Today’s parenting question is a new one for me but one I am certain a lot of parents have. “Sandra” is a mom of two girls (ages 11 and 7) who feels the pressures of wanting her kids to have nice things. The problem is keeping up with Joneses and their latest trends can be very costly. How should a parent manage this?
By the time Sandra (and the rest of you) read this, this post may be considered anywhere on the scale from brilliant to flat out no help at all. It really will depend on your attitude about money versus the need to “fit in” with society. As is customary, I don’t give a lot of do’s and don’ts but I like to ask questions to be considered and I’ll tell you what things are like in my home. The rest is up to you.
My first question is why do the Joneses have any power in our homes? Don’t get me wrong. I like nice things for my children. But, I have a budget like most people. Keeping up with the Joneses signifies that their acceptance is more important than the financial well being of your family.
Here’s an example. I have Directv for the family but my children wear shoes from Target. I could give up Directv for a while. If I did, I could easily buy $200 shoes for my boys. But, why would I do that? Is it because “little Susie Jones” down the road has nice shoes? An even worse decision, in my opinion, is if I don’t give up Directv and I buy the expensive shoes.
The Directv example hits at the heart of my point. Many middle class families have SOME nice things. I completely understand a child wanting nice things as well. If a child wants an item and it fits in the budget, that’s fine. If the item doesn’t fit in the budget, why would anyone care what Mr. Jones, Mrs. Jones, or little Susie Jones think. Until the Jones family pays the bills in the Thomas household, their opinion means nothing to me.
Here’s another idea for that “must have” item. Because, in this case, Sandra has an 11 year old, perhaps the child can do extra chores or save up her allowance. If the item she wants is that important, let her buy it with her money. Remember the goal is to allow children to earn their independence. Over time, children who have to spend their own money learn that it doesn’t grow on trees.
Something else Sandra may want to consider is this. How is she teaching her children to deal with the frustration of not being able to get everything she wants?
There is a modeling opportunity here for parents. When children can see that there are limits, this will be internalized by them over time. Conversely, maybe a parent sees something he/she can’t afford now (such as a car) but model a determination to save extra money, start a business from home, or work harder in their profession to achieve that “carrot.” There are strong benefits to either route.
Though I can’t tell Sandra what to do, I can tell her this. When any parent has the chance to model how to deal with an important issue, it can only benefit the child in the end.
Please have a safe weekend. I’ve enjoyed reading the parenting questions sent to me. Feel free to send in more questions (email@example.com) and we’ll do this again.
On Tuesday, I will have a new post. You will learn how the results of a chess game I played in high school could make all of us rethink parenting strategies in new and exciting ways.
On a final note, I will be on the Dr. Carol radio show Monday at 10:00AM est. If you live in the Nashville area, tune into WNAH 1360. For those outside the area, you can go to http://www.drcarolshow.com and click the listen live button. Thanks for all the support!!!