Thursday, October 30, 2008

What Do Our Kids REALLY Need?

An interesting letter appeared today on YeshivaWorldNews, penned by a "Chana L" looking for advice as a parent. Specifically, she's looking for advice on how to allow her kids to keep up with the Jones' kids.

Here are some relevant excerpts from her letter:

Parents that have been blessed with wealth certainly have every right to spend it how they see fit, and if they choose to purchase Juicy pajamas for their daughter for $150, kol hakavod. It is their money. Quite frankly it is none of my business and I do not resent it in any way.

My issue however is what has been going on recently with both girls AND BOYS alike as far as brand name clothing is concerned. Many of us do not realize that many sixth and seventh grade girls are going to school with $175 knapsacks. Sweatshirts that run $75 a piece, and can’t be worn more than once a month. I recall being in school and wearing the same pair of school shoes all winter. Now the girls need their Ugg boots ($110), and three pairs of shoes.

Many high school boys are now wearing ties that I am told run upwards of $150. That is correct…..$150. Their glasses (and g-d forbid you should only have one pair) are all designer names many of which I have never ever heard of. Belts can run over $200 and yet somehow so many of these yeshiva bochurim have them.

She then follows this up with the "parent's lament" of stating that she'd really like to say "no" to her kids, but she's afraid that they'll be ostracized, shunned and forever scarred for life if they can't be like their peers. (Okay, she didn't use those terms, but that's the sentiment). She also seems to think that most of the people who say "no" don't have school age kids.

For what it's worth, the first commenter gave the best and most succienct answer you could ask for -- just say "no."

Well, here's my two cents -- and I have three older school age kids. Just say "no."

*No one* (and I don't care if you're Donald Trump, the President of the U.S., etc.) *needs* a $150 tie. *No one* needs a $200 belt. No one *needs* Ugg boots (who would want to wear something called "Ugg" anyway?) or sweatshirts that can't be worn more than once a month (what are those anyway?). Your job, as a parent, is to see that their *needs* are met, not their wants.

I'll make two points about keeping up with the Joneses' kids:

1. If the Joneses' kids are going to make fun of your kids because their not wearing $150 ties and $200 belts, then I think your kids need new friends. How a person deals with others who are less fortunate than themselves says a lot about their character. Do you want your kids to hang around with people who snobbishly look down at others, or do you want your kids to hang around with other kids who value people for who they are and not what designer labels they are wearing?

2. While saying no to your kids in the short run may make you unpopular, in the long run, you will be doing a great service to your kids. You will be teaching them the meaning of fiscal responsibility. You will be teaching them to learn to live within their means. You will be teaching them that it is far more important to enjoy what you have, rather than be envious of what other people have.

So, Chana, my advice to you is to do the right thing. Just say no.

The Wolf

Related Post: Living In One's Means - A Letter From the Yated


ProfK said...

I don't agree that this is a kids' problem at the root; this is children imitating the behavior of the adults around them. Sixth graders are not paying for their own clothes; their parents are paying for them. So while Chana says that "Quite frankly it is none of my business and I do not resent it in any way" she is contradicting herself. She resents the position her children have been put in by the way that rich parents spend on their children and worries about the social ramifications if she says no.

Me, personally, I don't believe that parents with money--and many without sufficient money as well--have the right to spend it in any way they want when one of those ways is sure to raise kinah in the children who come in contact with the "rich" kid. Spending $200 on a belt for a young kid is surely not following the Rambam's "shvil zahav." Ostentation is not a positive midah to be encouraging. And before someone else smirks and says that is a "have not" who is jealous of a "have," my family falls on the side of the "haves," and I don't indulge in that kind of destructive behavior nor have I ever encouraged it in my children by letting unbridled lust dictate my spending. I wasn't raised that way and I thank God for parents who embued their children with a sense of self worth that is not dependent on the latest designer doodad.

Leah Goodman said...

Just say no isn't the full answer. It's an essential part of the answer.

