As part of my never-ending education, I am currently reading the book, “Generation Text: Raising Well-Adjusted Kids in an Age of Instant Everything” by Dr. Michael Osit. I’m only on chapter three, but I’ve found it well written thus far. It’s on my iPad, so I’ve been reading it on the treadmill.
One of the concepts that I am always discussing with my children is the difference between wants and needs. So when Dr. Osit started discussing this concept in Chapter 3 (I Want it Now! Immediate Gratification), I started shaking my head vigorously in agreement. And then I read this statement:
“One of your main goals as a parent is to teach your child how to tell the difference between wanting and needing. To do this, YOU must be clear on the difference.”
Now, I have to point out that the author highlighted the “you” in that quote. I didn’t do it. And I have to be honest, my first reaction was, “Absolutely! You tell all those bad parents out there that their understanding of a want and a need is all screwed up and they are teaching their children poorly.”
Yep, major self-righteousness in the house.
And then I started to think, “Hmmm… he’s not talking to me, is he?!?”
So, I stopped reading and thought about it. There’s no doubt about it, my definition of want and need has blurred a bit in the past couple of years. Before we started Goat Milk Stuff, we were pretty broke and everything extra that we did earn went toward paying off our mortgage.
But now, our mortgage is paid off and there is some freedom in our budget that we’ve never had before. My older children definitely know the difference between a want and a need, but what about my younger children?
If they say they need something, what do I say? I usually tell them to write it down on the shopping list. Just because they write it on the list doesn’t mean that I buy it for them. But I really don’t sit and have the conversation about whether or not it is a want or a need.
After some soul searching, I discovered, that I’ve definitely loosened up on this area, and I’ve decided to be a little more vigilant about it – particularly with the youngest children. My conscience was now clear and my self-righteousness smothered, so I read on and eventually came to this sentence:
“A well-adjusted child is one who can both wait to get what he wants, and accept that he may not get everything he asks for without pitching a fit or repeatedly asking for it. It is our job as parents to train our children to temper their reactions and cope with the delay or denial of their wants.”
At this I heaved a big sigh of relief. I may have loosened up on the wants vs. needs mantra, but in a family of ten, everybody definitely does not get everything that they ask for. And we definitely parent them to handle it in an appropriate manner. Unfortunately, I’ve often witnessed parents who give in to their child’s every demand and wish. While I’ve always intuitively known that method is a bad way to parent, here’s a great summary of the reasons why:
“If your kids are conditioned from early childhood to expect to get whatever they want, they will be confused and disillusioned when the rest of the world does not follow suit. As adults, these children face significant problems with anger management, professionalism, and personal relationships. If an individual doesn’t learn effective coping mechanisms regarding need and want gratification in childhood, that person runs the risk of developing a number of immature and inappropriate behaviors as an adult and can subsequently suffer from depression and anxiety later in life.”
WOW. Is that not scary?
I bring this up to encourage you (and me). I usually do not feel badly when I deny my children things that they want. (I know, I’ve said it before, I’m a mean mom.) I’ve always thought not getting everything they want was good for the children. And yet – I actually felt guilty about telling Brett that she could not have a cell phone, even though I didn’t believe she should have one yet.
I don’t feel guilty any longer! It’s just as important for teenagers to learn to handle “no” as it is for toddlers to handle it. I am being a good mom and teaching her how to handle disappointment. Plus it will make getting a cell phone that much sweeter for her because she had to wait for it and anticipate it.
Overall, I think I’m on the right track with distinguishing between my children’s wants and needs. Now that it has been brought to my attention, I’m more aware of the fact that I need to communicate that difference with the younger children. It will be fun watching their reactions. I’m anticipating something like, “Ummm… can I write it down on the shopping list anyway?”
So what about you? Do you find it hard to say no to your children? Do you think that needs to change? Or are you comfortable with the balance of your yes/no? I’d love to talk about it and hear what other parents are thinking, so please leave me a comment.