Pressure on kids to be "cool" conflicting with parenting values - Page 3 - Mothering Forums

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#61 of 76 Old 08-07-2011, 08:58 AM
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My kids are younger so I haven't BTDT, but I think the "cool" thing really is a race to the bottom, in terms of both your values and your bank account.  No matter what "currency" you give your DD there will always be someone with more.  I think it's better to focus on dealing with it rather than backsliding on your values to help your DD fit in. 


This comes from someone who was an ubergeek with ubergeek parents.  I dealt with a very painful elementary and junior high school experience and sure at the time it felt like if I just had X I would have fit in.  But, really, WOULD I?  Every kid on the playground is going to get teased for something, it's really having the confidence and backbone to deal with it that prevents your kid from being a continuous victim.  One thing I was teased about in elementary school is that I was good at school and got very high marks, but you wouldn't want to encourage your kids to underacheive just to fit in.  And there were academically successful kids who were popular.  The difference was confidence!


The takeaway for me was not to buy my kids more junk.  I think if my parents had in any way empathized with the social experiences I had rather than just flat-out telling me "people should accept you for who you are" and "everyone should just get along" then it would have been easier to deal with.  It's not that I don't agree with those things, but I don't think it was particularly helpful to have parents who just assumed that being a social misfit was a normal state of affairs.  There's a big difference between living intentionally according to your values and being oblivious to the larger culture, even though it might mean the same number of missed TV references or no-junk-food lunches.  I would make this clear to your kids at a time when it's age appropriate.


ALL THAT SAID...I agree with PP who advocated for autonomy, perhaps in the form of a small allowance.  All things in moderation.


ETA: Despite my house being morbidly uncool, by high school my basement had become the default gathering place for my group of friends, in large part due to my kind and welcoming parents who loved having teenagers around.  When I see high school friends they still ask me how my mom is doing!

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#62 of 76 Old 08-09-2011, 10:27 AM
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Here it goes. We live in Los Angeles and are all too familiar with the pressure to "be cool". However, there are some harmless little things here and there that you can do for your daughter. i.e. feather extensions in her hair. Tell her when she gets them not to brag about it. Let her friends notice first and say "it's no big deal, my parents support me in whatever I do, they keep me safe, but let me have fun". Also, she could have a very cool hobby. i.e. our daughter goes to gymnastics class and loves it. It gives her something other than "main stream stuff" to focus on, gives her a respectful and dedicated peer group, and it's not half bad to be able to tumble on a playground as if it were nothing to it. Having an athletic body often infuses kids with confidence overall. 

I also like the cooking thing, since I don't know your daughter's interests it is a bit hard to gage what she would want to be into. Baking really cool looking decorated cupcakes for your friends and being able to have cup cake parties is quite the treat. Many parents won't let their kids have full reign of the kitchen for culinary experiments...

We don't have a tv either, and our daughter does not show much interest in all the shows. We do sometimes find YouTube clips that are frequently watched (of course we check them out first for being "harmless") and she can be the first one to email it to her friends. That makes for a cool little trendsetter and it doesn't even really cost anything, but if you are the first kid to send say cool parcours videos, your little pals know you are somehow "connected with cool". Maybe you want to follow a few teenage trends yourself and then tailor it for your little girl, so she can have "the edge" of knowing what's going on out there...But most importantly: Don't try too hard. Tell your daughter the most uncool thing is trying too hard. If young ones are really bending over backwards to follow every trend and be cool you can be sure the are somehow feeling empty inside. Keep doing the good job you are doing and your daughter's "cup" will never be so empty as that she needs to fill it with "junk". 


best of luck!!

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#63 of 76 Old 08-10-2011, 10:54 AM
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My daughter's ten, and we also live in the L.A. area.


I agree that feather extensions are a hot ticket right now! And yes, lots of her friends have iPods -- or jeez, CELL PHONES, which seems nuts to me. But other things that get you cool cred have little to do with expensive gadgets. Some other status multipliers for today's fifth-grader:


Taking the "wasabi challenge." Apparently one of the kids brings sushi for lunch, and the kids dare each other to eat balls of wasabi.

Reporting adventures -- zip line, skateboard tricks, etc.

Silly Bandz (do not have to be brand name, there's a million types of these rubber-band things out there) to trade, especially unusual ones.

