I tucked her in bed and pulled up the cozy pink comforter to her chin. “Mommy?” she whispered after prayers were said.
“Yes, honey?” I waited.
“I am sad.”
“Really, why?” trying to remember what would cause this statement.
“I’m sad I don’t have my own iTouch like my friends.”
“A lot of my friends have them and iPhones, too,” she said as she rattled off half her first grade class.
“Why do you want one?” I asked, even though I could have guessed her answer.
Because my friends have one.
And then I went on to tell her this wasn’t right for her at seven years old. But this wasn’t about technology (although- really?)–she could have asked for a purple pony named Lucy or a giant stuffed marshmallow that all the kids must have now. The point is, we cannot give our kids stuff just because their friends have it.
And we cannot give in to giving our kids stuff because our friends are giving it to their kids.
It’s a dangerous cycle that is hard to break.
These over-the-top two year old birthday parties are more about the moms competing with their friends than the cake-covered baby having a meltdown due to exhaustion. I watched a mom at my daughter’s tumbling class tap on the glass and give her little girl a stern look and whispered through gritted teeth to “stop having fun” and then I overheard her comparing her daughter’s skills with another mother.
That little girl flipping on the mat just wanted to have fun. Her mother was the real competitor.
We cannot make our parenting choices based on what others are doing. We have to purpose our lives with intention or we will just end up being like everyone else, caught in a trap in our culture that demands we fit in.
What do we say to our kids when their friends get everything they want?
1. We don’t do what everyone else does. We will not try and keep up. Sometimes we just need to say no.
We must choose what is best for our own family today, so that when the latest fad or must-have is hot on the market, we have a plan that isn’t tossed around by the gimmes or the pressure to give in because everyone else is.
2. We remind them about perspective: Not everyone has this or (fill in the blank). It may seem like you’re the only one in your class or in your grade or on this planet who isn’t fitting in or keeping up. But if we are going to compare ourselves to others, let’s also compare ourselves to kids who live in poverty. That way we will live in the middle of those who have everything and those who have nothing.
3. We have to plan for what we say yes to. We are intentional. Saying it too often only fans the flame of entitlement.
4. We are more concerned about who you are than what you have. I love seeing my kids happy. But keeping them happy all the time isn’t my number one priority. Parenting is a marathon and we have to remember our longterm goal of raising beautiful people who love God and others.
Sure, your kid might end up with the latest technology that you require them to save their money for and you may throw that one over-the-top 13th birthday party you’ve been planning all year. There isn’t anything wrong with these things when they are a part of your plan.
Because here’s the thing: When we parent with intention and moderation and our kids end up getting something they really want or have worked for–That gift will be intentional and not just another thing to add their pile of stuff. It will be appreciated.
Because we have to balance the natural desire to give our kids the world without giving them over to it.
Motherhood is messy.
But we can say yes in the mess and live a life that is making a difference in our world and most importantly, in our home. Because families who choose to live different do.
Read more about the twelve things we are doing to try and raise our kids different from our culture in my new book: