A fresh look at a classic case
I've been given the assignment of preparing a "dance mix" for one of my friends who is hosting a party. It's a lot of pressure to make sure I get it right.
I enlisted the help of a friend, Shawn Etlinger, to rescue me in putting some hits together. He sent me an enormous, 1,600 song collection to choose from.
One of the funnier songs from "back in the day" was a DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince tune called "Parents Just Don't Understand." If you remember this song, you are officially old. It goes like this:
I remember one year
My mom took me school shopping
It was me, my brother, my mom, oh, my pop, and my little sister
All hopped in the car
We headed downtown to the Gallery Mall
My mom started bugging with the clothes she chose
I didn't say nothing at first
I just turned up my nose
She said, "What's wrong? This shirt cost $20"
I said, "Mom, this shirt is plaid with a butterfly collar!"
The next half hour was the same old thing
My mother buying me clothes from 1963
And then she lost her mind and did the ultimate
I asked her for Adidas and she bought me Zips!
I said, "Mom, what are you doing, you're ruining my rep"
She said, "You're only sixteen, you don't have a rep yet"
I said, "Mom, let's put these clothes back, please"
She said "no, you go to school to learn not for a fashion show--¦
Although this song contains lots of comical lyrics, it also highlights a parenting dilemma. Where is the line between teaching your children to be thrifty and going overboard, and possibly creating confidence problems in your child? You've heard the phrase "dress for success" and, more than just how people perceive you visually, feeling good about your attire also inspires self-confidence because you feel that you look good.
Have you ever noticed how you feel when you're wearing a new outfit, one that you know is a little bit more expensive than your normal, every day wear? You begin to develop an unexplainable swagger in your step. You know you look good, which makes you feel good, and a bit more confident that particular day.
I don't mean to sound materialistic. However the adage, "It's not the clothes, it's the person in the clothes," never seems to resonate with your child.
How do you instill the values of reasonable spending in your child but still let them have a small part of their wardrobe that aren't hand-me-downs from their sibling who is 20 years older than they are and went to high school with Fred Flintstone?
Try giving them a comprehensive budget, not just for their clothing, but for multiple expenses they have. For example, lump together their "life budget" to include: clothes, entertainment, food, etc. Explain that life is about choices. If it is important to them to have all the coolest, name-brand clothes, then they'll have to take money from the entertainment budget to put it toward those purchases.
This should accomplish two things. First, it will teach them the concept of living within a budget. Second, you will get a true read on how important it was for them to have those articles of clothing. If you see that they decided to forgo the "Adidas" sneakers (mentioned above) for the movies, then you know that the clothing selection was only important to them when it was purchased with your money.
And instead of being a parent who just doesn't understand, you will be one who gives their child a choice.
Tom Henske, a Westport resident and partner with Lenox Advisors, a wealth management firm with offices in New York City and Stamford, developed the Lenox Money-Smart Kids Program in conjunction with MassMutal Financial Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org