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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Handling Our Kids’ Craze with Brand Names (By Anshu Basnyat, LCPC)

     This is a conversation that is long overdue! I am writing this post at 1:00 am Saturday morning because I couldn’t fall asleep as I lay in bed reflecting on this topic. Feel free to take it as evidence of how committed I am to my mission to empower parents everywhere. Moreover, it seems this has been the topic of conversation everywhere I go this week!

     On Monday, I am doing a presentation at my daughter’s school and this was a hot topic. Tuesday, I’m teaching a class at a nonprofit organization on bullying prevention and intervention, again this is becomes a lively discussion. Between Wednesday and Thursday, I cannot tell you how many times I turned on the radio or television, and it’s on my face. Lastly, on Friday I’m at a friend’s house for dinner and again, another engaging conversation ensues.  If you have tweens and teens, this is an issue facing everyone regardless of gender, socioeconomic status, or culture.  People have been asking my opinion about this issue and so here it goes.

     Our children, particularly our tweens and teens, are encountering this craze in the schools. In turn, this is causing a very different kind of craze in their homes. Both the kids and parents are placed in a very tough situation, especially for those families who are having difficulty making ends meet.  Kids are begging their parents to buy the $100 pair of sneakers, $200 UGG boots, $200 iPhone, or whatever.  In response, parents are giving in, trying every trick they can think of to resist this madness, or contemplating whether they ought to just buy it for their thirteen year old kid.  So, how did we get to this point?

     We, as a society, created this social issue. At the risk of sounding hypocritical, I will just put it out there that, yes, I do enjoy my iPad 2 and iPhone. However, as a professional adult, I feel I have earned the privilege to own these products to carry out my professional and adult daily responsibilities. A thirteen year old has not. By the same token, I do not feel the child asking for these things is being a spoiled brat. My humble opinion points to three contributing factors: consumerism, branding, and social modeling.

     We are bombarded with consumerism. Buy,buy, buy. Bigger is better. Retail therapy. These are the messages, we as consumers, get when we turn on the television, radio, or surf the Internet. Shopping has become our favorite pastime.  Every time I go to the mall, seeing the parking lots full and a mob of people everywhere, I think to myself: “Are we really in an economic downfall?” In 2010, I returned to the States having lived in Australia for one year and I remember the first day I visited the Giant supermarket like it was yesterday. It was an incredibly, overwhelming experience because of all the choices we had. There, if I wanted to buy orange juice, just walked into Woolies or Coles and picked one from a few selections. Here, there are atleast ten different kinds of orange juice on the shelf! We will not even get into the “middle aisles.”

     Branding has infiltrated our children’s minds.  Please do not get me wrong. I have nothing against brand names, except when it breaks the bank and does something rather puzzling to our children’s brains.  For this reason alone, I love using the “On Demand” and “DVR” features with my kids. We can fast forward the commercials to minimize branding. This possibly creates another problem, immediate gratification, but we will talk about that another time.

     Lastly, social modeling is when our children witness the adults they love and admire so much become obsessed with brand names themselves. This will impact our kids in ways that we do not want them to.  This does not mean we should not purchase brand names. Rather, use caution and consider what messages we may be sending to our kids. If I can get an Adidas outfit for my son for only ten bucks at Costco, you bet I’ll grab it!  Model smart shopping habits and your child will learn smart shopping habits.
Feel free to share this post up to this point with your tween or teen. Do not share the strategies below.  

Cautionary note: Do not use them all at the same time unless you absolutely have to. Listen to what is the root issue your child is dealing with and use the Talk that would best support your argument.  
5 Strategies to Handle Brand Names Craze:

1.    The Self-esteem Talk. Cultivating a healthy self-esteem is at the core of diminishing the the obsession with brand names. Brand names symbolize importance and power. Talk to them about what is in the inside is more important than what is in the outside.  Tweens and teens who have high self-esteem are better equipped to ward off these peer pressures.

2.    The True Friends Talk. If your child worries that he or she will not be liked because they don’t wear brand names then you need to have this talk. It may go something like this: “Honey, you are a great person and I love you no matter what. If your friends do not like you for who you are then you might want to reconsider whether you want them as friends. It is their loss, not yours.”

3.    The Financial Talk. Our culture has encouraged spending beyond our means mindset for too long. We have to take ownership and be responsible in changing this dangerous way of thinking. Suze Orman, a financial guru you may have heard of, has recently changed her motto from "staying within your means" to "staying below your means" in money management. If you cannot afford whatever your child wants, then research together how much it would cost to get that item.  Then explain to them that the family budget does not allow this expense. Additionally, I strongly believe in the principle “Just because you can doesn’t mean you have to.”  

4.    The Need vs. Want Talk. As a parent, you need to provide shoes for your child, but not a pair that costs $100.  Openly talk about what we need versus what we want in our lives. By all means, have this self-talk when you get the urge to splurge.

5.    The It’s Not Going to Happen Talk. If all else fails, and your child will not let up then you just have to hold your ground. Be firm and let them know it just is not going to happen. If you cave in, not only is your credibility at stake, but their demands will get bigger and bigger.  If you happen to give in, don’t fret because another opportunity will arise for you to stand your ground. If your child argues that you bought it last time, then you simply say that “it was a mistake then and it will not happen this time.” This is an opportunity to teach a very valuable lesson about money management and that we do not always get what we want in life. Entitlement is not a healthy trait!

1 comment:

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