QUESTION: We have two children who are 10 and 12. Now that we’re getting ready for the new school season, we’re buying them school clothes and school supplies. Until now there wasn’t a problem. They’re asking for expensive brands that are just not in our budget. We think the clothes we buy them are nice and we let them choose what they want. This year has been a battle.
Is there a way to get around this? Both of us came from impoverished homes and were happy to have clean clothes to wear. Please suggest some ways to help them understand what is really important.
~ Thrifty Parents
Dear Thrifty Parents,
I completely hear where you are coming from. The way we were raised gives us a lens with which we view life. Having grown up in poverty you view having a certain level or type of clothing as necessary, not brand names.
Once our children become a certain age it is developmentally normal for them to desire to socially fit in. This is a psychological and sociological fact. I honestly do not believe I, or anyone, can help you change your children’s minds on what is important. You can help them by letting them know you understand the importance of fitting in at this age (so they feel heard) and tell them the amount you have in your budget to spend. Then it is time to get creative!
Perhaps they get one pair of designer jeans and shoes and you then purchase inexpensive plain T-shirts at Target. We are in an era where so much is sold online. Look online where people sell their gently used name brand clothes and shoes. This is a very popular way of finding inexpensive designer items.
Having worked with young people for over 25 years, teens become more reasonable when they feel heard. Invite them to work with you to look online to find items that excite them. Why buy new when something has been worn once or twice and is a fourth of the price?
I hope this helps. Raising preteens and teens can be our most difficult parenting years. When I work with parents, I always suggest they meet their teen where the child is at: seeing things how their teen see it. When children feel heard they are much more willing to listen and work with their parents.
Rev. Kimberlie Zakarian, Licensed Psychotherapist
Dear Thrifty Parents:
We live in a comparison culture where children are exposed through the media to all kinds of opportunity to compare your/their lifestyle with others. Hopefully, as young as your children are, they don’t spend a large amount of time staring at a screen scrolling through social media. But obviously by their comments they have a pretty good idea of what other parents are buying their kids. It’s important at this juncture in their life that you clearly establish that you are not in a race to keep up with others when it comes to material things, that the comparison trap is just that – a snare that will rob them of contentment in life.
Jesus spoke a lot about our fixation on the things of this life in the Sermon on the Mount. He said things like: “…I tell you not to worry about everyday life – whether you have enough food and drink or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?” And: “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be” Matthew 6:21-25 (NLT). Let your pre-teens know that contentment begins in their heart not in their outward appearance or comparing themselves to others.
You don’t indicate in your letter whether or not you give your children an allowance based on chores they do around the house like taking out the trash, cleaning their room or mowing the grass. But it is important as young as they are that they develop a sense of what things cost. If they are spending money that they have earned they are more apt to understand the value of a dollar and what it takes to earn one. And, as they are able to spend that money, you can teach them how to weigh decisions and understand the possible outcomes. For instance, you might say, “If you buy that video game, then you won’t have the money to buy that pair of shoes.”
Another financial teaching tool is to show them how, even as an adult, you have to save money in order to make purchases. That also means that you need to avoid impulse buying or quickly throwing down a credit card anytime you want something. And once they start making a little money, be sure to teach them about giving. They can give to the church you attend or even someone they know who needs a little help.
Eventually they will see how giving doesn’t just affect the people they give to, but the giver as well. Your children are still at a moldable but crucial age. Use this time to teach them the values that will help them make good choices for the rest of their lives.
Pastor Randy Foster
QUESTION: There are three of us couples who get together about once a month or every six weeks. All three husbands are engineers who work together. We wives have repeatedly asked the guys to not talk shop because we don’t get to see each other that often. Our asking hasn’t helped.
After the last dinner we hosted and dessert was served, the guys once again began talking about work challenges. One woman got up from the table, went into the living room and began thumbing through a magazine. That didn’t stop the conversation among the guys.
We wives enjoy getting together if the conversation didn’t fall by the wayside and lapse into conversations we don’t understand. We’re even thinking of having our own dinners.
Is there a “once and for all” something we can say for them to be inclusive in their conversations?
~ We Three Wives
Dear We Three Wives,
As I see it, there’s good news and bad news in this scenario. The good news is that your group has cohesion and the ability to enjoy each other’s company. The really good news is that you Three Wives enjoy spending time together, which creates a wonderful dynamic when the six of you meet.
The bad news is that sometimes work issues supersede pleasurable repartee when there is a shared interest, work experience, or goal among several, but not all, of the guests. If your husbands have significant work challenges or concerns or share successes, you may have some trouble redirecting their conversation to be more inclusive.
Scripture illuminates the power of a faithful wife:
“He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord” Proverbs 18:22 (NKJV).
“Houses and riches are an inheritance from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord” Proverbs 19:14 (NKJV). “Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies”
Proverbs 31:10 (NKJV).
Scripture further indicates the responsibilities of an attentive husband:
“Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered”
1 Peter 3:7 (NKJV).
Scripture also summarizes the couple’s covenant agreement:
“Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband” 1 Corinthians 7:3 (NKJV).
One option would be to gain agreement, separately between each couple, before the gatherings, that work banter would be off-limits. These efforts could be followed by a collective agreement in which the group determines to expand the conversation base to include more generalized interests. Perhaps there could be a theme or agreed upon discussion topic that is determined prior to the event so preparation could be made. It might, however, be prudent to steer clear of issues that might cause discord. The themes could range from favorite travel spots or hobbies to fun stories about how you met your respective spouse or business associate.
Another idea would be to plan gatherings in places that have distinct and different elements that become a part of the dining experience. The thought of a new cuisine concept, like Ethiopian or Brazilian food, or creative venues, such as a live performance, that would change the group experience or dynamic comes to mind.
If none of these suggestions are appealing, you may need to plan for the “shop talk” and simply enjoy your time together as We Three Wives. Maybe you share the meal as a group and then the three of you retire to another room for a game or chat, exclusive of the menfolk. Whereas that’s not the real goal, your efforts may preserve your time together. And who knows? The men may be so curious about where you ladies disappear to that they follow you to find out!
I hope you’re able to find something in here that speaks to you and that you discover an amicable resolution.
Be well & be blessed!
Dear We Three Wives,
It almost sounds like the beginning of a Christmas carol! But seriously …
First of all, I am sorry that your husbands won’t honor your request that they don’t talk shop during your dinners or other meals together. I had to laugh, however, when you said that all three were engineers! Part of me wanted to say, “What do you expect?” (If there are any engineers reading this, please don’t be offended. It’s simply that the three husbands are behaving in the stereotypical way that so many people think engineers behave.)
My suggestion is that the three women have lunch or dinner together one time, not necessarily to make a point but to get said to each other what you want to share – and maybe you can even suggest to the men that they have a meal together without the three wives. I don’t think there is any “once and for all” thing you can say to make them get the point.
By the way, I have been accused on occasion by my wife for talking shop with another minister when we had some guests over to our house. When you enjoy what you do making a living it is very hard to keep from talking about what you love to do. So I would advise that you keep trying to have them not talk shop … but also be prepared to have a “ladies night out.” If you three do that once or twice, maybe the men will get the hint. Be hopeful and optimistic … but don’t hold your breath!
The Rev. C. L. “Skip” Lindeman