My husband, Lon, and I love the show, “The Middle.” This is the first sit-com we’ve followed weekly in more than 20 years. We’ve always been drama people. However, this comedy is too close to reality to ignore. One episode aired last year called, “The Jeans.” The mother, Frankie (played by Patricia Heaton), is a Midwest working mother. In this episode and every episode, money is tight. However, her daughter wants the latest jeans craze – 7 For All Mankind. Now, those are expensive jeans. She tells her, “No.” Then the daughter talks about how not having those jeans will ruin her life while whining profusely.

Cast of ABC's "The Middle"

Photo courtesy of ABC. Cast of “The Middle,” Patricia Heaton, Eden Sher, Atticus Shaffer and Neil Flynn.

This reminds Frankie of her own years in junior high and high school – the rejection, the fear of rejection, the desire to be popular. All of it comes back to her and the next thing you know, she has purchased those jeans for her daughter at $110 or some outrageous price. Now, take a step back. We’ve all been there. We want our children to fit in, to be accepted at school. We may even hope they’ll be popular. When they drop the guilt trip on us, it hooks something from our past as it did for Frankie. And suddenly, we parents find ourselves giving in even though we know we shouldn’t. We don’t have the money. It’s not right for the child.

The fact is this: No matter how much money you spend on clothes, jewelry or gadgets for your children, when they get into junior high and high school, they will feel like outsiders. I’ve been there and lived through it. Think about it. So have you.

Every person, including your child, must learn to live in their own skin with people who disagree with them, look different than them and who may not even like them. That’s part of growing up. If you give in every time they whine about these things, they won’t learn to set their own boundaries.

So the next time you feel pressured to give in – take a step back. Ask yourself these three questions:

  • Is this a need or a wish?
  • What can I teach my child about value while living within our means? Saying no can become a lesson.
  •  Will it really harm him or her not to have this or do this?
  • Am I tempted to do this because of fears or hurts from my own childhood?
  • What am I teaching him or her about the value of money?
  • Will my child learn the value of sacrifice for the greater good, the family, if I give in?
  • Consider taking him or her to the local Goodwill or another thrift store to find designer clothing. Reusing and repurposing is also good for the environment (another valuable lesson).
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