“I just don’t know what to do, Joshua. He never seems happy.” This statement by my friend grabbed my attention and I sat up straighter in my chair.
My friend is a few years older than me and, financially speaking, more successful in every way: more income, more cars, bigger house, more toys.
We were enjoying some wonderful food at a downtown restaurant and talking about marriage and parenting. At some point, our conversation turned to his elementary-aged son.
My friend’s face was showing visible frustration. “I don’t understand. He has a whole drawer full of video games, a bedroom full of action figures, and a whole entire room in our house completely dedicated to toys. But he never seems happy. He’s constantly telling me he’s bored.”
His attention began to shift. As is so often the case when it comes to parenting, he began thinking about his own childhood.
“When I was young,” he said, “my family didn’t have anything. I mean, Joshua, we were super poor. I only had three toys to play with, and I shared them with my three brothers. But we made do with what we had—and we had lots of fun. I don’t ever remember asking my parents to buy me stuff.”
I was ready with my response to this. I had spent years thinking about this topic and had considered the topic when writing Clutterfree with Kids.
“Maybe your son is discontent because he has too many toys,” I told him.
“Think about it this way. When you were young, you only had three toys. But more importantly, you knew that wasn’t going to change. You had three, that’s it. You were forced to make do with what you had and find happiness in it. That was your only choice.”
My friend was nodding, so I continued:
“Your son, on the other hand, is in a completely different circumstance. Whenever he wants something new, whether it be from a commercial or something his friend gets, he just asks for it and then he gets it. You allow him to keep looking for happiness in the next toy, the next game, the next purchase. Heck, you practically encourage it.
Maybe if he was required to find happiness in the toys he already has, he just might find it. But for now, he is able to live under the impression that the next toy is going to bring it.”
My friend’s face grew sadder because he knew that what I was saying was true. His own decisions were contributing greatly to the unhealthy relationship his son had formed with possessions.
This is a reminder all of us parents need: our kids need boundaries!
If we don’t give them a sense of how much is too much, they’ll just keep wanting more. And if we let them grow up without considering the downsides of overaccumulation, we could be dooming them to repeat the errors of excess that are so common in our world today.
Don’t you want to spare your kids the bondage that comes with having too much stuff? Start early to teach them that less is more! It’s one of the best ways you can show them your love.