My Child Wants What Her Wealthy Friend Has!

My six-year-old came home from a playdate and complained that “so-and-so has such a big closet, why don’t I get one too?”

DR. RUTHERFORD: These words can certainly be tough for a parent to hear, but I wouldn’t deny what the child is saying. It probably was a big, beautiful closet. What we’re not sure about is what her motivation was for asking this question. Is she feeling jealous of what the other child has, or is she simply curious that other people live differently than she does?

The key is for the parent to resist getting defensive. A good response might be something like, “Gee, isn’t she lucky to have that.”

It’s fine to empathize with the child’s feelings, too, and say: “I understand that you’d like a big closet like that, too, and maybe you will have one someday.”

MOLLY: This question was submitted from a mom in Los Angeles and I’ve been in her shoes! If I were this Mom, I know my first reaction would be to say: “Well, you get to do this and you get to do that… You get to go to ice skating classes and maybe they don’t; everyone is different and has different things.”

I think it’s important that children realize that they don’t necessarily have to have or do the same things as their friends do. Maybe that’s getting too defensive?

DR. RUTHERFORD: Yes, I think that’s getting too defensive. I would take a different approach and say,”It’s a beautiful house and closet, isn’t it. I really love it, too, and it has so much space, but you know what? I really love our house, too, and we feel lucky to have it.”

Sometimes we see long term effects from this kind of envy, which manifests itself as a sense of entitlement. Also, the envy experienced in childhood when not dealt with, can become a form of chronic envy towards people who have more material wealth. Nothing feels like enough. After all, there will always be someone with more wealth in the neighborhood. This can be experienced as a bitterness and a sense of being cheated. You can see why it’s better to face this issue when your kids are young.

ding 19 comments on “My Child Wants What Her Wealthy Friend Has!

  1. Our children went to private high school in Los Angeles and they had classmates who were given many things that we couldn’t afford. When our kids came home with material concerns, our standard reply was “There will always be people in the world who have more than you do, and people who have less – you are lucky to have a loving family, go to a wonderful school, and get the things that you need. Everything else is gravy.” Not only did this reinforce and define our values, it also increased our children’s gratitude and allowed them to see past the material competition in which some of their peers engaged.

    • What a great mantra, thanks so much for sharing it! I really like it and it makes so much sense. Something we all should remember – not just our kids 🙂

  2. CommonSenseDad – Thanks so much for your comment, which I think is the very best parents’ can say to their kids. I’ve known parents who won’t send their kids to private school because they don’t want to deal with this issue of other parents’ income levels. I think your approach is the best!

  3. We must train our children in such a way that they feel proud of what they are,instead of comparing themselves with others.Every parent is working very hard for their children,instead of being defensive we should teach them that everyone is different and their are different priorities in every individuals life.We must respect others way of life but we follow certain rules in our system.It can be taught through the years,not in a day.

    • Saima -I like your ideas, but I do know we live in a less than perfect world, and sometimes it’s hard for kids not to compare their lives with others. Probably first understanding how they feel would be number one on the list; being grateful for what the family has might be second. A lack of defensiveness should always be kept in mind.

  4. Yes yes yes. It all comes down to teaching our children OUR values and living a life that demonstrates the success of those values. The world is full of temptation – from drugs and alcohol to eating too many sweets. It’s up to us as parents to set an example for our children that allows them to recognize that we live confident and happy lives by adhering to our own values. Our job is to teach our children how to fly in any weather – and, as we know from our own lives, the weather changes quite a bit. As strong parents we can help build an ethical foundation in our children that will unify our family and keep our kids from falling prey to the short-term distractions often offered by their peers. Remember, also, that nobody’s perfect and that forgiveness is an important value.

  5. I have been telling my kids though they are still young that there are always people that have more and better than us, which is okay. They can work hard to get what they want when they grow up.

  6. Molly, you have initiated a good discussion. Start early by telling children that there are inequalities with which we have to cope. Some are tall; others short; some are fair; others dark. Some are intelligent; others are not, and so on. In the same way some have much money, others do not. But the shortage of cash does not put them down as long as they walk tall; they have characters that stand out – when even the wealthy bow to the upright. Missing out on things is not the problem; missing out on values makes a huge difference. To those who are believers, it would be good to point out that JESUS, LORD and MASTER was born poor and lived a poor life – when He could have willed it differently. Some who are born rich give up all they have to choose the path of poverty. We are defined by the choices we make. God bless.

  7. I would remind them that there will always be people who have more things and less things than they have, but that they have my love which is worth more than anything.

  8. Here’s a different perspective, based on my experience at the home of my single-parent grandmother, who lived in a small house that my young uncle had rebuilt in the 1930s after a fire occurred when the family was away. Tiny house, low income—but to a child, a fabulous closet that was walk-in with a shelf (that I could climb on to) because it was built under a stairway. So perhaps what your daughter should be asked is, “What do you like about her closet? Is it because it’s large enough to play in?”

  9. Oh my goodness. I wrote a blog about something similar. Big talk about other peoples values and priorities etc needs to be had I think. We need to get her to re-focus on what she has – the non material things. Lovely blog – am loving your Q and A’s

  10. I’m loving this thread, and Linda’s note is just more proof that children make the most of any situation. What we as parents might feel is “less than” is most often quite satisfactory or even wonderful to a child. We need to be careful not to project OUR feelings of inadequacy into the minds of our children.

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