Tips for Taming Teen Clothing Battles

Tips for Taming Teen Clothing Battles

Teen boy lying outstretched with hat over faceYour teen wants to wear what everyone else is wearing, from their jeans to their expensive shoes. You, on the other hand, have a limited clothing budget. Is it any surprise that teen clothing battles can be one of the biggest challenges of back to school season?

Rather than fight your teen at every turn when it comes to back to school shopping, try setting set up a clothing allowance. Pick a reasonable dollar amount and challenge your child to budget for their back to school attire by purchasing a week’s worth of clothing from it. This gives your teen the control and sense of independence they crave and can be a wonderful way to avoid clothing wars.

Tips for Helping Your Teen Establish a Clothing Budget

Set some basic ground rules.

Let your teen know what they are responsible for purchasing and how much money they will be provided. Make sure they understand that the consequence for choosing to spend all of their money on a single item. Investing in a costly pair shoes or handbag means going without all of the other basic attire they’ll need !

Make your expectations clear up front.

Before you let your teen go shopping, make any rules you or the school may have about clothing features crystal clear. This will help prevent them from buying clothing they won’t be allowed  to wear. For example, there may be rules about how low-cut blouses can be or what kind of graphics are allowed on t-shirts. Communicate these rules clearly to your teen and make sure they know that any clothing purchased that violates the rules will have to be returned.

Smiling teen girl shopping for clothesGive your teen the gift of trust.

Let him or her know you’re giving them the responsibility to decide what to buy and where they buy it from because you believe in their capability to make mature, sound clothing choices.

Play fair.

Agree to keep veto power over age-inappropriate clothing purchases, but don’t veto things just because you don’t personally like them. Your daughter’s brightly patterned pants or son’s black t-shirts may not be your idea of a fashion forward wardrobe. However, this is where you need to learn to let go as long as the clothing is appropriate for school.

Giving your teen a back to school clothing allowance is a wonderful tool to teach decision making skills, reduce family friction and help your teen learn important financial skills every adult needs!


Jean Holthaus, LMSW, LISW has been providing outpatient therapy services since 1995 when she earned her Masters of Social Work degree from the University of Iowa. She has worked for Pine Rest since 1997. She currently serves as manager of the Telehealth Clinic and the Hastings Clinic and is also a Pine Rest Outpatient Regional Director.

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