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Pressure on kids to be "cool" conflicting with parenting values

post #1 of 76
Thread Starter 
We are relatively strict parents and limit a lot of things that kids tend to brag about to each other. For instance, DD does not have a video game system, an iPod, a TV in her room, an Ipad, handheld gaming system, etc. She does not watch TV really at all (a few movies). She does not eat many treats or get junk in her lunch. Her allowance is small and she goes to bed early (by necessity--she wakes up super early no matter what and shr really needs her sleep). We also live on a pretty strict budget and don't "splash out" on "stuff" or trips or parties.

It has come to my attention recently that this leaves DD with nothing to "brag" about with other kids. This hasn't been a huge deal before because we run with similar people and DD's former school had similar demographics, but she is transferring to a more mainstream school, and these issues did come up this summer at camp.

I am pretty darn committed to these values, but I do find myself feeling some sympathy with DD when she talks about how other kids show off their iPads, brag about how they get to stay up late and watch whatever they want, go to Disneyworld all the time, etc. It's not that I have any plans to change our life so that we are like this, but I do realize this puts her out in the cold a little. She feels somewhat excluded and "odd" in some kid circles.

Thoughts? Can anyone empathize? I am trying to think of a few ways we can bend so she has some "kid currency," but am not sure what. We do have a Wii, but all we have on it is WiiFit (which she likes, but I doubt it's "cool" material). I am pretty laissez-faire on clothes and appearance, but her new school has a uniform, so that's kind of out. I was thinking of letting her dye her hair some weird color, something she has occasionally brought up. Or maybe she's ready to pierce her ears, which she's also asked to do (I hesitate only because I'm not sure she's ready to take care of pierced ears yet).

I guess some part of me is trying to come up with something she can say when the other kids are going "My mom and dad let me..." smile.gif I know that's a little silly!
post #2 of 76
Wow, those are some spoiled 7 year olds! An Ipad? Really? That is insane for a kid that age. Those things are $300+ for refurbished ones! I want one for myself , but refuse to afford it. I cannot imagine giving one to a 7-10 year old.

I dont think its cool to brag or encourage bragging, but I can see (as I grew up as the poor kid on the block) that it makes a kid feel really left out when other kids have/do stuff that your DD doesnt have or cant do. I would probably bend and get another Wii game (I mean if you already have the system....), let her get her ears pierced if she wants, maybe get her an mp3 player so she can listen to music and audiobooks?
For me, it was always little things like how all my friends saw a movie in the theater and I had to wait until it came out on video. Id probably make sure she got to see a movie in the theater on Sunday matinee (and we'd bring in our healthy snacks undercover).
post #3 of 76
Thread Starter 
Yeah, I thought the iPad was a bit nuts! This was at camp, which was 7-13, so it was probably an older kid, but still.

Anyway, yeah, you hear me. I don't want her to feel like the poor relation or the kids whose parents are zero fun.

Maybe I need to think of ways to be more...safely zany or something. Fun surprises. Harmless goofiness. Occasional nutty rule-breaking. Like...what...having ice cream sundaes for dinner? Maybe something like that?

I would love it if other parents with similar beliefs/values would sorta brainstorm with me.
post #4 of 76

Well my dd is your dd's age (well, slightly younger but same grade age) and she doesn't even have a Wii.  I am totally on the same page as you.  She does have some friends who have their own handheld gaming thingies, but I don't know of any classmates with iPads (!).  I think a lot (most) kids in her class probably watch a lot more tv than her, and she is sometimes left in the cold with certain movie references (mostly things that she chooses not to watch because she feels they would be too scary for her).


I'm up for brainstorming ideas with you, but am feeling pretty brain dead at the moment.  I'll be watching this thread for ideas though, as I sometimes worry about the same sorts of things in regards to my dd.  Like you I'm not about to go out and buy her every extravagant gadget or do away with bedtime, but I don't want her growing up feeling like an outsider/weirdo or something.

