Our two oldest daughters will begin another school year in just a couple of weeks.
With that comes the annual ritual of obligatory school clothes shopping. Our girls are ages eight and ten respectively – clearly falling within the coveted marketing group called “tweens.”
Purchasing Power of Tweens
Believe it or not, these youngster girls number more than 20 million in the U.S. and have an estimated buying power of more than $40 billion collectively.
That number gets quadrupled by parents such as my wife and I who help close the gap on purchases that our kids can’t afford on their own.
If you haven’t ventured out into the pricey world of youth fashion in a few years, you’ll be stunned by sticker shock. You don’t have to look far to find “on- trend” clothes and footwear that easily cost more than $100 per item – keep in mind that the girls are likely to grow out of those expensive styles by Christmas break.
What’s a parent to do?
Here are 3 things that we are trying to instill in our girls on a daily basis to reduce the need to recklessly spend each and every school year – we also believe these life lessons extend beyond trips to the mall.
Stop Comparing With Others
This is easier said then done, especially when kids are trying to find where they fit within their peer group. The last thing any tween wants is to not meet the “table stakes” for acceptance by being too different from the pack via their clothes, shoes or general appearance.
We understand that the game changes as they become teens and the process of individuation gets traction, but until then kids tend to want to blend in and not be made fun of.
To help inoculate our girls against this ever present threat, we constantly stress to them that it’s better to be beautiful on the inside than on the outside.
Stop Trying to Impress
One of the natural tendencies of humans – young girls in particular – is to be liked. Often times that “liking” is a function of impressing others by being smart, funny, creative, athletic or (sigh) pretty. While there’s nothing wrong with these attributes in and of themselves, they can quickly lead to an escalation to be the funniest, smartest or prettiest that can actually hurt your child in the long run – can you say Toddlers & Tiaras???
It seems that kids (and adults for that matter) are less and less impressed by inner values such as honesty, patience, perseverance and loyalty.
Still we strive to convey the importance of the latter traits to our girls without completely dismissing the former. Striking a balance is the key.
Stop Focusing Solely on Self
At the core of the issue is self. As kids, all of us wanted to be accepted, liked and not be ridiculed or bullied – our kids are no different. While self esteem and self preservation are important, they are best shaped within the context of others. Helping our girls focus on helping others helps our daughters develop a better, truer image of themselves.
Prior to the annual school shop, we like to help the girls purge their closets and dressers of nice outfits to donate before we purchase more. Additionally, we always donate to the backpack/school supply drives at our church to help our daughters develop their personal gratitude and empathy toward others.
Unfortunately, the drive to “keep up with the Jones” transcends middle school and only becomes more pronounced the older we get.
I find that these annual lessons for our kids are actually a clandestine refresher for me as well.
Question: How do you keep your kids grounded with back-to-school shopping each year?