A Parent's Dilemma: “My friends have cooler clothes.”

A Parent's Dilemma: “My friends have cooler clothes.”


It’s a lament every parent hates to hear, and yet most do: “My friends have better clothes.” Or vacations, or cars, or notebooks. Whatever the category at hand, comparison has a way of creeping into a pre-teen’s psyche and spreading discontent like mold.

Empathy may come easier than you think.

As an adult, you know that the brand on a sweatshirt doesn’t actually matter. Or do you? Before writing your child’s complaints off as nonsense, consider the ways comparison whispers into your own mind. Perhaps it’s the car you drive, the lawn you mow, or the clubs you join. Keeping up with the Joneses isn’t just for kids. Most of us are guilty of letting our peers--or rivals--dictate what we need or want.

As Dave Ramsey recently tweeted, “Most of us use money we don’t have to buy things we don’t need to impress people we don’t like. Let’s stop that.”

So before you tell your son or daughter they’re being unreasonable, look in the mirror and explain how you understand what they feel, regardless of your plans to appease it.

Dig for the deeper issue.

As with most money issues, “my friends have cooler clothes” is likely rooted in deeper insecurity. Ask questions to find out what’s going on behind the scenes. A sure way to make their insecurity grow is to fuel it with shame. Instead, seek to understand their feelings and any bigger issues at hand. These questions are a good place to start:

    Are kids saying things about your clothes?

    Do the other kids seem to be more popular than you?

    Do you feel excluded?

    Are you being bullied?

When a child feels heard, they’re more likely to listen to what their parent has to say.

Lay out some options.

Once you’ve gotten to the root, get practical. Regardless of your family’s financial situation, spending money to solve emotional problems is a bad habit to start. Instead, lay out some practical options:

Make money to buy the clothes you want

The most practical option is to encourage your teen to make money to buy the things they want. Perhaps you have a special set of chores they can complete to earn some spending money, or if they’re old enough, they can apply for an after-school job. When they see the number of hours that logo-emblazoned sweatshirt will take to pay off, they might see their current wardrobe in a whole new light. And if not, they’ll have earned the funds to pay for a replacement.

Trade in your clothes at a consignment shop

Consignment stores like Buffalo Exchange and Plato’s Closet take unwanted clothing and turn it into store credit or cash. All of those “not cool for school” clothes? Your choosey child can swap ‘em for what they really want.

Get different friends

Here’s the option that’s sure to get an eye roll from your teen and a “You were right, dad,” years down the road. If your child feels ostracised for the things they wear, it’s their friends that need changing, not their clothing. But good luck communicating that one, mom.


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