Peer Group Pressure
Q. My 14-year-old daughter is bright and kind, and very happy-go-lucky most of the time. But she constantly asks for expensive, brand-name clothes, spends her money on lavish (in my mind) gifts for her friends, and generally seems to think that money grows on trees. I guess I'm also troubled by the fact that she's so young to have this "keeping up with the Joneses" attitude.
Why is it so important to have the most expensive jeans or have the super-fancy cell phone? Perhaps getting a job will help her figure out that money is easily spent, but hard to earn? On the other hand, I do want her to enjoy being a kid for as long as she can. We are a middle-class family that can provide for our children, but I don't want her to be careless with money or obsessed with brands. Is my daughter too materialistic? Help!
A. You've likely raised your daughter to be cautious with money and to not adhere to a "keeping up the Joneses" attitude. Unfortunately, it sounds like she's gravitated toward a social group that spends money lavishly on name brands. The probability is high that any teen and his or her friends will "just have to have" the latest cool gadget or clothing item; certain labels and gadgets symbolize cohesion in peer groups and acceptance is ever-important for adolescents.
It's difficult for parents when they realize that they've raised a child with values different than theirs. However, adolescents often take on the values of their peer group over the values of Mom and Dad.
But there is good news: Your daughter's behavior may be only temporary. Right now she's established herself separate from you, and she's clinging to her group of friends in order to make this distinction. However, most children return to the values of their parents in their mid-to-late 20s. Although these values will be tweaked to their generation's characteristics, the ideas that Mom and Dad instilled during the formative years (6 to 12 years old) usually resurface.
3 Tips for Parents
Here's what you can do in the meantime to keep your teenager from the inclination to buy, buy, buy:
Don't talk yourself blue in the face, trying to make her see the non-materialistic light. Though she knows where you stand, it's unlikely that you'll persuade her to behave differently. You can, however, gently explain that, in the consumer culture, there is always a new item to buy -- but it only brings temporary happiness until another comes along. Most teens lack this life-learned wisdom.
Be very clear about the amount of money you provide for clothes, gadgets, and gifts. With this set allowance, she'll have to decide how to budget her money to support her spending urges. She may need to get a job. She may decide to have one piece of designer clothing a year, then fill her closet with less expensive items. In any case, you'll teach her financial responsibility and the ability to pick and choose.
Hold firm when she begs, pleads, cries, or tantrums for more. She may say you're unfair, mean, awful, etc. During these times, it's easy for middle-class parents to pull out the credit card and buy whatever their child wants to appease him or her. But doing so only fosters consumerism in the long run. Hold steady.
Jan Faull, MEd, is a veteran parent educator and the author of four parenting books, including Darn Good Advice -- Baby and Darn Good Advice -- Parenting. She writes a biweekly parenting advice column for this site and a weekly parenting advice column in the Seattle Times. Jan Faull is the mother of three grown children and lives in the Seattle area.
The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.
Originally published on AmericanBaby.com, March 2007.