Being good at art or singing or dancing.

Mad skillz on the monkey bars.

Most of the kids actually admire being good at academics, at least at this age. The top AR reader, that type of thing.

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#64 of 76 Old 08-12-2011, 02:20 PM
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I love the pp idea of a cool hobby or interest to keep from focusing too much on mainstream things- this seems to work very well for us.

Our boys are home schooled in a neighborhood of kids who all go to the same school. They do not watch TV, or have a DS, or cell phone or iPod like then other kids do here. But most days the boys around our area are in our garage and house. Mainly I attribute this to my oldest, who is approaching 8- he absolutely loves any sport. He gets really passionate about activities like mountain. Biking, skiing, football, basketball. We support his interests fully and get him any equipment he needs. He surfs, paddle boards, etc. He never has a shortage of mainstream friends, simply because he finds common active ground.

Even other kids who aren't as interested in sports find something in common with him- he's very into nature survival skills. He did a homeschooling nature based program for a few years and learned how to make hunting materials out of sticks and wood and build bunny shelters and forts. This comes in handy with nearly every other boy he meets.

So, my point is that kids will often sharpen other skills and utilize those when they are not given every gadget other kids get. It may actually build character. I was one of those kids whose parents did not have the money to buy anything extra, and it was a bummer. But they also did not make the effort to support my interests- I think that is the difference. We havemore resources than my parents ever did, but we use them to support healthy interests our kids have, and they know this. So it works.

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#65 of 76 Old 08-12-2011, 03:02 PM
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OP, I was glad to see this thread.  My children are also 7 and I have noticed many of the same differences between my children and their classmates as you.  I'm working on being more flexible with my child raising ideals.  Although it is not a problem with them yet, they are noticing and mentioning the items their friends have.  So, as kathymuggle suggests, we've allowed them to spend their savings on items they really want.  I thought they might decide to purchase a DS, Wii or something like that....but they wanted a metal detector and a safe - I figured they were destined to be 'uncool' like their parents.  But surprisingly, other kids think their purchases were great.  Going forward, I'm sure they will decide to purchase some of the same items as their friends.



Originally Posted by kathymuggle View Post

One of the practical solution to this in our house has been to make sure my kids have their own money which they may spend as they please.


They get/earn enough so they can afford things they really want if they prioritise.  It has taught them a lot.


If new gadgets are important to her she will spend her money to get them.  





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#66 of 76 Old 08-14-2011, 12:52 PM
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To answer a question from the OP (but not in the original post): If you are in a city with a large (or largish) Indian, Pakistani, or Arab community there should be a beauty salon that does professional henna tattoos. They're something people get for weddings or other major special events, usually. Your daughter might really enjoy getting a professional one (even small) at a salon because she could then brag about the authenticness of the salon experience. Otherwise, you can get the henna at an Indian/Pakistani/Arab grocery store. 


If you don't live near a salon or store that would provide henna you can buy it online from Amazon or similar. The easiest way to do it is to get the paste that is premixed and already in tubes, like these: You can also get special squeeze bottles that have little pen like tips but are refillable. Search for "mendhi kit" on Amazon and you'll see lots of options.


One thing that she might really enjoy would be having a party where she and her friends could do henna tattoos for each other. 


Also, if you feel it might help for her to have a "device" maybe consider a kindle? I see them advertised used, which isn't too expensive. You could load it with classic books from the free/public domain ebooks on Project Gutenberg, and it can play MP3s, also. Might be a little more expensive than a non-ipod MP3 player, but might also get cool points for being a completely different concept... 


Just FWIW, I was raised without earrings and nail polish because my family had convictions very similar to your own. I think I would have been better off with nail polish and earrings, frankly. I was told explicitly that I wasn't allowed to have them because they were 'sexualizing young girls' etc. Made me feel like a tramp for wanting them. They make these cool-stick on polishes in crazy patterns now, maybe you two could do them together as a fun bonding thing? Also you can get some pretty cool effects on nails by painting them with henna...


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#67 of 76 Old 08-16-2011, 12:57 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the info on henna!

