Dear Marcie,

My child seems to be experiencing some heavy social pressures at the mere age of 6. When I was younger "keeping up with the Joneses" meant little more than having a nice pair of jeans or the latest and trendiest sneakers. Nowadays, children seem way more absorbed with "stuff" and my young child is picking up on this and asking for things like high-tech gadgets, a cell phone and computer just to fit in with the others. He even says he's going to drive a Ferrari some day. As a parent, it's too hard to keep up! I don't think my child should have such preconceived notions of family status and the things required to keep up. Any thoughts?


Mrs. Jones


Dearest Mrs. Jones:

It sounds like your aspiring Richie Rich needs some anchoring and some real-life lessons in translating hard work into money, only to let it go in exchange for  life's little "indulgences." You are right. The challenges to your values and parenting are at every turn.  Look no further than the constant stream ofcommercials flooding not just your television, but the Internet and movies. Whether we are in our homes or running errands, we are bombarded.  Considering how easily influenced children are by the things they watch, it's no wonder they feel the need to have the newest and nicest stuff. And, mind you, stuffversion 4.0 is going to be replaced by stuff version 5.0 in the Fall (I read it on the Internet). I often tell my own kids, "heck, if we get you that must-have purchase, it'll be dated by next week!  Then what?  What's next?"

It's more important now than ever before to keep your child grounded, true to who they are and who you want them to grow up to be. While it's nice to have the latest "must-haves," it's all the grander when you've worked to acquire those things.  Of course, working for something will usually change your perspective on what is necessary to own.  Tell Richie he can have the things he wants, but he will have to work for the money, whether at home or elsewhere.  He might view this as one of life's little hard-knocks, but he will be sweetly rewarded with the appreciation for the value of something earned and long-term growth and development.

On a separate note, it may help to point out that the grass isn'talways greener, as hard as this may be to convey to our little munchkins. The same media that is now your enemy can be made into your friend. Not a week goes by that some celebrity or musician who has it "all" ends up in a degree of trouble that they attribute to how terrible it is to be them.  And there are just as many examples of people in the news or documentaries who ARE truly happy and fulfilled because of the quality of their relationships with others and the contributions they make to society and the world.  Stress this always!  

It is the quality of our relationships, not the make or model of our cars, that makes us truly rich. Even Richie Rich was willing to trade his possessions for a few good friends. Keep the focus on what's important, and stay strong Mrs. Jones!

Share your experiences "keeping up with the Joneses" or ask a question in the comment section.