Q: My sixteen-year-old daughter wants to wear designer jeans that cost $100. We live on a very tight budget, and can barely afford to buy clothes at Walmart. When I tell her I can’t buy the expensive jeans, she gets angry and upset and says that these are the only jeans that fit and make her “look good and not fat.” When I asked her if there was anywhere else we could shop that wasn’t so expensive, she just yelled, “No dad! Just stop talking about it!” She always thinks I am mad (or want her to be mad at me), when I don’t—I just want to be able to talk to her. I always get that attitude every single time, even though I talk very calmly and never get mad at her. Please help?
A: Great idea to look for somewhere that she can get clothes that she likes at prices that won’t break the budget! That was one terrific option.
As a woman, I can tell you that I definitely understand her claim that some pants make her look better than others. Marshall’s or TJ Maxx often carry designer clothes at more reasonable prices. There are also some consignment stores that carry only designer clothes which are much cheaper than new.
Luckily, since she’s sixteen, she’s old enough to get a job so she can pay for the clothes she wants. Especially if she works at a clothing store, where she can get a discount!
Maybe you can resolve this by letting her know exactly how much you are willing to contribute to her clothing budget, and then letting her decide with no input from you how she wants to spend that money. If it’s not enough to get what she wants, she can babysit or get a job to pay for the balance.
That way, she regains some control and your contribution happens all at once so you don’t have to have this conversation all the time. That might make it easier for you to switch roles, from “the provider who dispenses cash and must be convinced to give her what she wants” into “the good listener who can help her brainstorm ideas so she can get what she wants on her own.”
It might also open up the lines of communication again if you don’t try to talk her into seeing things your way, but instead make sure you are trying to see things from her perspective. You don’t have to agree with her in order to be a good listener. Just let her know you hear and understand what she is saying, and that it’s okay for her to feel that way, and that you’ll help her earn the extra money if you can. You might offer to let your coworkers know that she’s available to babysit, or help her make posters, or drive her to fill out job applications, or something like that. These aren’t suggestions you try to convince her to accept though, just kind offerings that she is free to take or not.
It might sound like this: “Honey, I hear you that you really like how those jeans fit you. I will give you $X for clothes, which is what we would spend at Walmart. You can decide where, when, and what to spend it on. If it’s not enough to get the clothes you want, I can help you brainstorm some ways to earn the extra money if you’d like.”
Good luck, and I hope this helps!