The Competent Parent: Spoiled WIth Material Things?



Welcome to our weekly online series on parenting advice with local expert Dr. Deborah Wood.

Clash of Values

Dear Dr. Debbie,

Why do kids today think they’re entitled to everything money can buy?  When I grew up you had a roof over your head, food on your plate, and two parents who loved you and took care of you.  It was a privilege to get to use the house telephone.  My parents taught me life values which included not expecting to be handed everything I wanted.

Old Values

Dear Old Values,

I agree that material things are not what children need most from their parents.  The standards of the peer group (whether true or believed) and omnipresent advertising are hard foes to fight in a battle of the family budget.

Stick to your values.  Children benefit from parents who hold themselves and their children to a set of behaviors rooted in well thought out principles.  Be fair and kind to others.  Clean up after yourself.  Make amends rather than give a shallow “I’m sorry.”  Etc., etc.    The value of hard work is another principle that can be taught.   Projects and chores build self-esteem and foster looking forward to future jobs well job.  The work of your own hands can be satisfying long after the latest technology becomes outdated.

Stick to your budget. There is a set amount that parents should set aside for monthly “needs” – food, shelter, etc. And a set amount for “wants” such as entertainment, gadgets, etc.  If the family is fortunate enough to have money beyond the set budget, it can be saved for future needs and wants, with input from all the family members taken into consideration.  The more children can learn about earning and saving money, the better off they will be with their own finances one day.

As for the comparisons to the (apparently) overblown budgets of your children’s peers, you might invite comparisons of other things to prove that, no, we are not all the same.   Some people have relatives to take them camping or behind the scenes of an interesting business.  Some people live close enough to a park to explore nature any time they want.  Some people have musical talent.  Some people love to cook.  Some people have green thumbs.  Some people can take old clothes and sew them into one-of-a-kind fashions.  Some people have neighbors with interesting pets they are happy to share.   Some people know where to find a rainbow when the rain and the sun are just right.  Some people are really good at picking and keeping wonderful friends.  There is so much more to measuring our worth than our possessions.

Dr. Debbie

Dr. Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis.  She holds a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum.  Long time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments or submit a question to Dr. Debbie at [email protected]