post #5 of 76
Well you could get a regular iPod, and not an iPod touch. Some iPods don't have games on them, in which case it's just for music and audio books. It's basically like a Walkman was when we were kids. You're trying to avoid screen time it sounds like, so that kind of an iPod would seem to potentially fit into where you are?
post #6 of 76
Oh I'll add where we are. No way would I spend as much as an iPad costs on a kid. My dd does have use of a computer sometimes, we have a wii we got as a gift and a few games but it doesn't get used much, we have a very old DS that I had for myself on a long trip that has ended up being used by dd but also doesn't get used much, and she does watch some TV but has little interest. IMO there's room for moderation, but YMMV.
post #7 of 76
Thread Starter 
An IPod still seems like an expensive and delicate thing to give a 7yo, to me (arent they at least $100?). She isn't a careful kid and tends towards spacey...she would be pretty likely to step on it, lose it, etc. If I thought she really desperately wanted one it might be different, but she isn't even into pop music (well, uh, we don't listen to the radio, either, except NPR). Mainly she just likes the idea of having a cool "device."

She is allowed to use the computer, but her time is limited and it's definitely our computer, not hers.
post #8 of 76

Hi Guys!  Sorry to thread crash, but I thought you might be interested in reading "Bringing up Geeks" by Marybeth Hicks.  It's basically the EXACT issue you're having, and her take on it (which, to summarize, is that "geeks", or the "uncool kids with uncool parents" are actually better off for it).  


Hope that helps!  I don't agree with EVERYTHING written in the book; she seems a bit inflexible on most things.  But it's definitely an interesting read, and one that I'm glad I read.



post #9 of 76

loraxc: sometimes it fun to let the kids pick the meal. We did backwords day one time and had dinner stuff and ice cream in the morning, then like tacos or something for lunch and breakfast for dinner. We all wore our clothes backwords, 'yes' was 'no' and 'no' was 'yes'. It was super silly and we all talked about it for weeks and weeks.


Maybe let her stay up late one night and have a 'dance party'. Put on some favorite music and dance your pants off! 


Go exploring somewhere new. Go check out a new town, go hike somewhere different, learn about a new country (cook some food native to their land, learn to speak some of their language, watch a cartoon from there). 


We also really like to build stuff. Maybe a catapult would be fun to build (for outside play if you like). Do some tie-dye. Sew something. 


Start a fund for a special trip. Put all of your loose pocket change in a jar and ask DD if she'd like to do some chores she doesn't normally do to earn some money for the jar. Then when you have enough money go to an amusement park or out to a movie or for dinner or whatever she wants. Right now we're saving for horseback riding and for Hawaii! 

post #10 of 76

I got my 8 year old an ipod shuffle ...was 46 at target and he has to give it to me when he isn't using it because he would lose it in a heartbeat ...you could also look on apples site at refurbished ipods

post #11 of 76

Just some perspective as I think it is common to see only glimpses of peoples' lives:  my firm gave each of us of an I-Pad for a holiday gift last year.  DD plays with it more than any of us, and sometimes I'll take it on the subway with us as she likes to practice 'typing' and stuff.  While appearances may suggest that she's a 4.5 year old toting I-Padder,  the reality is is that it is a family device and we try to use it to our advantage.  An expensive toy?  Yes.  But it has also come in very handy.  


I guess overall, though, we're not hugely materialistic and we're surrounded by folks who spend a lot on electronics and whatnot.  I think the thing that has worked for us so far (although I'm sure it is going to be much tougher when DD is a teenager) is the fine art of distraction.  DH and I are exhausted most of the time with this method but finding creative, fun things to do with DD has helped us with these various hurdles.  One thing I do spend a lot of money on are art supplies, tools, musical instruments, stuff that one must use with one's hands.  One could say that these sort of things would add up to the expense of an I-Pad.  Figure in the cost of musical instruments, on-going art supplies, etc. and essentially I've bought several I-Pads over the years.  I guess it is all about where you set your priorities.  DD seems satisfied with that so far, and it is helpful to reinforce her successes in these areas.


We do allow DD appropriate computer time and honestly I would rather she explore on the computer than watch television or some other passive activity.  

post #12 of 76
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the book rec, HopefullyMama!

smilingsara, I LOVE those suggestions. Man, I am so much less fun than I used to be. Old and tired, I guess.

I do sometimes try to do secret things with her that DS is too young for, or sorta too young for. Like, we woke her up late at night to watch fireworks and left him in bed. I keep meaning to do a big-kid movienight. I want to let her stay up as late as she wants on her birthday, too.

