“Matt has an iPad. Can I have one too?” Sounds familiar?
Making social comparisons is a natural part of life and it is how we build our self-identity, starting from a young age. However, Desiree Wee, a clinical psychologist at the Institute of Mental Health, says children have a hard time distinguishing between needs and wants.
“They may think they absolutely have to have what their friends have or they will not be valued in society,” she explains.
“They may feel sad, angry or even lonely when they do not seem to live up to society’s standards.”
What can you do? Desiree suggests acknowledging your child’s feelings. For example, say something like: “I know you would love to have that too” or “iPads are fun and it’s sad when your friend has one and you don’t”.
Avoid brushing off or ignoring your child’s requests or calling him “greedy” or “spoilt”. This can give him the idea that his needs are not important to you or that he cannot turn to you for support, adds Desiree.
Teach children that they do not need to have or do everything their friends do. Highlight values and character over material goods or achievements. Model how to be happy with what you have.
For instance, say something like: “It’s frustrating when you can’t have an iPad. But you know what? We have a television to watch movies together and I really love our time together.”