NORMAN — Q: My 12-year-old grandson has become obsessed with things he wants, including a cell phone (the most expensive, mind you), an iPad, and expensive designer jeans. He begs, throws tantrums, pouts, refuses to speak to his parents, and the like. When told not to say another word, he leaves them notes, draws pictures, or comes to us or the other grandparents. These obsessions and his very manipulative behavior are a mystery because he’s never been given an excess of material things. My daughter and her husband have addressed this with common-sense talk about greed, excess, obsessions and self-control. What should we do to solve this problem?
A: First, I feel obsessively compelled to point out that talking to a 12-year-old about greed, excess, obsessions and self-control is not an example of “common-sense talk.” These are not concepts that the average 12-year-old understands. An example of “common-sense talk” would be as follows: “We are not going to buy that for you, ever, no matter what you say or do. When you are older and are earning your own money, you can buy it for yourself.”
You would probably tell me that his parents have told him words to that effect and he continues to obsess and pester and pout and throw tantrums. Pardon me for speculating, but I have to believe that his parents have been less than unequivocal. My guess is they’ve occasionally (perhaps rarely) told him “No” in no uncertain terms, but then at other times they go on and on about greed, excess, and so on, trying to persuade him to accept their decision. If that’s the case, then allow me to point out that your grandson (like all children) perceives persuasion as a weakness. He can simply refuse to be persuaded and even though he doesn’t get what he wants, he’s “won” that round.