“EVERYONE HAS MORE THAN WE DO!”
Hate it when your kids whine for expensive brands because “everyone else has one”? Then don’t be like the mother who lectured her son on “material things aren’t what’s important,” only to be left red-faced when he replied, “Then why did you say you’d give anything to trade places with Mrs. Jones and live in her big fancy house—when her son who’s in jail for selling drugs would come with the deal?”
Intellectually, we all know that wealth and comfort mean little without love and integrity. But it’s easy to forget that when the siren call of instant gratification sings to us via social media pages, advertisements, and lives-of-the-rich-and-famous displays.
Reducing direct exposure to that sort of thing is one way to keep envy from turning your eyes, and your children’s, green. Here are a few other ideas.
Practice Gratitude Daily
This world has been addicted to complaining for too long. Start some energy flowing in the other direction by paying less attention to what others have and more attention to what you have. Your children (and any other close family members) should rank high on your list of blessings. So should your friends, your job, your home, your church, having adequate food and clothing, and having freedom to express your opinion and improve your life. Never mind if some of these aren’t as “perfect” as you’d choose. Be assured that someone—perhaps even Mrs. Jones who has a big house but no love in the home—is wishing they were in your place. To maximize the benefits of
gratitude, keep a daily journal counting your blessings—and give a similar journal to each of your kids.
Defuse Greed and Envy in Your Children
Besides encouraging your kids to count their blessings daily, you can lessen their “I want what my rich peers have” tendencies by:
- Giving them your time and attention. That’s a lot more valuable than a glut of material possessions.
- Responding to “buy me something expensive” requests not with lectures, but with questions that encourage them to think. “How might you get it on your own initiative?” “What else might we spend the money on?” “Why do you think this new item would make you happy?” “Are your friends who have it happy all the time?”
- Making a rule of never buying anything on credit. That only feeds the lie that instant gratification is a problem solver.
Help Out Those Less Fortunate
Among the best ways to thwart “everyone is better off than we, and it’s not fair” thinking is to offer a hand to someone who is worse off. As a family, you might:
- Invite someone with no family to Thanksgiving dinner.
- Take a day to clean a disabled neighbor’s house.
- Collect donations for a food or clothing drive.
- Participate in an event at a homeless shelter.
- Sponsor a child in a low-income society.
Where possible, connect directly with the people you’re helping. Not just to remind yourself that there are those materially worse off than you, but to observe firsthand that many people with less are actually happier. That never fails to influence “helpers” for the better.