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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Setting limits for kids

I am fascinated by parents whom complain about companies who do this or that and it's a concept that is not the best influence on our pre-teen to teen children. (This is not directed to any one specific person at all)

Really, this doesn't just apply to tween to teens, it really applies to all ages and stages of childhood. From how Fast food restaurants market kids meals to how clothing retailers market their clothing.

People don't seem to realize that we, as consumers, make the market what it is. People also seem to forget, at times, that we are also the parents.

I know I am not alone in this. I know plenty of moms who agree that it's getting out of hand.

When my toddler wants a kid’s meal I evaluate 3 things. Is it in the budget? Is this magical toy they desire something they will play with for a reasonable amount of time? How hungry are they, really. Often times we say no to the kid’s meal. The kids don't eat fries and 2 of them rarely finish a burger. Getting a couple of hamburgers and sharing some apple slices is much cheaper, healthier, and less wasteful. I tell them this. They understand. Sure my 4 y/o will give me some flack at times. He'll get over it. He always does. If it's a toy I know they really will enjoy and they are ready for a full meal and I have it in the budget, I may splurge for a kid’s meal for the toddler.

I wonder why society has lost the ability to say no. Not every time, but at least often enough to send the message that you care enough about your child to not allow them to make choices that may affect their future.

When my child had a friend tell her (in 4th grade) how good coffee was with crème and sugar it didn't take long for her to ask for some. I laughed. I asked her if she knew what coffee was. I explained to her the bean, the caffeine, the addictive nature, and the whole idea of having to add fat and sugar to it in order to make it taste good to her. I let her taste my black coffee. I told her that these are indulgences that were intended for the adult market. She knows I am not one to allow what every other parent allows. I asked her if she thought coffee was a good choice for a child whose body is still developing. She said no, and has no interest in it since.

My friend’s daughter (Age 10) recently asked to go to Forever 21 to go clothing shopping. She asked me what I thought about it. I fist asked her if there were no other retail options in her area that are geared towards girls her age. She, of course, said yes. I asked her what she thought "Forever 21" meant to her. She said that it sounded like a store for 20 something’s who wanted to look 21 yrs old, forever. I explained that just because other moms decided to let their 5th grader shop at this store, thereby making it a teen shop, doesn't mean that she has to follow suit.

I think it's absurd. That's just how I feel about it. We (society as a whole) allow our kids to sip on Starbucks, and shop at stores that we might even shop at, and we allow them to wear expensive make-up, and own undergarments from Victoria Secrets. Why?
Is there no "rite of passage" anymore? Why does an 11 year old NEED a bra or panties from Victoria Secret, really? I don't care if mom & dad have the money, or not. I don't care if it's about the "quality of the product". I just don't get it.

I tell my daughter she is welcome to buy herself whatever she chooses when she is old enough to get a job and pay for it herself. I worked hard to provide nice things for myself. I've only owned a handful of VS bras. Back in the 90's they were $40. I'm not allowing my child to feel so entitled that she has the right to have a $40 bra. That's just me.

I just feel like so many of us have forgotten that we do have a voice. We have the option to make our choice be no. If you allow your child to have these things now, what do they have to work towards? How will they value the almighty dollar? How will they learn to budget their life when they go out into the world thinking that Victoria Secret panties, at age 11, is a NEED?
This sense of entitlement scares me. I cannot help but wonder what these kids’ lives will look like when they get out on their own.

I am prepared to watch my children make lots of mistakes when they come into their own money, just as I did. They already have. Birthday money has been blown on useless toys that never were played with, and over the years the oldest 2 have learned from their choices. I hope that they will ask me to help them when they figure out that they cannot live beyond their means. Actually, if I am hoping for something I would hope that I show them enough about how life works that they make mostly good choices from the 1st paycheck.

*Disclaimer* I do not think I am some kick ass, better than others, amazing parent. We all have our struggles. I share this little rant here because I know there are other moms out there who enjoy reading topics like this from another perspective. Please don't think that I feel I am better than any other parent out there. I assure you that I have flaws. Even some of my flaws have their own flaws.

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