Do you ever feel like your life is more complicated than you wish it were? Are you used to having way too much “stuff”? Your children may feel the same way. They are often the targets of marketing campaigns that are aimed at convincing them that happiness comes by buying whatever product they’re pushing. Today’s kids need to learn to tell the difference between needs and wants. They need to be taught how to appreciate and express thankfulness for what they have, rather than always longing for what they don’t have.
As parents and teachers of preteens, you need to look for every opportunity to drive home the facts about the issues described. Sit down with your preteen sometime and leaf through a catalog from a store. Have him point out things he thinks he would like to own. Then talk about whether or not that item is a need or a want. Explain the difference simply by pointing out that needs are the essential things in life, while wants are not that important.
If your preteen insists that an item is “essential” to him, perhaps instead of agreeing to buy it for him, challenge him to save his money to buy it himself. If it takes him a long time to earn the money, chances are he will change his mind about the item being so important to him and decide against buying it.
Another activity is to look for opportunities for your preteen to be involved in a mission project. Perhaps your church offers ways to help people in your community who are less fortunate.
A group of fifth graders developed a new appreciation for the food their parents provide for them by helping out in a food pantry. They never really thought about that there were many people in their community who could barely scrape by and feed their families. Children’s hospitals, children’s homes, and other facilities that take care of children often have “wish lists” available for the asking. Your preteen would enjoy filling some of those needs. Allow him to actually purchase the items, box them up, and mail them himself. Point out to him that he can be assured that his generosity will bring a smile to some child who may not have a lot to smile about.
Helping your child see the world in this way opens up a whole new thought process for him. He will hopefully become less demanding of “stuff” for himself and realize that true happiness comes by giving of himself to others.
The Bible has a lot to say about living in this way. A few scriptures to share with your preteen are: Matthew 10:8; Matthew 19:21; Mark 10:21; Acts 20:35.
Perhaps as you focus on teaching this all-important lesson about “simple living,” you will realize you need to make some changes in your way of life, too. What better way to drive home this lesson than to model it for your preteen!
Lou Ann Davison is a retired elementary teacher who enjoys substitute teaching, tutoring, and spending time with her five grandchildren. She is a member of the First Baptist Church in Marvell, AR.