Catscradle, it isn't so much that she needs ways to be entertained. She's really good at entertaining herself with books, art materials, pretend play, games, ect (I of course like to think that this is because we so drastically limit screen time). It's really more the peer pressure/peer currency thing at school.
post #13 of 76

loraxc, I was thinking some more! Do a 'spa day' with her. Paint your nails, do homemade facials, do your hair and then have a photo shoot! 


Also, at Lowe's just about every other week they do kids workshops where you build stuff. You sign them up online and then just show up and follow the directions. Its free and a fun way to spend an hour (if the store is close to you). Is there a farmer's market you guys can do your shopping at? 


How about going to a thrift store and letting her spend 5 dollars and pick out a new 'fun' outfit, anything she wants?! 


We also LOVE to freezer paper things onto our plain shirts, pants, and even other clothing. We do it a bit differently than that site. We trace whatever we want off of the internet (or the kids free draw it). Then we trace that onto the freezer paper. Cut it out with your exacto knife, iron that onto the clothing and paint your fabric paint on. After it dries, peel the paper off, put the clothing in the dryer for about 15 minutes and its ready to wear! Here's an example: IMG_0798 2.jpg I guarantee her clothes will be the coolest clothes on the block after that! 


Scavenger hunts are fun too! If you decide to do the freezer paper thing or something, hide it in the house and give her clues that make her think to find it and then do the project! 


That's all I've got for now. If I think of more, I'll report back!

post #14 of 76
Originally Posted by loraxc View Post

Catscradle, it isn't so much that she needs ways to be entertained. She's really good at entertaining herself with books, art materials, pretend play, games, ect (I of course like to think that this is because we so drastically limit screen time). It's really more the peer pressure/peer currency thing at school.

No, I totally understand where you coming from, my own DD is just not an age where we've had to deal with that (although a lot of her preschooler friends have made trips to Disney World, and she expresses and interest but we quickly change the subject).  


I can only speak from my experiences as a young adult/teen growing up in the 70s (for all the youngsters out there...this issue is not new...just different stuff and different technology).  My parents were very upper middle class, but they were very strict with regard to acquisition of stuff.  Maybe this would sound harsh to a lot of mainstreamers out there, but my mom and dad made it a rule that anything I wanted beyond necessities and holiday gifts was strictly my own responsibility.  I got bitter every  now and then, but it gave me a lot of drive.  I became a penny pincher and found ways to earn money and saved the money I got as gifts.  My initial goal was to keep up with the proverbial teen Jones...but once I had amassed a small fortune (for a teen), I had matured in a lot of ways and found that the stuff I had previously wanted was outdated or I had lost interest.  There were definitely growing pains (the pain of feeling different or deprived or whatever).  Although I disagree with a lot of parents' other parenting techniques, this one area was really good for me.  Maybe I felt like a loser at the time but then again, I knew that I had to achieve certain goals to get where I wanted.  In the end, I wanted something different.  Funny how things work out!


post #15 of 76

What about pets? Currently, we just have fish, but in the past, cool animal experiences have been pretty useful for DD as "kid currency." During this past school year, we rescued an abandoned litter of kittens. It was a great experience for her. She took some pictures to school with her and her friends thought it was pretty cool. She was excited about them long after they found homes. At a recent play date, the most exciting attraction in the house was not a gadget, but the girl's hamster. Fostering for the local shelter could be awesome if you're open to having animals.


Fun trips (even small ones) can also be brag-worthy. Think week end camping or hikes. Maybe putting in some volunteer time at a local wild life sanctuary.

post #16 of 76
Thread Starter 
snilingsara--Yes, I was thinking some kind of spa day type of thing as well...well, or just letting her paint her fingernails, which I have also resisted. After some thought I am okay with that.

Love the freezer paper thing. We have fabric markers and I do let her draw on her jeans with them (wait, I AM fun!), but alas, she can't wear those to school. She is very artsy and artistic and has a unique sense of style.

Love your energy and ideas. smile.gif
. My parents were very upper middle class, but they were very strict with regard to acquisition of stuff. Maybe this would sound harsh to a lot of mainstreamers out there, but my mom and dad made it a rule that anything I wanted beyond necessities and holiday gifts was strictly my own responsibility.

