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Q. I am dreading school shopping. My daughter, who is now 13, always wants very expensive brand clothing. She says she just has to have this jacket or that book bag or she won't be popular. Every year we get into a big fight over it. What can I do to make her understand that money doesn't grow on trees?
A. Tackle this situation from five angles.
1. Create a budget. Tell your daughter how much money you'll give her to spend for school clothes. In addition, help find jobs at home, from family members or neighbors, in order to earn extra cash. To make her feel grown up, go with her to the bank to acquire a cash card. By doing so, she can easily keep track of her spending and finances without arguing with you. She can't whine and pout to a cash machine.
2. Permit her to purchase one brand-name item. See that she's able to buy one coveted item, that must-have jacket that everybody's wearing, or that new backpack that's the rage. Encourage her to wait to purchase this item until after the first week of school so she can clearly determine what she'd like that item to be, thus avoiding buyer's remorse. Indulge her in this one item, as such superficial forms of attire symbolize belonging to a peer group, which is a developmental necessity for teens as they break away from parents during adolescence, attach to peers, and eventually stand independently as young adults.
3. When she goes shopping, don't go with her. Ask a beloved aunt, trusted young adult, or family friend to accompany her. It's much easier for teens to hear advice from any adult except Mom or Dad. Teens actually seek out information from adults they admire as they begin to question the values of their parents, eventually developing their own. Besides, she won't engage in an argument over the price of clothing with a relative or friend.
4. Speak to her wishes. When she starts to beg for one more expensive brand-name item, first speak to her wishes. Here's how: "I know you wish you could buy one more pair of shoes. I'm sure you're wishing that somehow the money for them would just appear from me, your dad, or Grandma. I know that's what you're wishing, but I don't think that's going to happen." Validating her wishes magically helps them subside.
5. Speak to your family's values. "In this family, we only buy one pair of shoes for the start of school." Lastly, offer her this reality bite: "While a label or brand name may bring you into a certain social group, they won't bring enduring friends." Tell her that she's liked by friends because of her personality attributes, which might include kindness, intelligence, and friendliness. She'll scoff at your statements for the short run, but in the long run she'll hear your message.