We haven't told her very specifically why we aren't into little girls wearing heels, makeup, nail polish, earrings, etc (the earrings is more about my suspicion that she will not want to care for the piercings). We just say those things are for big kids and grown-ups and that she'll get to wear them someday when she's older. I bet even those saying nail polish and earrings are no big deal here do draw the line somewhere (eg, you probably don't let your 7yos wear eye makeup and lipstick). It's really more about my hating the way we are teening up these little tiny girls.

Interestingly, none of this has come up since that camp she was in ended. We'll see if it comes up again when school starts. I think the lunch stuff will (we are talking about this--I just so hate buying individually packaged stuff) but I don't know about the rest.

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#68 of 76 Old 08-17-2011, 06:52 AM
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Have you thought about sending bento boxes? I did that for my DD last year. From what I hear some kids get really positive reactions, some get negative, so it could go either way, but it might be worth a shot. Every lunch I sent with her was healthy and homemade, but cute. I didn't spend a lot of time it, either. I prepared stuff in advance so I had a stash, and spent maybe 5-10 minutes putting her bento together in the mornings. Sent it in her hand painted canvas lunch bag (I'd painted her name and a little fairytale scene), with a set of training chop sticks (and a backup fork in the bottom in case she needed it), and it was a big hit. Apparently the other kids were always interested in what she was bringing in, and she spend a large portion of lunch time sharing about what she was eating and giving samples to some of her friends. There wasn't any trading going on, but being vegan, that would have been difficult anyways, and she didn't seem to care about that activity anyways. At one point she asked if she could try eating school lunch like the other kids and after one day she wanted to go back to bentos. She said she didn't like any of the food, and everyone was asking where her bento was. She was happy with leftover spaghetti as long as I put it in a bento. Sometimes with kids presentation is everything.


If you do take that route, cookie cutters can dress up any sandwhich, flower shaped oni giris are apparently way more tasty than those traditionally shaped, and mini muffin tins are awesome. DD loved to see mini carrot cakes, tiny little pies (with the fancy lattice work and all, make them in advance, don't bake, freeze, pop them in the oven when you wake up in the morning, they cook fast), mini lentil loafs, basically anything mini. I always packed extra of those, since other kids were usually after them and they were easy for DD to share. Also, putting a face on things is usually a big hit, too. One sheet of nori will get you tons of eyes and mouth.

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#69 of 76 Old 08-19-2011, 12:08 PM
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I just want to say that after all my years parenting, and tons more to go, *I* am that cool mom.  We do have a wii, and computers, but no cell phones for kids, no handheld games, no fancy clothes (almost everything is bought second hand or on major sale).  We *do* have livestock (goats, rabbits, chickens, guineas, ducks), lots of honey to share, apparently the coolest food on the planet (mostly home made from scratch out of necessity, lol), the best popsicles, an above-ground pool (hey, we're in Tx and surviving!), a trampoline, board games, "spa days", "jammy days", woods to explore, and what I hear is the most cool is that we let our kids be themselves.  My son has had a mohawk, long hair, and now has a "normal" haircut, but wears black leather accessories, my dd is gauging her ears (heck, she's 22, what do I care?), etc.


I totally agree w/the henna.  Very cool.


We don't spend alot of money on "stuff".  We do spend on "experiences". 

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#70 of 76 Old 09-17-2011, 05:46 AM
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Just a thought from a newbie, but might she feel more alienated from your attitude towards all these things other kids have and do, than from not actually having them?

My mom was VERY strongly anti-TV, for example. There were other things too, but growing up in the late 80's and 90's, TV and pop culture were big things. But her attitude about it - talking about how bad it was at every turn and why other parents were wrong to let their kids watch so much MTV, putting our lifestyle on a pedestal and acting almost like a martyr about it - was a lot more memorable and created more insecurity than not getting the latest Indiana Jones movie reference ever was. It made me feel so different and like I either had to fight my mom on her values, or fight my friends defending her values. I didn't want to do either; I loved my mom and still love her to death even though I disagree with the level of controlling she used. But back then it was a really... crappy position to be in, as a little kid. I was more acutely aware of it because of her attitude, and in turn that made it painfully more obvious when a differnece was pointed out, whereas if she didn't make a point of it, I wouldn't have noticed much at all.