It's funny you mention this. I also grew up in an upper-middle class home where my parents did not buy me a lot of stuff and where I had to earn my own money for frivolities or go without. I think this was very good for me (and believe me, my parents made a lot of mistakes).
post #17 of 76
Thread Starter 
Pets--she does have a pet fish, but that's not thrilling, really, although she was super psyched to get it. We also have a snake. Fostering is a neat idea, but we have a cat who hates other cats and we don't really do dogs. However, she loves animals, and this is a good one to think about. We have been considering getting chickens.

I also am wondering if we could cool-ify our back yard some more. Honestly, it is kinda cool already--she has her own garden, a tree fort, a trapeze, a swing...but we could up the ante, maybe. I would love to get a tire swing or a zip line...

In general, we are pro-mess and pro-chaos. That could count in our favor. wink1.gif I wish I had room for a workshop area for her. Hmm..maybe teaching her to use hand tools and build stuff...she also wants to learn to cook, which we are working on...
post #18 of 76
One thing I wanted to add is that the kids whose parents always hosted playdates, slumber parties, and backyard watergun fights never needed currency. We all knew they were cool.
post #19 of 76

I'm going to ask you to question your premise: Does she need "stuff" to brag about?


Ds' best friend spent a year at a private school where the kids had a lot of money. One day when he was over, he started playing a 'game' with them that went something like "I've got X that you don't have." The kind of stuff that he was saying sounded a lot like what you're hearing from camp. "I've got an iPod and you don't." My kids, completely misunderstanding the game, came back with "I've got a stuffed penguin." "I've got 3 sharpies." The game petered out pretty quickly. Not all kids care.  (Thankfully, ds' friend's parents moved him to a school that was a better fit for their family values.) 


She was the youngest kid at a camp with really wide ages. (7-13 is too broad an age group, IMO.) Wait until next year. See what the school is like. She if she ASKS for stuff. As she enters 6th-8th grade, it probably is more important to fit in a bit more, but sometimes that's as simple as buying a few of the 'right' shirts. If she asks for stuff, help her save up her allowance, birthday money and/or earn extra money for chores. One of our good friends' child just got an iPod touch. She saved for 12 months to get it (and she's 10). 




post #20 of 76

I was brought up without "cool stuff" too - a mixture of ideology and us being poor. :p I didn't have fancy sneakers, virtual pets, Chatterings or any of that stuff (dating myself here!). It honestly never bugged me, as I wasn't into most of that stuff (I played with a friend's virtual pet a few times and didn't see the appeal). I did sometimes get jealous of my friends' packaged lunch treats, like chips, but... meh. Better for my health. Anyway, once I was old enough to cook I brought brownies and things, and everyone got jealous of those!


Back in my day, at least, the kids in my class were decent/cluey enough to quickly learn that I had "that" kind of family and would never have birthday parties at a theme park or a house full of awesome toys. I still had friends, and it made going over to their houses SO much cooler. :p


If you really want to give your DD something to brag about, you can probably find some stuff that doesn't conflict with your values.


-A trip somewhere? "My dad took me kayaking" surely has pretty good brag potential?

-How about a special necklace or something? I inherited my grandmother's old locket when I was a kid, and it was pretty cool - had black and white photos of her and Grandpa inside. Could she be trusted with something like that? Or if you're short on heirlooms, maybe something with her birth stone?

-Yep, letting her dye her hair would probably do it! "My mom lets me do XYZ" is generally a pretty safe bet, right? Would her school dress code be a problem? I've heard Manic Panic is pretty good, if you want to go (semi-) natural.

-Along similar lines of rebellion and disfiguring the body God gave you (kidding!), what about a henna tattoo? Could be fun to do it together, and they only last for about six weeks - less if you scrub. She could even design and apply her own if it were on an easy-to-reach spot - my sister and I decorated our own lower legs once while watching episodes of Buffy. Of course, I didn't do it too well, and came out looking like I had a weird skin disease - but still!

-Could she be trusted with her own EFTPOS card? Even if she doesn't have any money to use it with, it's still kinda cool to have one. Well, it was back when I got mine "early", at 13. Maybe it's not any more. Ehhh, I was never very good at "cool" even when I was that age, don't listen to me!

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