How do I deal with the pressure to give my child the same things their friends have?

What guidance does the Bible provide?

It seems as if a new phone, device, game system, or some other thing your child wants is coming out every week. When trying to convince their parents to get them the next thing, children are quick to point out what their friends have. While it is natural for a parent to want to provide everything for their child, boundaries must be set up to stay within the budget and to help the child form a biblical view of material things.

The Bible gives us a lot of insight regarding this question. Starting with the ten commandments, the Bible tells us not to covet our neighbor's possessions (Exodus 20:17). Envy of their friend's gadgets is sinful, as well as any envy you may have regarding what other families are able to provide. Consider why envy is sinful. One thinks, "If only I had what others have, I would be satisfied." The fact is that it will only satisfy temporarily until something else comes along. Only true satisfaction can come from the Lord. In Philippians 4, Paul writes that he has learned to be content no matter what the circumstance. He didn't put his confidence in things of the world because he knew those things were temporary and will eventually just wither away (1 John 2:17). Likewise, children must be taught to delight in the Lord. When we give thanks for what we do have, instead of constantly looking what we don't have, we can find peace and rest.

Unfortunately, in a sinful world, people judge others based on material possessions. Your child may struggle with envy because he is dealing with pressure to be liked and to fit in. In fact, your child may convince himself that he must have these things to be satisfied. Remind your student that "friends" who hang out with people for their stuff will just as quickly leave them if something better comes along. They love the thing, rather than the person. The Lord judges the heart of a person, not his appearance or what he has (1 Samuel 16:7). Encourage your child to find friends who will love them for who they are, and not what they have. When they realize all the blessings they have, they will be less concerned with the few things that are missing.

Things to think about:

Am I modeling an attitude of contentment to my children?

Do you always have to have the next big thing? Are you concerned with keeping up with the neighbors? Do you care more about what others think or what God thinks? The desire for stuff consumes us all. One first step is to make sure that your satisfaction comes from the Lord. Do you tithe and spend your money on others? Do you share with your child on the impact that makes? Do you encourage him to think about the needs of others and the blessing it brings to invest in God's kingdom? Share your heart with your child on why you give the way you do and give them an opportunity to talk to you about what they truly want in life.

What are alternative ways to help my child get what they want?

Are there ways that your child can earn their own money to be able to spend it freely? Are you willing to set up opportunities where your child can learn to save and manage their money? Will you teach them about your budget and spending so that they can learn in the process? Parents want their children to get what they want, but it helps if they can learn valuable life lessons in the process. Use this opportunity to teach your child values and help them appreciate the things they have.

What are the things that your child truly loves?

Are they into sports? Music? Art? Where do they spend their free time? How are they gifted? Are you investing in the things they enjoy rather than the latest fad? Do you spend time with them in doing the things that they love? Instead of getting what everyone else has, try to invest in things that cater to the specific traits of your child. Does your child have friends with similar interests? Do they seem content in who they are?

What do I do now?

Sit down with your child and have a conversation about what they truly want. Make sure they understand that material things only promise temporary pleasure. Help them see that our culture has an obsession with stuff. Then, make sure they know they are loved and supported. Negotiate a plan with them on how they can earn some money to help save for the things they want. Make sure they are obeying the guidelines and earning it. Encourage them with a gift or an extra incentive if possible. Throughout the process, share with your child about how you save and spend and use it as an opportunity to share your values with them.

Want to go deeper?

LEARNING CONTENTMENTTo go deeper on gaining an understanding on how to become content and the peace that brings, check out the sermon transcript from the Village Church.