She made a point of letting us and other parents know between us and other families, and how much she went on about it was directly related to how I felt about it. There were things we did differently that she never harped about and never bothered me, because I didn't know it was a conscious effort to separate ourselves from others or to force me to be different.


I'm not saying don't stick to your most important values. But it sounds like you are very intent on not only being different, but pointing it out. Maybe you need to approach it from a less isolationist view and point out things your DD DOES do like her friends: she enjoys meals with her family, she has adventures with her parents, she does arts and crafts, she plays outside, whatever it may be.


If she REALLY doesn't have anything in common with her peers, it might be time to either find her a peer group more in line with your values so that she's not having to always be "that kid with the weird strict parents" or maybe relax on some things just a little to give her a more positive common experience/social currency with her peers so that she doesn't feel so isolated. If she's going to be in that environment and you know how it is but still force the differences, you're in essence forcing her to fight your battles. You might not agree with how the social system works, I don't think many of us do, but it is what it is and forcing your DD to be there but always be the outsider looking in maybe isn't the most constructive way to do things. Just my 2c from someone who knows what it's like to be the weird kid with the weird parents.

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#71 of 76 Old 09-17-2011, 07:52 AM
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Hey loraxc,


Has she started school? How is it going?


Our kids have moved from a hippie crunchy private school to our local elementary (in our pretty crunchy town, but there's a lot of diversity). I've noticed, especially with my dd2 that at 6, 7, 8 and up they start to really be more aware of peer culture. I think what you're picking up on is perfectly normal developmentally, as you no doubt probably know, and I get what you're saying about wanting some kid currency more in line with your family's values. The thing is, I think the kid currency varies a lot depending on the group she's with. When my kids occasionally moan about Disneyworld (which they don't often do, but occasionally I hear, "Susie got to go to DISNEYYYY") I remind them that we got to go on a really big trip out west this summer and they're usually fine with that. In other years I might mention that we got to go to the beach or the mountains. They have no idea what's at Disney so they don't really know what they're missing and they're not big Disney fans so it's not a huge issue for us. 


Now the pierced ears—that's another story. Dd2 (7) has been buggin' me for about a year for pierced ears and it's clearly because two little friends (at the hippie school, too!) had them. I wanted to hold off until she got to her new school and see if it was still a "thing" for her, but she is still very interested and so is dd1 (10) so I will probably let them do it. Dd2 says she wants them at her birthday so we might just do that and let dd1 get them then too. I've been a little bit worried about her taking care of them and also dealing with the ouch factor of having it done, but they say they're okay with that and seem like they probably will be ready. 


We do do nail polish as a treat. There's a Klutz kit that we used to have that's pretty good. It has a lot of little animals and stuff you can make, but the "polish" which is really just like acrylic craft paint peels off really easily. We started with this because I wanted something that was less toxic than traditional nail polish. Lately I've just been buying polish at the HFS (like once a year for a stocking stuffer). The kids really do like it and I'm okay with it. I learned early on that I have girlier girls than I ever was (big tom boy as a kid). They love dance (but we go to the hippie dance studio) and loved all the tutus as little ones (not so much now). Me, I was climbing trees and running through the woods. They do that, too, but also ballet!


So back to the kid currency thing, I try to not encourage bragging because I'm worried about my kids hurting someone else's feelings. They can be a little snotty if they're not aware ("I got to go to Yellowstone this summer, na-na-na"). So, I'm trying to encourage them to think about others before they start in and make sure they phrase their message in a way that won't cause hurt feelings. I think it sounds like you already have plenty of kid currency. If your dd is not too worried about things yet I wouldn't encourage her to go down that road just yet. I think this is one area where being reactive rather than proactive is not really a bad thing. I mean certainly do the activities that you already like to do as a family and get her the things you were already planning on getting her, but I don't know that you need to worry about laying in a stock of good kid currency. It's so changeable. Wait until she comes to you and says "Janie said she has this great game on the Wii — how come she has that and all we have is Wii fit!!?" — then you can evaluate what the game is and if you think it's something that would be a good choice for your family. 