When your kid comes to you and says "I have to have Uggs boots" (for example) then you shouldn't dismiss them. You should use the opportunity to discuss the difference between Uggs boots, knockoffs, and other boots. Are they more attractive? more comfortable? Do they warrant the difference in price?

Usually, if the issue is discussed in terms of facts, and the child's feelings are validated, then even though the eventual outcome is still no, hopefully you and your child can still live with each other, and maybe your child can live with him/herself better.

You might also find that sometimes your child's request for a more expensive item is justified, or you might find that there's a way to get it or something similar at a reasonable price.

(for example, if my parents had sat down and worked it out, they would have realized that a Land's End or LL Bean backpack could be cheaper in the long run than buying the cheap ones at Wal-Mart and replacing them each year)

If your child earns their own money, that can also be a partial solution.

Commenter Abbi said...

Honestly, this is neverending. If, by the time you have teenaged kids you haven't figured out that you need to set limits if you want them to turn out at least semi-normal, than there's really little hope for you as a parent (obviously not you, Wolf.

I remember peer pressure as a kid, mostly at camp (having to have the right sweatshirt, the right Swatch, etc). But the most expensive thing was the sweatshirts, which I think ran $40 in the 1980's. $200 belts are ridiculous.

There will be always people who buy things beyond your means. You owe it to your child to learn how to deal with these people, without putting yourself in debt.

Anonymous said...

When one comes upon the first mention of clothing in the Torah,he/she sees that clothing came to mankind as a result of sin and shame when Adam and Eve disobeyed God. Fancy clothing should not be such a source of pride any more than wearing a necklace with a gold calf charm on it.

The Hedyot said...

Putting aside the incompetence of the parent, to me this is just more evidence of how conformity is all that matters in the yeshivish world. She points the fingers at the kids who feel a need to keep up, but I suspect it's her that doesn't want to seem out of it by her own friends when they get together for their shabbos afternoon shbatzeers.

Mikeinmidwood said...

There is absolutely no way people are buying their kids these 200$ belts and ties if their are than these kids are going to a rich yeshiva and if you cant afford this then why are you sending them to a rich yeshiva.

Anonymous said...


"No one *needs* Ugg boots"

my wife, who is by no means a spendthrift, swears by them


"If, by the time you have teenaged kids you haven't figured out that you need to set limits . . . than there's really little hope"

agreed. reminds me of a story about the mother who goes to a rabbi and begs him to do something to stop her kid from intermarrying. the rabbi responds that the mother never sent him to a jewish school, brought him to shul, etc. what can he do about it now?


"if you cant afford this then why are you sending them to a rich yeshiva."

benefit of the doubt: the education is better
no benefit of the doubt: social-communal pressure or better prospects for a shidduch

Anonymous said...

Nothing new here. I recall back in the mid-70's every boy in Chaim Berlin had to have a "Pierre Cardin" suit -- and G-d help you if it didn't come with a matching vest. Of course I stood out like a sore thumb with my lizard-green leisure suit.

Besides, I wonder how many fathers of these $200-belt wearing boys are now sitting in jail for crimes like fraud?

Anonymous said...

Quoting commenter ABBI- " If, by the time you have teenaged kids you haven't figured out that you need to set limits if you want them to turn out at least semi-normal" If I may expand a little, I would like to say that in my opinion, A parent cannot say No if the children never saw their parents sacrificing, themselves. That means, when it comes to making a kiddush in shul, the children should hear the parents discussing in the kitchen how that eventhough many kiddeishim have cholent, since were in a tight situation we'll make a kiddush with just herring and cake. If the mommy has to have a new shabbos robe every season then how can the teenager be denied her own wants? I also think that when kids see adults complimenting each other on their new tie and turning it around to see the label has a profound affect on their young minds. What in heavens name are we teaching our kids? It seems that we lost touch with why we are here and what we need to be doing, if we care enough to turn around this other guys tie to see what name is attached to it. It's laughable, it's sad and what it really is, is a CHOSHECH that has descended upon our nation. Spending $150 on a tie?! That is plain and simple GAiVa!