents are very much to blame. We are just now allowing our 13 year old to have a non-smart cell phone to take on trips. Comes in handy when she gets back late from a volleyball game…like tonight. 🙂

    1. I think that’s the perfect time for a phone, but no data. Our elementary principal was telling us she did the same thing so they wouldn’t be late for pick ups or sitting in the parking lot for hours waiting. I also want to postpone the whole eyes on the phone thing that most teens seem to do. Maybe it’s because of my job, but I’m a big stickler for eye contact.

  2. I’m really not surprised that your kid asked for a phone, and I do think it’s the adults fault. I saw some families at a park by our house and lots of them have their phones out. I don’t have kids but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was worried about it. I just don’t want to be “that parent,” but I feel like it’s every parent these days : /

    1. I’m sure I’ve been guilty of looking at my phone during times that should be family only, but I don’t want my 7 year old doing that just yet.

  3. Wow, all the elementary schools around here do not allow any students to have cell phones. If a kid brings one to school it is confiscated and the parent has to come in and pick it up. Middle schoolers can have them, but they must be on silent and stored in their locker during the school day. My 6th grader has a very basic one this year and it is so helpful for after school activities that always vary on ending times. My second grader will get one when he is in 6th grade.

    1. I believe our middle and high schools have the same policy. I don’t think there is one for elementary because I don’t think anyone has ever thought elementary kids, especially in 2nd grade would have phones. I sense a rule change coming, but they don’t yet have lockers, so I’m not sure where the phones will go unless they ban them altogether. That would be fine by me.

  4. You are so bang-on with parents. I see it every day. It blows my mind the lack of involvement and the use of “stuff” to make up for it is terrible. The bribe them to come see me. Last time i checked going to the dentist wasn’t optional and you just did it. There was no reward for it. Ugghhh.

    As per you question. Do i think a seven year old totally understands? Nope. But its a learning process and one that takes time…don’t skip steps. You’re teaching her basic financial foundations that will (hopefully) define her entire understating. Good luck!

    1. I love your Canadian sayings, “Bang On”. I’ll have to remember that one. Yes, going to the dentist should be something you do for health not toys or electronics. I think that’s a very bad message to send.

  5. You’re a good Mom! There must be a guilt factor or something going on when parents give in for that stuff. Yes I remember the Scholastic book fairs! We have them in Canada too and 25 – 30 years ago! I think I almost bristled when I read that, because with four kids, it was always a challenge.

    1. I think I would have to home school if I had 4 kids. There is no way you could do all the fundraisers. I am a big fan of books, and I love to encourage reading and support the school, just not every couple of weeks.

  6. As a kid I had to work for extras too, if I wanted the brand jeans, my parents would give me money for a supermarket jeans and I would have to work for the rest. I think it’s great your daughter has to find money when she wants something, instead of money falling from the sky. Having a phone seems crazy at this age, maybe if the kid walks back home alone it makes sense but at school all the teachers can call the parents.

    1. They don’t let the 2nd graders walk home by themselves. You have to be in 3rd grade at least. I don’t think it’s ever to early to show that money does not fall from the sky or grow on a money tree or come from Mom’s purse.

    1. I certainly feel like I’m always saying no. I kind of dread the teenage years, but I think they would be so much harder if we don’t have some rules already in place.

  7. haha, I don’t have kids yet so maybe I’m not one to say, but a phone in 2nd grade? iced coffee? what? I’m surprised at the amount of parents that give their kids everything they want. I just don’t understand. But like I said, I don’t have kids so I don’t know the power the they have over parents.

    1. You do want your kids to have every advantage, but I think that somehow gets skewed into giving them stuff. Stuff does not equal advantage. I think it actually takes away from life lessons. Kids only have power over you if you let them. As much as our lives do revolve around our daughter and what she is doing at the moment, she is still not the boss. It’s our job to teach her how to grow into a productive adult. Giving in to every want does nothing to promote that.

  8. I agree – it’s more often the parents fueling the need for the latest and the greatest, then it is the kid’s desire, especially at her age. No one likes to feel left out (and yes, I remember my Mom telling me the same thing about jumping off a bridge) and it can be hard to reason with them. It’s not always easy to stay firm but I’m glad you did. It’s a slippery slope when you start handing out money and justifying what’s $10 or $20 here or there. I see a lot of parents inadvertently create entitled kids doing that.

    1. Kids will want everything, but it passes. After the whole spirit stick semi melt down, I kind of worried all day, but after school when I asked about it, it was almost a non-issue. If I’d let her buy one, it would have had no value. If I make her save for one, it will.

  9. It’s really never very easy trying to manage children and money. You want so much for them but then you also know you can’t give in to every single one of their desires. We finally cracked and bought our daughter a phone just before she went into middle school (6th grade). It was because we want her to be able to reach us in case there is ever a situation. My son (4th grade) keeps asking for one, but he is content to use his iPod to text his friends and go on the Internet.

    1. I think middle school is an appropriate time for a phone. Kids are more independent at that age. At 7, our daughter is never not with us or an adult we know, so there is not a situation where a phone would be necessary.

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