For my girls, there's been very little that has stuck. They'll mention Disney once in a great while if a friend they know has been recently or maybe they'll mention some other passing fad, but none of it lasts very long. I evaluate it and decide if I think it's something we want to participate in (ftr, I'm fine with Silly Bandz -- cheap and they have a life as a rubber band after the novelty has worn off) or if it's something we want to pass on (not into American Girl doll$$, but we have some knock-offs my sister gave them). The only thing I can remember recently that stuck is the pierced ears and I will probably do that because my only arguments against it are "it hurts" and "you have to take care of them" and they both seem ready to deal with both of those. 


A book you might like that I found out about here on MDC a few years ago is "Girls Will Be Girls: Raising Confident and Courageous Daughters" by JoAnn Deak. I thought it was very thoughtful. I got it when we were having some peer exclusion issues and cattiness to deal with in 3rd grade. I thought it gave a much more balanced view than the much talked about "Queen Bees and Wannabees" (not for me). "Girls Will Be Girls" addresses the girl friendship issues starting from about age 7 up through teen-dom. I thought it was especially strong in the tween middle years section.


Let us know how it's going...I think you're on the right track, so just keep on keeping on...

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#72 of 76 Old 09-28-2011, 01:21 AM
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We ran into this with K (my now-18 year old) when she was small. I was quite strict. I let her watch TV, but we had a rule that she was not to even ask about toys from commercials. That if she got to nagging about toys from commercials she saw on television, I'd reconsider letting her watch television. The exceptions: Christmas and birthday wish lists, and her own money. If she earned or was gifted money, she could use it how she saw fit. She could earn pocket change doing chores, and was gifted a reasonably substantial $ amount ($50-100) by her distant grandparents once or twice a year. If she wanted something bad enough to buy it herself or remember it long enough to put it on a list, it would be considered. There were a lot of things I just didn't let her do, some of which I don't even remember telling her not to do, but which she told her friends I'd told her not to do anyway... (Notable example... friend turns on Britney Spears video... K pipes up with "My mom wouldn't want me to watch that." I don't think I'd ever said word one to her about BS, but she was right...)


When she was in 1st grade, Pokemon was becoming HUGE. Huge. And collectible cards were huge among her friends. Kids would brag about the cards they got that week, and the cards they were going to get. We sat down and talked about it at one point, and I asked if getting all those cards made those kids happy with what they had, or if they just wanted more and more... and she realized that all the "stuff" wasn't making those kids any happier than her. And for Christmas, I bought her a pikachu keychain...which she adored, and was happy with. Happier, in fact, than those boys with the books and books of neatly arranged cards. When she got her own money, she thought about buying cards, or saving up for a gameboy and a Pokemon game. She saved up... and you know what? 10-12 years later? She's STILL sometimes playing that pokemon game with some of her friends. The lesson I was after, and the one she got, was that it wasn't wrong to want something, or to save up and buy something, even something relatively frivolous like a video game, but it was vitally important that she maximize the value of the things she was purchasing. That she focus on things that she would use often and for a long time, that she look for things that would hold up well over time. She bought one "TV toy" once that got old about 20 minutes after she started playing with it...and cost $20. And we talked about that, too. She learned to try things out before buying them. 


We do have video game consoles. And she does spend time playing. But it's always in balance... during the school year, video games can never be more important than school.


She had 'friends' who criticized her for eating meat, in grade school. The kid is allergic to soy, egg, peanut and dairy. So she eats meat. We had to talk about the underlying "Why" of things, and the importance of eating a balanced, nutritious diet that makes your body healthy, and that not every way of eating works for every person. And she learned the hard lesson that some people are too shallow to waste the effort of being friends with. Anyone who didn't want to take the time to understand that there were medical reasons she couldn't eat the way they did wasn't really worth her time either. 


She said to me once, in middle school, "Mom, I'm really glad I'm not one of the popular kids. Because I have friends, and I know they're my friends because they really like me, and not just because I'm 'cool'."


When it came down to it, there were hills to die on and battles not worth fighting. Hair color is a battle not worth fighting in any kid too young to be needing a job. Tattoos are another story. Insisting on waiting to puberty or age 12 for ear piercing was a reasonable limit. But we never, ever did anything just to give her bragging rights or to make her seem "cool". Cool was never a goal, because the last thing I ever want for my kid is for her to be making a lot of choices based on peer pressure.


When I started wanting more brand name clothes, my parents put me on a clothing budget and let me buy my own stuff... but when the money was gone, it was gone. 


