Financial pressures growing for parents

We live in a technological age where peer pressure decrees we must have the latest gadgets and gizmos to keep up with 21st century life. Even more alarming to some, is the fact parents of primary school children are being pushed into continually buying must haves in order to both please their offspring and look trendy. Not only is this spoiling children in some people’s eyes, the process can also place parents deep in debt. Margaret Creear, spokeswoman for lone parent action group Gingerbread says: “It can be a nightmare when aggressive advertising puts a parent under pressure, at any time let alone Christmas. Many, unfortunately, get into serious debt rather than see their children go without.”

The Evidence

A recent survey carried out by Tracey Fletcher of the Skipton Building Society revealed six in ten parents buy their children the latest trends as soon as they ask for them, instead of experiencing the joys of being gradually introduced to new things. A whopping 17 per cent of parents admitted they didn’t want children to feel disappointed, under peer pressure at school. As well as 34 per cent of those surveyed admitting to spoiling their children, 16 per cent say children should always own a pair of fashionable trainers. A quarter admitted their kids should have the latest in computer games, and 19 per cent think they should be in possession of an mp3 player. She added: ‘This instant gratification could have consequences in the future, as children will grow up without grasping the real value of money or learning how to manage it effectively.’

More research undertaken by financial group AMP, has confirmed more than half of parents make ‘serious’ sacrifices to ensure their offspring never go without. One in five of 1,000 adults surveyed, admitted bills went unpaid to meet their kids’ demands. A fascinating four out of 10 said they would give in after a temper tantrum and buy the article in question.

Growing Pressure to Spend

From birthday parties to end of term presents, the pressure on parents to look good alongside their contemporaries, has never been greater. At Christmas, 20 per cent of parents to Junior school children will spend a minimum of £300 on one child. Even at primary school, kids are under pressure from children of varying faiths. Adults likewise have to contend with the approval of other parents at the school gates, along with commercial media messages.

Gone are the days when families would save up for a certain item or event. Mother of five Anny Naushahi, says: “I used to when my older two were younger … I would save for months before and still be paying for it after. I’m being guilt tripped in to my daughters 10th birthday this summer, looking at spending about £1500 for the whole thing which does leave me financially disadvantaged. One child in our friends list had a Cinderella Horse and carriage collect them from outside school, with the friends being picked up in a limo. My daughter wants the same.”

Another single parent told Asian Sunday: “As they get older the pressure is worse. Things like skipping ropes don’t cut it any more. It’s the latest gadgets or phones or games. But I have a limit and can’t go over it”

Analysts have estimated parents will spend an average total of £5,000 on birthdays through primary school.

As for birthday parties one parent said: “It’s ludicrous to spend so much money on a party. Don’t get me wrong, when they turn a certain age or graduate then I might do more or pay out for more, but stupid amounts for a party in primary school – nah! Have your £1 sweetie cone and be happy!”

New Study

A new study, commissioned by the National Union of Teachers, found a “small but significant number of parents” are failing to control their children faced with mounting commercial pressures. Teachers described highly permissive parents who admitted to indulging their children, often for the sake of peace. It seems to be implied spoiling young children too often can result in negative classroom behaviour. Steve Sinnott, the union’s General Secretary, said: “Indulgent parents are struggling to deal with poor behaviour in their children. That’s spilling over in to schools, making it more difficult for teachers.”

Even at such a young age some kids believe it’s their right to have whatever they want”, said Anwar from Leeds. “We as parents, need to show common sense in order to keep out of serious debt and make our children realise you can’t get everything you want in life.”

Words of Advice

Martin Lewis, broadcaster and creator of Says: “School-age children are competitive, comparing gifts. The affluent who buy big gifts add pressure on others who, especially in these times, can’t afford to compete. The lesson of the past few years is, we must teach kids not to completely equate happiness with material acquisition. Sadly, while I’ve been campaigning to get compulsory financial education in schools for a few years now, many children still only get it through the ad breaks. It’s all about getting the right balance.”