Do Our Children Need It All?

This is a re-post from over a year ago, but it was such a needed reminder when I stumbled upon it a few days ago. Things have changed a bit since then, but my now-thirteen year old still doesn't have a phone (he's pretty sure he's the only one in the entire middle school without one, and he might be right . . .), and we live just fine with only one television in our home. So far my kids have all survived ūüėČ . . . maybe it'll be an encouragement to you too.


I'm working hard on remembering that (whether we can afford it or not. . .) living with less is not always a sacrifice for our children.  While we don't live in an incredibly affluent area, we do live in an area where parents tend to dote on their children (and I'm guilty of quite a bit of doting myself!)


What I'm amazed at though is how the¬†stuff that we think our children “need” for a happy existence continues to get bigger every day. At 11 years old, my son is one of the few children that he plays with that doesn't have his own phone.¬†¬†(I'm¬†not sure when he'll get one, but according to my hubby it won't be in the very¬†near future . . . we'll see!)¬†Not a single one of my children have a television in their bedrooms (and I can pretty safely say they never will), instead we just have one family TV that sits in our living room.¬† (A very sweet little girl visited our house recently and innocently¬†said “Gee, I feel really sorry for your kids because they don't have a TV in their room . . . how do they live?” Ummm … they just do.)


Do you know what? They're doing just fine and haven't suffered one bit because of it! And, call us really crazy, but we don't let them watch TV after school or play video games, instead they play outside or in the playroom with friends. Yup, it's always noisy at our house (very, very noisy!), but goodness they're some pretty great kids! (Not that I'd be a mama who's prone to brag or anything . . .)


Here's the message that I'm preaching more to myself way more¬†than to anyone out there who takes the time to read this. . . Don't get fooled into believing that your children “need” fancy toys, beautiful rooms, or high dollar electronics to make them happy. They really can survive on less than others around them, and (maybe!) it'll just make them strong kids one day because of it.


I'm not saying that it's easy. at. all. My eleven year old is starting to realize that many of his friends family's choose to do things differently than we do, but for the most part, he *seems* okay with it. I think our struggle is only made more difficult because he really is growing up in a world where it does seem that everyone around him has so stinkin' much. However, that's only in his very tiny world, and I remind him of that all too often. Compared to most of the world, we have simple crazy abundance, and I so pray that he'll eventually learn that even though there are tons of things we might choose to purchase, we can also choose sometimes instead to give to those who may never live in the same world that he does. (Do you know what I mean?)


This weekend a woman came and spoke to our church about the ministry she does in the Upper Sand Mountain Parish. She recently was having lunch with her daughter, and a child at their table was eating as much food as he possibly could, because he knew that was the last meal he would eat that day.  This child lives just two hours from my home.  He was born into the same world that my little boy was, yet he may never know the crazy abundance that my son lives in every day. (I hate that!!!!)


So, my son will be okay for right now without a fancy phone, his own television, and will even make it without¬†a¬†high dollar¬†video game.¬† (And please don't misunderstand, he has way too many fancy shoes, name brand shirts, and even plays Temple Run on my iPad almost daily, so we sure don't live without much at all!)¬† But, if I can somehow enstill in him the value of helping others instead of only himself, I'll feel like one rock-star of a mom. ūüôā¬† (Wouldn't that be the most fun thing to pass on to your children?)


I'd love to hear your tips on how you teach your children the value of¬†their “needs” vs. “wants” in a¬†world where there is so much around us.¬†(It's such a hard one to teach!)¬† Please leave a comment with your suggestions!


Read more on finding contentment HERE & HERE (I struggle with this one so much too!)

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  1. Michelle Whetstone says

    I don’t think you could have said it any better. I grew up in a family where I was constantly asked is it a need or a want? Always loved the episode of the Cosby’s where Theo is charged for everything he uses in the house including rent. My children don’t have everything and still have too much. I will never allow TVs in the bedroom, as I was raised your bedroom has a purpose it is a room with beds. It is getting harder and harder for families where we who don’t give the kids everything are becoming the minority.

  2. It is MUCH more difficult not to give too much. I am finding that showing restraint when my kiddo “wants” something to be harder than anything else when it comes to raising him. How do you keep yourself from buying something for them that you WANT THEM TO HAVE? I have to remind myself all the time that NOT doing more is better for him for longer. I am with Michelle when she said they don’t have everything, but they still have too much. Seriously, way too much. I feel like I work harder at deciding how to get things out than trying to afford to get things in. This is especially true when there are so many great deals out there, including all the second hand sales. I have no doubt that less is more when it comes to my child.

  3. Amen, sister! Let the kids be kids in a world where they might avoid the worries of violence and abuse for as long as they can. Kids lived without tvs in their rooms for thousands of years and we need to be the parents that remind them of that.

