At the Clever Dude blog, Brock asks the question: What would you do if your son dislikes all of the clothes he gets as gifts? She describes her son who is very picky about his clothing, even when they take him along to shop for clothes. He often will say he’ll wear something in the stores, but then leave it on the hanger when he gets home and never wear it. They keep all of the receipts, needing to take things back often. They then worry about what to do when it is hard to take things back. For example, when her mother, his grandmother, buys him two sweatshirts for Christmas to make sure he’ll have one he likes, but then needs to take both back and mail another one that he may or may not like.
Now I’m guessing that if he is this picky about clothing that they aren’t buying him Faded Glory clothes from Wal-Mart. They are probably buying clothes at the specialty stores and spending as much on a shirt for him as I spend on a whole outfit. I’m also guessing that with the friends he has chosen that the labels he wears matter a lot and he is competing with others on clothing. This means his parents are probably spending a lot on clothing for him. Even if they aren’t, if they need to spend several afternoons at the mall, first buying and then returning things, they are wasting a lot of time, and time is money. (Actually, I’ve always been surprised that stores take things back unless there is something wrong with the item. I guess they figure you’ll buy more while you’re there, so it makes up for all of their time taking things back and restocking.)
It sounds to me like the son has a bad case of ingratitude, a disease prevalent among many children today who are overindulged by their parents. (I confess, after hearing my own children complain about having to go to really neat science museum yesterday — complete with rides — instead of being able to sit home that I may be guilty of inflicting he same disease on them in the area of zoos, museums, and science centers.) It was only about five generations ago when many children valued any clothes that they had because they didn’t get a lot of them. A pair of jeans had to last the season, or maybe a year or two, because they would only get a pair or two per year. Getting a new pair of shoes in the fall might have been a big deal for many children.
Today many children are given all of the clothes they want and then some, to the point where they worry about their own “sense of style.” They also don’t tend to take care of their clothes because they know mom and dad will just buy them more. Tore up the new, $60 jeans? Oh well.
Now I agree that children should have a primary say in what they wear after about the age of 8, when they stop wanting to wear a sweater with a pair of shorts to school in September. But still, teaching children that clothes aren’t cheap and getting them to appreciate what they get, not to mention learning that they will have a limited amount of money for things and that there will be clothes they just won’t be able to afford will help them when they become adults and mommy and daddy aren’t there with the credit cards, is important. So what’s the plan?
How about giving them a fixed amount of money each month for clothing. For a middle-class family, something like $50-$100 might be reasonable. Also give them a list of requirements, like they need to have long pants and a jacket for the winters, formal clothes for church and events, and a rain coat and socks. Then, give them a reasonable amount of time to shop for themselves with the understanding that you will not be returning to the store before the next scheduled shopping trip unless there is something physically wrong with the clothes. They have money and they have opportunity. You have done everything needed to be a good parent and clothe your children.
Give them the chance to fail.
Probably one of the toughest things to do as a parent is to see your children struggle and deal with adversity. Yet it is very important for their development that they be allowed to feel a bit of emotional pain for their bad choices. Realize that you’re letting them make bad choices in a controlled environment. It will be more serious when they decide to have a party rather than save their money for the rent and they face eviction when they’re young adults. Bad financial decisions come with consequences, and most financial hardships we face are a result of what we do or fail to do.
If they come home from the mall with nothing, roll the money for the month over to the next (or keep it) and let them wear their old clothes, even if they’re two sizes too small. If they spend all of their money on one outfit because it is just “so cool,” let them show it off and wear it, again and again. If they don’t like what they bought, they can wear it anyway or they can donate it, but they won’t get any more money for clothes until the next month. If they’ve spent most of their money, they can also spend some time at the thrift store looking for replacements, which will teach them both that many people don’t have the ready access to clothes that they have and that clothing yourself need not cost a lot of money. There will be tears and tantrums, but freedom comes with consequences, both good and bad.
Failure is how we learn to not fail in the future when the consequences are graver. Some of the nicest people in the world are enablers, who think that they are helping someone, but really they’re allowing them to maintain a lifestyle that is unsustainable. Giving in to your children’s demands when they are young creates entitled adults who will think Bernie Sanders is a great choice for President. Your adult children need to learn to make enough money for rent and food and budget for these things. They need to figure out how to pay for their own cell phone. Propping them up by paying for their rent or their food so that they can live beyond their means will keep them from learning their financial limits and delay them from finding ways to make more money so that they can afford better things. Starting out by learning how to budget money for clothing, and learning just how much clothes cost, is a good start.
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