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Taming the Shopping Monster in You and Your Daughter

Another season is upon us and holiday shopping is in full swing. For mothers and daughters, veteran shoppers at any time of year, this can create tensions of all sorts.
12/10/2010 04:36pm ET | Updated November 17, 2011
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Another season is upon us and holiday shopping is in full swing. For mothers and daughters, veteran shoppers at any time of year, this can create tensions of all sorts. Many of us shop with our daughters year round. It's a bonding ritual, a female outing, with all sorts of meanings beyond the actual hours spent actually shopping.

Our daughters, of any age, are influenced by trends and wanting to own the "right" items. Often, these purchases are not only beyond what we can afford, but also brush up against our value system. A mother told me that because of her own feelings about designer items, she bought her 16-year old daughter a scarf that was not a label brand. This raised her daughter's ire, and she was very disappointed. The mother's intention had been to please her daughter, but her daughter was invested in designer goods, and this scarf didn't cut it.

Another mother of eight-year-old twins remarked that she herself loves label brands and that her daughters are already like that -- due not only to her style and taste but because other eight-year-old girls are also in the game.

And then there is the mother/daughter duo that practically competes for the look and the image, which is a dicey scenario. There is a tension in those outings as they end up reaching for the same jeans, the same boots, the same purse. It is one thing to share, but it is another to merge with your teenage daughter in terms of style.

Mostly, the issue is that our daughters, at every age, are swayed by forces beyond their mothers' belief system when it comes to shopping and materialism. Celebrity culture, herd mentality, peer pressure and the constant barrage of advertisements make it difficult to not want immediate gratification. Add in a mother who aims to please, who believes that her daughter deserves more than she had growing up, and the daughter's own sense of entitlement and shopping can be more complicated than pleasurable. In addition, mothers themselves shop for all sorts of reasons (for instance, shopping to kill the pain, a time-honored female tradition that mothers often impart to their daughters). Say that boyfriend ditches your daughter, or she fails a math test, and you decide to just hit the stores to drown your sorrows? How about shopping for special occasions, a justifiable form of spending if there ever was one. This works well if your daughter is going to a big party, the prom or her friend's black-tie wedding. But if it's a frequent "excuse" or becomes a tense outing due to arguments about budget, then it might end up being a difficult situation. The original goal, that of shopping to bond, has to have some limits and a few rules before it gets tainted, overshadowed by the element of status and a daughter's demands and expectations.

At the moment, of course, the focus is on how we deal with a daughter who wants a very expensive article of clothing. Beyond our financial situation, particularly in the downturn, is the question of indulgence. After all, there is always that urge to indulge our daughters -- out of love and with the best intentions. The idea of avoiding the notorious shopping monster this December has great appeal but requires courage. Having a conversation with your daughter before you even hit the proverbial Bloomingdale's is a wise idea. That way you can discuss setting price limits and have the pleasure of spending time together without any friction.

A few mothers have confessed that when they see sale items, they are so tempted that they change their tune and begin shopping ravenously. For the daughter this only creates a sense that you aren't really dependable or mean what you say. Buying within your means is the best example for your daughter; it shows maturity and responsibility. And of course, we want our daughters to choose for themselves and not be caught up in the frenzy of what everyone else has to have. That in itself is a conversation worthy of a long lunch together -- you and your daughter -- before you hit the ground running with that credit card in hand.