Who Let in the Joneses?

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 (tantrumstroublesandtreasures@yahoo.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!!!

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  1. Sarah says:

    I think you've hit the nail on the head! Why on earth DO we care what the Joneses have that we don't have? My husband and I are FAR more likely to say "No" to things when the kids ask with a "I want a _______ because so-and-so has one." We say "No" simply because we don't want to set an example of buying things for that reason. We have some nice things… but we're all about a bargain. The kids are catching on to working hard and saving up to get the NICER things they want… and looking for deals by watching their Dad and I do the same thing. Parenting by example… especially when it comes to issues about "money" and "stuff" is a great way to teach those budgetary lessons!

  2. Golda Smith says:

    Hi Clayton,

    This is my 1st time to your blog and I found you on socialmoms.com
    I just had to comment. I'm a parent of two young children and I've never felt the need to keep up with the Joneses or anyone else for that matter. In my opinion, people who try to keep up with others do so because of their ego. Without saying so, they feel inadequate and that is not the message I want my children to learn.

    I've purchased shoes for my kids at target and payless. Honestly, why would I purchase expensive shoes for feet that grow every few months? The same with the clothing! I want my kids to learn the self worth has nothing to do with how much money is spent on "things". I also want them to understand how money flows and to respect it.

  3. MissMOE says:

    Great post. It's important that we as a family decide for ourselves what will be important to us. I'm a new follower from the New Friends Hop.

  4. Timeless advice. Today my son wanted new soccer shoes. Not because he needed them, but because he was "bored" with the colors. Needless to say, he's not getting them.
    Appreciate your wisdom and good sense. We need more of it!

  5. Michelle says:

    This is just my personal opinion, but, I think that if you let your children have everything that they think they "need", you are just setting them up for failure. Kids need to learn delayed gratification. Not everything in this world can be instant. They are not always going to be able to get everything that they want. My kids are 7 and 4 and already know that they are NOT going to be getting everything that all of their friends have. I think it's important for my kids to know that money and objects are not everything~~people are. People are always more important than "stuff". Thanks for stopping by the S&R weekend hop again. Have a great week!

  6. Jessica @FoundtheMar says:

    I was just having a conversation about this very topic with a friend. Part of the reason I moved to where I live now is the lack of Joneses in the area! I know people who let them all in, and it seems they are the houseguest who never leaves. Once they suck you in, you can't get rid of them. It is so much better to hold your own values closy by and keep the Joneses on the other side if the door.

  7. Shannon says:

    Why is it so important to have these things??? To be in debt?? My son gets so many hand me down clothes that I could afford to buy some of these things but WHY???? My son wants an ipad(he is 7). My husband and I told him he could save up and we would pitch in the last $100. It has been a year and he is still saving and I think when he does finally save enough that ipad will be worth so much more to him then if we had just gone out and bought one.

  8. Tara says:

    Great post! There is so much that can be learned by example. I look forward to your next post

  9. Momfever says:

    Oh, I love posts about problems I do not have! Because usuallyI do suffer from the same thing.

    Keeping up with the Joneses is not an issue for me: we don't, and we can't. Enough said.

  10. Lady Bren says:

    So glad someone else out there thinks the way we do!!

    Found you through the FTM Thursday blog hop