Dear Mr. Dad: Ever since my daughter turned 13, all she does is pressure my wife and me to buy her extravagant, overpriced clothing. We’re going through a bit of a rough financial patch and there’s no way we can afford what she’s asking for. Any advice?
A: Clearly you were never a teenage girl. Okay, neither was I, but I did survive my two oldest daughters’ bouts with teen wardrobe insanity and still have most of my hair. My youngest, who worships her older sisters and apparently was taking good notes during their adolescent years, is threatening to become a teenager herself in a few years and has already developed some very firm ideas about clothes.
The fact that your daughter is begging for/demanding designer clothes is a good indicator that she’s feeling pressure to fit in at school. Once the whole peer pressure thing starts, it won’t be long before you’re up all night worrying that she’ll show up one day on the back of a Harley, pregnant, smoking, and sporting a tattoo and a tongue piercing. Images like that were responsible for many a sleepless night.
It’s pretty unlikely that you’ll actually come out and say, “Honey, are the same people who are pushing you to wear designer labels also suggesting that you smoke marijuana?” But you can open a low-key dialog on the topic. Explain that while fitting in with her friends may seem important right now, she’ll eventually need to leave the herd and do her own thing. As you’re saying this, though, remember when your parents tried to have similar conversations with you. You may need to be persistent.
Also keep in mind that most peer pressure is subtle and even unstated. But that doesn’t make it any less powerful.
Once you’ve had the conversations about peer pressure and fitting in, there are a few other steps you can take. The easiest is to offer to help your daughter find cheaper ways of acquiring the wardrobe that will keep her from becoming a social outcast and will keep you from having to mortgage your house or deal with a permanently sullen teen.
Have her go online and find local consignment shops that may have second-hand versions of what she’s craving. And, if you can do it without getting your head bitten off, suggest that she explore Goodwill or the Salvation Army—you can sometimes find practically brand-new, designer clothes at, well, thrift-store prices. She should also see what’s on Ebay and other web-based stores that specialize in hot designers.
Something else to consider is to calculate how much money you’d typically spend on clothes for your daughter over the course of a year and give her one 12th of it every month (if you estimate $600 per year, that would be $50/month). Then let her spend her clothing allowance any way she wants. She can save up for a few months to buy something expensive. But be firm. Do not let her go over her allowance and do not let her borrow against future payments. This is a great way to teach her about budgeting and money management.
Finally, while your daughter is still a little too young to get a part time job, she’s plenty old enough to start earning money she can use to augment her clothing allotment. You can pay her for doing jobs around the house or suggest something like babysitting. Seeing how much work she’d have to do to satisfy her inner fashionista may help her better resist pressure from her peers.