Dad Takes Teen's Belongings Hostage After Cell Phone Bill


Jared Cramer with his daughter, Julia. When the 13-year-old racked up a $541.36 phone bill, Cramer locked up her designer belongings and tasked her with earning them back. (Photo: Facebook/Jared Cramer)

After his daughter racked up a $500 phone bill, one father decided that instead of locking her away from her friends with an old-fashioned grounding, he’d lock up her stuff instead — and make his teenager work to earn it back.

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When Jared Cramer’s 13-year-old daughter Julia broke the news about her cell phone bill, which had grown to a whopping $541.36 due to data charges for Instagram posts, the New Hampshire dad said she expected a simple lecture. “She thought after I got that bill it was going to be a slap on the wrist, don’t let it happen again situation,” Cramer told WWBT on Thursday.

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But Cramer decided to go a different route — locking up her clothes, shoes, makeup, and jewelry with a chain and padlock, and slapping each with a Post-it outlining the number of chores Julia would have to accomplish before earning those belongings back. Her Moccasins? Three chores. Some sweaters? Five.


Jared Cramer labeled all of his daughter’s belongings with the amount of chores she’d have to do to earn them back. (Photo: WWBT)

According to WWBT, Cramer took Julia’s phone away and locked up her belongings a week before school started — giving her enough time to earn it all back before she returns to class. But dad didn’t leave Julia completely without — he kept basic necessities like soap, deodorant, a toothbrush and three outfits from Walmart unlocked.

Cramer says he’s a single father trying to remind his daughter — who he says is “a wonderful child who has a great attitude in life” — about accountability. “I am simply just a hard-working dad with a middle-class income, trying to teach Julia the value of a dollar,” he tells Yahoo Parenting. “I put myself through college and now we are very blessed. She realizes the extra $500 could have been money put into her 529 [college account].”

This punishment, Cramer says, seems more meaningful than traditional grounding. “It’s easy to just ground a kid and put them in their room for a day or two and not talk to them about it,” Cramer tells WBBT. “But a lot of parents have backed me up, saying ‘if something like this were to happen, it’s better to stand up for ourselves and have kids face consequences.’”

Amy Morin, a psychotherapist and author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, says Cramer has the right idea. “Logical consequences — like taking away privileges — can be very effective. They work best when there are clear instructions on what kids need to do to earn their privileges back. This father was very clear to his daughter about the steps she could take to regain her privileges,” Morin tells Yahoo Parenting. “This father also shows his daughter that much of what she has is a privilege — not a right. She can live without her phone or designer clothes. It’s her responsibility to earn back her privileges.”

Placing responsibility in a teen’s hands is a great way to ensure they internalize the lesson, Morin says. “Rather than just taking away her phone for a few days, the father placed the responsibility back on her. She has to do something to earn her privileges back,” she says. “It’s likely this consequence will help this teen avoid making the same mistake again.”

And so far, it sounds like Julia — an honor student recently recognized for her work with special needs adults — is on the right track. “Julia woke up at 6:30 this morning when I woke up, and she started doing chores and she’s been working ever since. ” Cramer told WWBT. “She said, ‘you know what dad, I know you love me, I know I messed up, and I’m gonna work this off.’”

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