  4. From my experience, growing up, my mom was a single mom, who couldn’t afford the expensive clothes, or all the after school activities or summer camps, or expensive electronics that so many of my friends had. Did I get bummed as a kid, sometimes. Did I manage to entertain myself without all that. Yes. Am I a better mom, I’d like to think so.
    My son would rather play with his cars or swing outside rather than play video games. My oldest is 4 and honestly, I’m proud to say, he doesn’t know how to use a computer (what 4 yr old really needs that). He has an imagination and knows how to use it.

    Now that’s not to say that yes, I do feel like sometimes we spoil him, knowing that a lot of the things we get him will be passed down to his brother. He does have a few movies and he likes to watch them. But it’s not all day or everyday for that matter.

    I think teaching our kids to have a servants heart is a longer lasting more important lesson than how much of something they do or don’t have

  5. You said exactly what needs to be said all across this great nation. Our job as parents is to nuture our children to be fine, upstanding men and women, not to provide the latest and greatest what-not that will be tossed aside inside a month. The best gift we can give our kids is two loving parents who have the power to say no.

    And as your neighbor, I love that your house is loud and that I see your kids outside! That was our house 10 years ago.

  6. Well said Laurie. Our children do not have TV’s in their rooms either. There is one in the bonus room. Our children do have electronics (they are all teenagers), however they have purchased them with Christmas and birthday money from grandparents. We have had discussions with our children about the blessings of abundance that they have. When our oldest was close to driving age, she would always point out a mini cooper and say that was the car she wanted. My reply was always, “When you can buy it you can have it”. When she was a freshman in high school I took her to Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace class at Asbury. That was the best money I have ever spent. We had taught our children the importance of tithing and saving but that class brought it home for her. She has never mentioned the mini cooper since. Sometimes we wonder if our children get it. They do.

  7. My oldest child was the last in his group to get a phone. He was 15 and I was calling his friend’s phone to find out when to pick them up from activities. He finally made me see that it was unfair to use up his friends minutes. At that age, we consider phones a need and not a want. (A phone, mind you, not a hand-held computer) He got a job cutting grass and bought his own fancy phone and pays for his own plan so he can text. We provide the needs but my children work and earn their own money for the wants. My youngerst (11) wanted an UnderArmor backback. I supplied the money that I would have spent for a generic one and he had to supply the cash for the balance. He really had to think about whether it was worth it.

    • Jennifer G. says

      Those are great ideas. I like that “providing for their needs and letting them work for the wants”. I need to remember that as my children grow older!

  8. Just what I needed to hear today. Coming after the holidays in an extended family that practices the buy it and pay for it later mentality, it’s easy for me to compare and wonder if we’re always doing the right thing, if my 4 year old son is missing out on something or if he will in the future. Somerimes “missing out” based on how others live is the best thing. Thanks for the reminders!

  9. Jennifer G. says

    I feel that I am constantly evaluating things in terms of needs and wants, especially when I find myself being critical of others. While I feel that we live a simple life of tv without even cable, one cell phone for the family to share, minimal toys (we have tons of books, art supplies, and outdoor toys like bikes and baseballs), I still know that what I consider a “need” (aka, a second family car or brownies ;)) is definitely a luxury to others. When I feel like my kids are noticing other people living a more seemingly fanciful life, I try to remind them that every family has different amounts of money and makes different choices in how to use it. I try to always remind that it’s important to be responsible with money and to share what you have. My kids seem to be very happy with the simple life right now, but I’m sure it will be more tempting to want for more as they get older. Hopefully a good relationship with God will help!

  10. LOVE all these tips…. and I’m so glad I’m not the only one who struggles this one. Thank you all for your comments…I think teaching our children what matters now is so important, and I’m just praying that one of these days they’ll “get” it! (I already think they do understand to some extent, but I know the next several years of raising our children will be full of challenges; being a parent is so hard some days!)

  11. THANK YOU for this great reminding affirmation. I was just thinking about the absolute waste that it is to over purchase toys. Typically, they are junk~made of inferior products and my kids lose interest in them so quickly. We have adopted seven children from Ukraine. We understand first hand what ‘having nothing’ truly means after witnessing their birth country. We understand the importance of keeping their world super duper small. As a general rule, we do not do playdates or birthday parties. We want to encourage our children to play with and ultimately bond with one another. They are young for such a short period of time, we want to cherish this time with them. People complain about the money they shell out for birthday parties and gifts for their children to attend yet they feel like their kid is going to ‘miss out’ if they don’t attend. We celebrate our children’s birthday with our immediate family with a few family traditions of selecting the restarurant of your choice for dinner. I never say never, but we will not be taking our children to Disney. We hate crowds, it is “crazy” expensive, and quite frankly, the return on investment is not there. Instead, we invested in a small vacation house a few blocks from the NC ocean and we spend most of the summer making memories with our children. I, too am not a believer in basing decisions of what to give/not give to your children on financial means. I believe in determining what you and your spouse value and then making choices that will foster those values in your children. I am not looking to please anyone on this earth~the older I get, the clearer it becomes, that in the end I must be at peace with God and myself;)

  12. I know this is an old post, which I just saw because of your link today, but just had to write…
    When our boys were young, although we could afford to give them pretty much anything they wanted, we practiced what we called “creative deprivation”. This worked well for us. When they have too much, they appreciate nothing. When they have little, they appreciate every little thing.

