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3 Things Parents Need to Stop Doing

Photo Credit: Creative Commons – Southbay Labor Council

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?


  • Roy A. Ackerman, PhD, EA

    Just because the child may spend funds- at that age- it’s clearly NOT their money. Which means it’s the parents choice (or abdication thereof) to control/mediate/moderate the choices these children make.
    And, as you correctly state, Tor, it starts early on. A training which will place them, when they are teens, in proper stead.
    I know it’s easy, being the old fart that I am, talking like this. But, the trend, which may be accelerated, existed when my children were at that age. And, we consistently- from the time the children were able to begin voicing opinions as to the clothes they wanted, the toys they coveted, the games for which they were desperate- insured that our children knew that there were budgets, constraints, and realities with which we must conform. And, for two of my children, when it was clear that we had crossed a major financial threshold, it was a larger battle- because it was clear to them (even at their tender ages) that the availability of money probably was not the underlying issue. But, since we (the parents) also did not spend in a frivolous manner, we were able to steer them in the proper direction. Four of these children are now adults- and doing fine. The fifth, while just barely starting out, clearly has the instincts one would hope for a responsible adult.

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Awesome points Roy – well said!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/mullenann Ann Mullen

    A lot of schools have tried to lessen the comparison trend by having the kids were uniforms. As long as these are not to expensive, it’s one way to go. When my boys were older and wanted more control over their wardrobes, they were given an allowance to spend on clothes, movies or whatever. It was their choice to buy clothes much of the time. Boys were mean to them if they didn’t have fresh clothes. I would have expected it of girls, but boys! This was in the 80s and 90s. I can only imagine it’s worse now. Tor, it sounds like you are trying to work around it. My best to you.

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Those are great thoughts Ann – I’ve always supported the idea of school uniforms because of its “field leveling” effect…thanks for the awesome comment!

  • Ricky Anderson

    I would condense these into Stop Spending My Money.

  • Bonnie Anderson

    I’m happy to be out of that part of parenting, but I do take my granddaughters shopping (they are 9 and 7) quite a bit. It’s a reminder of my past, except now I have more funds than I did then. I agree with Ann. Having had three sons and one daughter, the boys were just as bad. Your points above are great ones to show kids what it’s really all about. And keeping up with the Jones, it’s hard. Our nextdoor neighbors are the Jones so I know what I’m talking about!