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Ask Denene: Cell phone envy

If you don't want your son to feel like a dork, but you want to make the point that expensive phones are, well, expensive, then try this: Make him pay for the cool phone himself. This is what I did when my stepson, Mazi, eyed a $200 phone one of his friends was waving under his nose. My husband, Nick, and I explained to him that while we understood his plight, we really didn't want to siphon off a precious $200 from our savings account for a luxury-item splurge.

But we also let him know that if he wanted that phone badly enough, we sure didn't have a problem with him earning it. We gave him a list of chores and the prices he could charge for them, and then told him to get to it. Bathrooms got cleaned. Cars got washed. Grass got mowed. And within six weeks or so, he had enough to pay half the price of that phone he wanted, which, along with his "earn it" attitude, justified our kicking in the rest. In the end, we all got what we wanted.

You can, too. Tell your son that if he wants the phone, he needs to earn it by working hard around the house, saving up his allowance, or taking on small jobs around the neighborhood. If he wants that phone badly enough, he'll do it, and you'll be glad he learned -- and earned -- that lesson, too.