  13. Thanks for such a great post. I appreciate every word of it. Our church has a food bank and as members we bring an assigned item every month. I buy the items but I leave my 4 yr old and 9 yr old boys “in charge” of making sure it gets to our church in the appopriate place. I do that along with other things and of course, lots of prayer, to help teach my boys to be givers. And yes, you are so correct….. teaching my boys to be compassionate, ethusiastic givers would make me feel like a rock star mom! My kids don’t have phones or TVs either.

  14. Great post! Thanks for re-posting. ūüėČ

    Diana's Deals on Facebook.
    Blogger from Nanny to Mommy.

  15. Amen Sister! These are the sorts of posts that you make that separate you from the crowd. Unfortunately, we now live in a society where we really need to teach our kids to NOT be like almost everyone out there. It is a sad turn of events in our culture. I am just stunned by the phones that kids run around with today. The youth director at our church was giving parents a talk about the easy access kids have to start dating at young ages because of cell phones. He talked about how you used to have to talk to a parent first (community house phone) to get through. He mentioned how without fail every single one of his high schoolers that are in high school relationships are so emotionally unprepared for this sort of situation. It isn’t easy out there but a good rule to live by is do the opposite of the crowd right now. We need to raise independent strong leaders for the future or we are done as a country IMO. I was raised and influenced by depression era grandparents who were fairly well off but very frugal. Some of my favorite memories were going to Cleveland Browns games in grade school. My grandfather was a season ticket holder. We were so blessed by those sorts of experiences but it didn’t mean we couldn’t learn something from the experience like my grandparents never once buying us a concession stand drink or hot dog. If it wasn’t in the bag we carried in we just watched the game. I look back on it and smile because I don’t remember ever even asking. I was just so grateful I was even there!

    You and your husband I admire for the balance you are giving your children. It is not easy but they will never forget the lessons you are teaching them. It seems your husband relishes being the spiritual leader of your family.

    God bless you guys!


  16. I really like your ideas here. My kids also have way too much and at this point all we can do is move forward buying and providing less. My kids earn most of their spending money now (besides the cash that adults seem always to want to hand them!) and just having pride of ownership makes a strong shift from entitled attitude to grateful attitude. They’ve also taken to donating and/or selling items in fairly equivalent doses of philanthropy, clearing space for more, and upgrading. They’re only 6 and 9 so I’m very pleased with the changes that just talking to them about their opportunity vs. other areas, incomes, and cultures has made. And not buying them crap. That helps a lot.

  17. Linda Staples Bird says

    As a mental health therapist who has worked with children, THANK YOU. Tv's in child rooms do so much damage to them and their developing perception of family. they may not like you al the time now because of your decisions but they will thank you someday. Keep it up1

  18. Heidi Miller says

    We have 9 kids, 6 are grown. Our kids don't get phones til they get their drivers licenses, no need before that. They pay for game systems and games, phones, phone plans, first cars, car expenses.. We only have one tv in the family room and we don't have any tv service, just use it for DVDs. Last night, my husband and I sat on the porch watching our 3 youngest (13-17) do an obstacle course they had devised. It was a joy ūüôā

  19. Nancy Ackerman Will says

    My children are now 23 and 19 years old. They know the difference between needs and wants because they have seen it modeled for them. They have seen family members live within their means and others live beyond their means, and have seen the consequences of both lifestyles. Kids are not dumb–they figure things out.

  20. Donnie Carol Carter says

    I am so glad to read this article. Our kids are now adults, and they survived without

  21. Donnie Carol Carter says

    They did not have TV's in their own rooms because, we believed, that this way they had to come out of their rooms to watch TV–the result, more family time. How wonderful to have memories of watching "The Walton's" together. Yes, the Walton's. I am proud, now, of how they are passing similar values on to their own children.

  22. My son is soon to be 7..he donates at least a quarter of his toys and outgrown clothing twice a year happily. He has a weeks worth of clothes but I have a box of things for him to grow into, all second had or gifts. All of his toys are educational or creative, nothing electronic and one tv for the house. Once in awhile he asks why he doesn’t have all the stuff that other kids have..I tell him “we are simple people who are blessed with all we need and to be thankful for what you have and don’t focus on what others have. Greed will make you ugly in the end. There’s nothing wrong with wanting something new or striving for better but that comes at the price of giving something you already had up.” If he wants a shiny new toy, he earns it and must give up an old one first. He knows that only thing that truly comes without a cost is our love..everything else you earn and sacrifice for.

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