As I think back to when my children were first born, there are many memories that come to mind of being bombarded with all the things that babies need. I remember attending a presentation for a $1,000 high chair. It was implied that if I didn’t purchase the high chair, I really didn’t love or wasn’t very concerned about the safety of my child. And I’ll admit, I began to struggle with the paradox of what my child needs versus what I want my child to have.

If I were keeping it totally honest, I really wanted that high chair. Not for all the safety reasons or the fact that it would grow with my child, but the honest truth was I thought it made me look good to others. I heard messages that said to be a good parent, you provide what your children NEED, but even more so their WANTS.

Let’s talk about this struggle.

I should’ve owned stock in LeapFrog due to the number of their electronic toys that I purchased for my son, only because they were educational and would help with his language skills, color recognition, etc., or so I thought. I was so disheartened when I found him playing with an empty 2-liter bottle rather than the toys I bought.

That was a pivotal point for me. I recognized that I was seeking external approval from friends and family rather than looking inside. I realized what I was really teaching my sons. I had taught them that they could have everything they wanted. I never taught them that there was a difference between a want and a need.

I composed a list of things that my sons really need from me, emotionally. It included:

  • Love
  • Time with me
  • Support
  • Discipline (teaching)
  • Comfort
  • Consistency
  • Teaching them values of hard work, sacrifice, persistence, grit, etc.

That was the easy part. The hard part was changing the expectations and behaviors of my sons. Every time we went to a store, their expectation was to get something because they WANTED it. Really, they wanted it because I taught them to expect it by usually getting them something. They didn’t like the word NO. After one especially rough trip, we had a meeting of the minds.

  1. I no longer took them to the store with me.
  2. I explained to them the difference between a want and a need in practical terms.

For example…

Need:  Food (home-cooked); Want: Eating Out

Need: Shoes; Want: $200 name-brand that you are going to outgrow in 3 months.

Need: Uniforms for school; Want: Name-brand pants that you are going to get grass stains in and holes in the knee.

You get the idea.

As I look back, I am glad that I made that pivot. Even though that $1,000 high chair was fancy, I can’t put a dollar value on the lessons learned. My sons have grown into young men who know their worth doesn’t come from things like the right shoes or clothes or cars. They know the difference between wants and needs.

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