Monday, November 29, 2010

My important ipod

Ashley and I were together over Thanksgiving, which is bad news for the column, since there is no reason to chat online when you are in person! (We are far too lazy to do another podcast.) However, we did talk about columns.

Saturday's Dear Abby concerned a girl whose mother lost her ipod.
DEAR ABBY: I'm 13, and about six months ago my mom confiscated my iPod because I misbehaved. When it was time to get my iPod back, my mom couldn't find it. We have been searching everywhere in the house for it - but it's gone.
My iPod is very important to me because almost every cent I earned went into buying the music and applications. The amount of money I spent is greater than the cost of the iPod itself. I asked my mother to buy me a new one to replace the one she lost, but she said it was my fault that it was taken away, and she could not keep track of where it was.

I think it is unfair that my mom lost something I spent so much on. Who is responsible for buying a new one?
Unsurprisingly, because we are often on the side of kids and because we are always on the side of logic, we believe that the mother should honor the terms of the original punishment, which was the temporary loss of her mp3 player. When the mother chose to take custody of it, she assumed the responsibility of remembering where it was. This was a situation where we weren't sure which way Abby was going to go, but she agreed:
Good parents model responsible behavior for their children; that's how children learn. You misbehaved and you were punished for it. If the agreement was that you would get your iPod back, and your mother lost it, then she should replace it - including the money you invested in loading it. She should be ashamed of herself for trying to weasel out of it.
I will paraphrase our further advice.

Lulu: We (and Abby) can agree with the LW until we are blue in the face, but it won't bring back the iPod, or necessarily convince her mother to get her a new one. She will probably have to buy a new one herself. But her music and content may be saved. I assume from her name-dropping that it's an official Apple iPod, in which case I believe her account is based on email address, and not necessarily tied to her device. She should log into the Apple website and see what she can salvage. If nothing else, she can look up the number for customer support and ask them if her content can be transferred to a new device. In the future, she should remember to back up her content.

Ashley: If she buys a new iPod now, what's to stop this from happening again?

Lulu: It will keep happening again.

Ashley: The mother may know she is wrong, but still be unable to back down from her original position. She may agree to a compromise: the daughter buys a new iPod now, but in the future, the iPod is off limits for punishment. The mother can take away something else.

Lulu: Generally, anything a child bought with her own money should be off limits for deprivation punishments. It just doesn't make sense; the child's own purchases are not the parent's property to take away!

Ashley: Well, the parent probably gave her the money in the first place, for example through an allowance. But if that's the case, stopping future allowances would be a better punishment than taking away past allowances (or the objects bought with them). If we consider an allowance as a reward for good behavior, then bad behavior should result in no more rewards, not the removal of past awards. She already earned the past rewards!

Lulu: If nothing else, for the cost of a new low-end iPod shuffle, she could get at least two no-name generic mp3 players. She'll have to redownload and/or rerip her music to start with, but if she stores it in several places (multiple mp3 players, a computer, maybe some $5 flash drives...), she's unlikely to lose it all ever again. And when her mom takes away her mp3 player, she can just dig out her backup(s).

So, good luck, iPod girl. Nobody can make your mom be reasonable, but at least you have some arguments and compromises you can try. And techie workarounds. Techie workarounds to parental punishments is kind of our speciality.


  1. Here's a helpful tip for the kids!

    Make a list of things that are important to your parents - not just monetarily valuable, but things they either need on a daily basis or carry great sentimental value. Got it? Good!

    Next time one of your parents decides to punish you by taking something of yours, take something of theirs right back. Hiding things isn't a talent exclusive to the old and infirm. And believe you me, your mother needs her lesson plans for the remainder of the year way more than you need your Nintendo DSi.

    A more "shock and awe" variety of this plan is to immediately destroy something of theirs when they announce that they are withholding something of theirs. This works best if the object is sentimental in nature instead of merely useful. Inherited objects are key! Remember to strive for cold detachment while doing the smashing, or else it could be mistaken for a temper tantrum instead of a promise of future escalation. They'll probably put on a good show of anger, but you know you've won if they cast fearful glances at other things that are important to them even while they're yelling at you.

  2. Wow, Darnell, I remember you doing that to your mom. Though I am so-so on the smashing of objects of sentimental value (after all, I have objects of sentimental value that can, in return, be smashed, a problem you don't likely share), I am all for retaliation in kind. Part of the tyranny of parenthood is how nothing is ever really YOURS, not even the house you are more or less forced to live in. If my mom lost something expensive of mine, her car keys would for sure be AWOL until money was handed over, provided I couldn't just steal the money itself.

  3. Part of the reason this works better for a child is that they have had less time to accrue objects of either material worth or sentimental value. Sure, any kid will have a few things lying around that you'd rather not have smashed, but I flat out guarantee that parents will have more - which means that in the unlikely event that they decide to retaliate in kind, the child will have more ammunition.

    Besides, once you're old enough you can switch to brute physical force to control your parents through fear.