Not Bad Words: "We Can't Afford It"

BlogHer Original Post

This is a media-saturated culture, resulting in kids with increasingly sophisticated taste. Couple that with tight economic times, and you have a recipe for stress for parents.

Last week, Newsweek writer Karen Springen addressed this issue in a piece called "The Devils Want Prada", an article outlining specific ways to help kids learn to keep realistic expectations when it comes to brand-name clothing. She reported that

with more and more TV shows about wealthy teens, like the CW network’s “Gossip Girl” and MTV’s “My Super Sweet 16” on the airwaves, parents may find themselves bombarded with an unprecedented number of requests for $140 Coach bags and $60 Abercrombie jeans.

Springen's tips included helping teens and tweens understand their motivations in desiring expensive things, being honest about the "financial picture", and avoiding belittling their desires:

When they want to splurge on expsnive brand names, don't say, "That's silly," says psychologist Lisa Medoff, author of SOS: Stressed Out Students' Guide Handling Peer Pressure. "It is a big deal to them. Don't write it off." Instead, say, "It's really disappointing because it's so expensive. It's not in our budget."

I agree with her. I don't believe it's a bad thing for kids to hear the phrase "we can't afford it." Gently teaching tweens and teens to adjust their expectations makes for responsible adults. When you can't afford something, you simply don't buy it.

Vickie, of Pursuing Simplicity and the mother of three teens, tells how her family has handled the pressure to buy brand-named items, by putting the power back in the kids' hands:

We pay up to 35.00 for athletic shoes/back to school shoes. If they want the latest and greatest athletic shoe for back to school, for example 100.00 shoes, they have to come up with the difference. This has taught them various ways to look for their shoes.

Linda Degus-Barns writes at Frugal Mom how she's tried to teach her kids the value of a dollar from the earliest days:

As a family unit, we decided to teach our son just how much time it takes to earn a dollar. We sat down and discussed how hard Daddy has to work in order to buy "xzy." How hard other people have to work in order to buy "xyz." We tried to teach him that living a frugal life, one without constant wanting, will be a happier, freer existence. It will be less stressful for the entire family, the little things in life will become "wonderful, big things," in life. Getting an ice cream cone will be a special treat, and not something ordinary.

Sharon Harvey Rosenberg of The Frugal Duchess got very frank with her ten-year-old daughter after a salesperson got extra-friendly during recent shopping trip:

"She's not really your friend," I blurted out. "She just wants you to buy all that stuff that she picked out for you."

"You mean she doesn't really like me?" My daughter is visibly distressed.

I soften up and carefully select my words.

"Sure, she likes you. But she also likes your business. She wants you to buy those outfits. She makes more money when you spend more money," I said.

That kind of honesty is critically important. We have to teach our children to decipher the "buzz" thrown at them, and help them the see their worth lies much deeper than the label on the back of their jeans. As Vickie of Pursuing Simplicity says,

We have really focused on the needs/wants with our children. They don't have all the latest and greatest when they first come out. We want to teach them contentment and patience.

It might be a harder path for parents in the short-run, but in the long-run, it grows kids into smart adults. Isn't that the core of what we're supposed to be doing?

Shannon Lowe is a BlogHer contributing editor (Mommy/Family). She also blogs at Rocks In My Dryer and The Parenting Post.


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