Friday, July 2, 2010

Buying in to kids' trends: Where do you draw the line?

Silly Bandz are the baseball cards of my kids' generation. They collect and trade them like they're going out of style. My 5-year-old likes to wear hers to school -- they reach half-way up her forearm -- where she and her friends compare and discuss them as seriously as I used to stickers and matchbox cars. At some schools they've become so popular -- and such a target for theft -- that they've been banned.

My friend Nataly's daughter has just gotten into the craze, and Nataly brings up a great point on her Work It, Mom! blog:
When it comes to requests that are heavily influenced by what her friends have at school, I find that I hesitate more than at other times. I want her to understand that just because others have something doesn?t mean that she has to have it -- silly bandz today, fancy jeans/cars/houses tomorrow. But I also don?t want to overdo it: Just because her friends have something shouldn?t mean that she can?t have it.
There's a fine line between giving your child what she wants and fostering an out-sized sense of entitlement. Over at's In the Parenthood column, I'm asking my readers: Are Silly Bandz a harmless trend, or a gateway to the gimme gimmes?

I first bought some for my 5-year-old months ago, because her friends had given her several of theirs and I wanted her to be able to reciprocate. I bought some for my 3-year-old because half of his friends are the younger siblings of my 5-year-old's friends, and they wanted to share with one another, too. Our 14-year-old and 12-year-old wear and trade them, too, though not as avidly as the little ones. I love that there's a collectible out there that appeals to such a wide range of ages, something our preschoolers and our teens can bond over.
The fact that they're relatively cheap makes a difference to me, too. There's a huge financial difference between buying a few packages of Silly Bandz to trade and share versus buying, say, a $60 toy that your child will keep at home and refuse to let friends touch -- or will break after a week. That said, just because they're inexpensive doesn't mean you have to buy your kid every package they see; it's fine to say "OK, the first pack is on me, and if you want more you have to earn the money for them." (Yes, it's even OK to hold your preschooler to this rule. They can set the table to earn 25 cents and buy their own Silly Bandz after a few days of breakfast-and-dinner-time work.)

For me, when deciding whether to buy or not to buy, the peer pressure element is important and curbing the gimme gimmes is important, but I think it's worth factoring in what the desired item is for, and whether there's a larger teachable moment looming. So, in this case, for me, it was worth feeding the gimme gimmes because the larger lesson -- sharing, trading, sociability, etc. -- was worth reinforcing.

Moms and Dads, are your kids obsessed with Silly Bandz? When faced with the latest gotta-have-it trend, when do you give in, and where do you draw the line?

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