When my husband was being made fun of in school because his jeans were an unpopular brand, his mother went through and removed all the external brand labels... and it solved the problem.



Whenever something came up that seemed "uncool", we took the logical approach. One of the neighbor boys once asked why my daughter wore a helmet when none of the other kids on the street did. I just smiled and said, "She likes her brain and doesn't want it to get hurt if she falls off her bike." As one of the boys was currently wearing an arm cast due to breaking his arm falling off a bike, this hit home, and suddenly a lot of kids on the street were wearing bike helmets.


If a kid were to say to your daughter, "You don't get to stay up late?", I'd encourage her to say, "I like getting enough sleep, it lets me have more fun during the day."


As for the "splash out" issue... there are lots of ways to have a fun party without spending a ton of money, and lots of fun things to do or places to go that aren't very expensive. I was pretty much broke until my daughter was about 10 years old, and we still had parties, they just didn't involve hired clowns or bouncy castles. They involved homemade cupcake cones that the kids decorated themselves, and music, and maybe playing outside or in a pool. We had a policy that even-year parties could involve a fair number of friends and would be daytime things, and odd year parties were sleepovers with a few friends. 


By the time I was in high school, the kids with the super permissive (and often absent or distant) parents were actually a little wistful about those of us whose parents were NOT so "cool", but were more present. "My parent lets me get away with crap that isn't very good for me" at some point stops being a bragging right. "My parent loves me enough to set limits" is not a bad thing at all. That said, I do believe in moderation, and that means some flexibility about occasional treats, the occasional late bedtime, etc. I don't like "eat all the candy you want", but "No candy ever" also sets up a potential unhealthy dynamic. "You can go out trick or treating, but no more than two pieces of candy per night for X nights and then the rest goes away"  sets up a much more maintainable life lesson in the long run. Then again, I did let my kid have all the candy she wanted, once. She threw up and then decided for herself that the original limit made more sense. 



Jenrose, Mama to DD1, born 1993, DD2, born 2005, and DS1, Jan. 2012. Babywearing, cosleeping, homebirthing mom with fibromyalgia and hashimotos.  DD2 has a rare chromosome disorder. 

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#73 of 76 Old 09-28-2011, 07:15 AM
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Almost everything you can't have or can't do is cool when you're little.  The DD's know that there are just some things that they will not get.  Will they get expensive clothes?  They may be a little more expensive than others but they will not be some momentarily popular brand.  Will they get cool toys?  If they have the money for it they can have it all. 

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#74 of 76 Old 09-28-2011, 08:39 AM - Thread Starter
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Didn't realize this was still going! Yes, DD has started at a new school and I have heard nothing about any of this since this summer, except for being asked about ear piercing again. I think it had a lot to do with hanging out with preteens and teens in her summer group. Her current class seems pretty unsophisticated and also has many kids whoe parents are immigrants, which I think can change the dynamic.
But it sounds like you are very intent on not only being different, but pointing it out.

Actually, no, not at all. I virtually never point any of this out and I certainly don't cast aspersions on other people's parenting. Never. DD does ask about some things sometimes and I am always very careful to frame it as neutrally and casually as possible.

I did buy another Wii game that the kids enjoy, though I usually only let them play it when the weather stinks and they can't go outside. It's an extreme sports game, so pretty "cool."

grateful mother to DD, 1/04, and DS, 2/08

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#75 of 76 Old 09-28-2011, 12:53 PM
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Originally Posted by loraxc View Post

Didn't realize this was still going! Yes, DD has started at a new school and I have heard nothing about any of this since this summer, except for being asked about ear piercing again. I think it had a lot to do with hanging out with preteens and teens in her summer group. Her current class seems pretty unsophisticated and also has many kids whoe parents are immigrants, which I think can change the dynamic.


That's GREAT!  This summer one of my DDs spent a lot of time around her mainstream peers and it really made me appreciate her alternative school friends. I hadn't realized how muted this issue is for us because my kids mostly live in a happy little bubble with children of hippies.   bag.gif


but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#76 of 76 Old 10-04-2011, 12:03 AM
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Yeah WiiFit is definitely NOT cool material.  I would get her another Wii game that she can get excited about.  Maybe even let her pick it out. 


Try to think back to when you were that age and then go from there.

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