Giving in to kids' peer pressure is not only bad for your budget
Nurturing an attitude of keeping up with fads from a young age encourages a consumer mentality that is hard to change later in life. (Shutterstock)
Just days after schools went back in session, local mums’ online forums have been buzzing with questions about Cotton Candy grapes. I never heard of it, but it turned out that is a cool thing to pack for school lunches. They are grapes that taste like cotton candy.
As a mum, I understand the excitement about finding a popular option that fits into a small lunch box and has a chance of actually getting consumed by a picky eater. What I don’t get is the adults’ need to be cool in the context of school lunches.
Kids certainly are under a lot of peer pressure. From latest-style socks and backpacks to wearable gadgets and mobile devices, the competition is heating up and it is costing everyone a good amount of money to keep up.
Parents may have various approaches and strategies in handling the children’s desire to fit in, as well as their own willingness to provide a living standard that is similar to what other parents are providing. But being carried away with fulfilling needs triggered by whims and fashion can be disastrous to your budget and to your child’s financial understanding of sound money management.
Here are a few points to keep in mind while you’re shopping for a superhero-themed pencil box or the latest line of sneakers.
Quality and duration
If you’re buying an item that is expected to last for a school year or so, you want to make sure that you’re getting your money’s worth. The most fashionable item isn’t always the most comfortable, durable and practical. In particular, if you’re shopping for young children, the novelty of the purchase probably will wear off quickly — just like with any toy. In this case, you probably are much better off finding an item that meets many of the other requirements.
The situation is not much different when you think of teens who are trying to fit in. When their focus is just on being cool, you should be the one who brings in other factors that may be overlooked. That is not to say fashionable purchases should be totally excluded, but they should be put into practical-use testing to see if they will work out for the purpose you’re getting them.
Your child may be fixated on getting this prized item regardless to its price or anything else. A simple explanation of the price difference may not get you the cooperation that you’re hoping for. But if that price difference is substantial enough that you and your children will need to compromise on something else, this probably will get their attention — and teach them a lesson that budgets can just be stretched to fit all and everything.
Similarly, a good argument with older children about quality can plant some seeds at least for the future. So even if they don’t give up those trendy leggings, they probably will remember your words as natural consequences kick in the form quick wear and tear or less-than-perfect fit after the first wash.
Down to the reason
Parents know that consistency is key in establishing acceptable behaviours. So if you’re building a habit of chasing peers and fads, you must be sure that you will be able to keep up as children grow and the so does the cost.
Again, it is not like one pair of Elmo-themed slippers for your toddler will damage her for life. But if the motivation is always to keep up with peers and follow every whim or fad, then you may be encouraging and nurturing the budding consumer mentality in your child. That is something you will have to deal with later in life when unfortunately it becomes more difficult to counter their needs and perceptions.
By Rania Oteify
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