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How can we avoid the back-to-school shopping "brand-name blues?"

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Clothing items with certain brands or labels seem to promise a more exciting, fun life. Children can easily feel deprived if they don’t have things they see in the media or things they think their friends will have. Consider these tips when back-to-school shopping.

Approach children with choices appropriate to their age and understanding. For example, brand name awareness is especially prevalent when buying shoes. With preschool children you can say, “Here are two great pairs of shoes. Which pair do you want?” With elementary school children you can set an amount of money and say, “Let’s go to the store and choose a pair in this range.” For teens you might say, “I’m willing to spend ‘x’ amount for shoes. If you want something more than that, you will need to pay the difference.” Help children distinguish between wants and needs. If there is something they want that you don’t approve of, be truthful. Instead of saying “I can’t afford that,” say “I’m not willing to spend my money that way.” Talk about quality versus price. To help teach this, have children do comparison shopping for something they don't care about, such as canned vegetables. Show them that a store brand, with equal nutrition and value, costs less than a name brand. Compare this to other things they care about, where the brand name increases the price without necessarily increasing the quality.

Give older children a clothing allowance. Talk with them about planning and projecting their needs and then let them make their choices. Resist your urge to rescue them from poor choices. Talk about what happened and what might work better next time. Require that they have the money saved or have done the required work before they can get the desired item, and stick with your decision. Children need to learn that hassling you will not get them what they want. This will help them learn patience in working for things they want. As parents, be aware of the messages you may be sending about materialism through your own behavior. Children learn values by watching what parents do more than what they say. Point out examples of people around you and in the news who value service and people over materialism.

Posted on 29 Jul 2004

Tom Lee
Family & Consumer Science Program Leader & Department Head, Financial Management Specialist

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