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What to Say When Your Child Must Have That Dress

What if you're unable or unwilling to drop fifty bucks on a single outfit? If you just say no to the long list of must haves, will your child, and/or your relationship with your child suffer? Patricia Adler, co-author of a new book, Peer Power: Preadolescent Culture and Identity, advises parents to convey a sense of respect when dealing with their preteen's obsession with clothes and appearance.

When kids say they have to have it or they'll die, there's a certain validity to that, says Adler, referring to peer pressure. Cliques are no longer just a high school phenomenon the way they were when today's parents were kids. They start in third grade, and gel in fourth. It's certainly reflected in the different clothes they wear.

Rather than deliver an autocratic, "You're not wearing that," Adler suggests:

  • Talking with kids about the family budget.

  • Allowing the child to make the choice within a spending list.

  • Vetoing choices only if the clothing is too provocative.

    Be Media Conscious
    Other ideas from The Center for a New American Dream:

  • Consider watching less TV. Kids (and adults) desire for clothes and other products comes not only from ads but also from fictional characters. Your daughter wants a sweater just like Buffy the Vampire' s, you want a couch like the one you see on Friends.

  • Get Back to the 60s and question authority (not the government's, the media's!) Ask kids questions about the ads you both see. Why did they choose such a skinny model, what does smoking have to do with horses, etc.

  • Find ways to tell kids you value them for who they are, not what they have. With girls especially, lavish attention on their brains and behavior, not their looks.

  • Rethink your own attitudes about work. Are you spending less time with your kids in order to give them more things? What does your family really need? What can you live without?
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