As back-to-school season approaches (and with it back-to-school shopping season), you may find that your teenager suddenly turns from a perfectly well behaved and responsible young adult to a shopping beast. The pressure to “look cool” on the first day of school plus the socialization of “needing” new clothes for back-to-school can influence how a teenager or pre-teen thinks and acts. What should you say to your teen to rally their sudden consumer rage back to normal levels? Here are five ideas.

But we’d also like to remind you to be sensitive to the pressure that your teen or pre-teen may be facing. High school, junior high and even middle school can be stressful times, and sometimes we forget just how bad it can be. Also, most of us did not grow up in the age of social media where “wearing the wrong thing” can quickly escalate from a bad day to viral pictures all over the internet. We’re certainly not suggesting that you entirely ignore your child’s need to back-to-school shop. There’s some need and some validity in the activity, and your role as a parent is to help your child on his or her journey to not being owned by consumerism. It may not be something you can do in one step! While you’re helping to guide your child, here are our ideas for counter arguments to excessive back-to-school shopping.

1. Before We Shop, You Need a List and a Budget

Shopping is an almost unavoidable part of life, but it can be done more responsibly or less responsibly. We highly recommend using a shopping list whenever you (or anybody) shops and having a budget that you stick to. The idea that you’re trying to teach to your teen isn’t that back-to-school means an all out shopping binge. What you’re trying to teach is that shopping can be done in ways that are responsible and that fit into budget needs and general beliefs about consumerism. Take the time to review your child’s shopping list and budget with them. You’ll not only be teaching them to think before they buy, you’ll also be teaching them budgeting skills.

2. What Would You Rather Use This Money On?

Any back to school shopping experience should have a pre-set budget. One way to wean your child off of huge consumer binges is to give them an opportunity to use the money that they don’t spend on “stuff” for something else that they want and that is experience driven. Maybe tickets to a concert or even a prom experience? If your child knows that the money he or she doesn’t spend on back-to-school stuff will go to a reward of some type, he or she may be more likely to buy less or buy more affordably.

3. We Can Shop, But Only After You’ve Thought About the Social and Environmental Issues You Support

If your child has made his or her list and budget, then it’s a great time to make sure that they’ve also done their research on what social or environmental causes their vendors are supporting. Most teens and pre-teens these days have a smartphone, so we recommend having them check all of their purchases on the Buycott app. This great phone app tells them what companies made or funded the brands that they’re purchasing and how those companies rank when it comes to social and environmental causes. It’s a good opportunity to talk about how things like two-thirds world labor can actually cost lives or how Levi’s has found a way to make jeans using less water, which is healthier for the environment than some of the other denim brands. It’s also an opportunity to talk about green-washing and making sure that your child understands the difference between truly sustainable products and ones that are misleading.

4. When It Comes to Electronics, Just Say No to Upgrades and Yes to Recycling

Almost with certainty, your child’s back-to-school wish list will include something electronic. Maybe it’s a smart phone, maybe it’s a laptop, maybe it’s a tablet. It’s okay to want to give your child the technology that he or she needs to succeed. The world is not the same as it once was, after all. But don’t let your child fall into the “I need it because it’s an upgrade” mindset. In this case, it’s okay to simply tell your child that their phone/laptop/tablet has all of the functionality that he or she needs and you’re not buying something just because it’s an upgrade. When you do purchase new electronics for your child, make sure that you teach them about the importance of recycling electronics. A great way to do this is to make sure that they know how damaging it is to the planet and to human health when electronics just get thrown out.

5. Earn Your Back To School Shopping

Finally, if you have enough lead time, you can directly tie your child’s back to school shopping to activities that try to “balance the scales.” Have your child make a donation to Goodwill, work volunteer hours at an environmental project or another type of volunteer work that provides good for the world in equal parts to the resources required for back-to-school shopping. This is an opportunity to teach your child the balance of the world and the way that every action needs to have a balancing reaction.

We know the dream is that you’ll have a child who doesn’t care one way or another about “stuff” and shopping, but that may not be the reality for your teen or pre-teen right now. It’s important to walk the line between not adding to the already high pressure of their life and teaching them useful life skills about consumption and waste. Back-to-school shopping season is actually a perfect time to do that.

Have an idea that we missed about how to teach children valuable lessons during back-to-school shopping season? Tell us about it. Comment below or tell us about it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram.


Related Information

All Budgeting Tips

Tips for Teaching Teens Budgeting Skills

Back-to School Budget Tips

Tips for Recycling Electronics

Photo Credit: Roger Price via Flickr