The Dangers of Our “Want” Culture and How We Can Help Our Kids Navigate It

(10 minute listen)


This is Save the Change, the podcast where we talk about the little tips and strategies, often, but not always regarding parenting, that can make living life, simply, a lot better. I’m Dr. Karen Latimer and today I want to tackle the culture of WANT we live in that I believe is incredibly toxic to our kids.

Many years ago, when we were doing a renovation, I mentioned that I needed something. While I can’t remember what it was, maybe two sinks in the kitchen or the laundry on the bedroom floor, I can remember exactly what the contractor said. “Yes,” he said. “Need. W-A-N-T.” That has stayed with me. At the time, it was funny, he wasn’t being insulting, he was a friend, but it was significant to me.

He was right. There are luxuries and there are needs, but it is incredibly easy to get them confused. And, it feels today that it is harder and harder to control the want, to control the feeling that we need so damn much. I just walked through an airport a couple of days ago and it struck me how much has changed. 20 years ago and you could buy gum and maybe a keychain or a plastic snow globe. Walk through an airport today and you can buy expensive jewelry, perfumes, clothes and high end bags and luggage to carry it all in. 20 years ago, we were exposed to TV commercials for the hour we watched TV, magazine ads for the few times we looked through one waiting for an appointment and static billboards as we drove by on highways.

Now, we cannot get away from advertisements for everything from shampoo to viagra to weed. We use our screens for everything and the constant pop ups of what you need to have in order to live better combined with the algorithms and invasions of privacy that keep our phones and computers popping with just what we, personally, would be drawn to is so incredibly toxic to our mental well being.

When we are always, always wanting, we approach everything in life from a place of scarcity, from a place of lack. All evidence would point to the opposite. We live in almost embarrassing abundance compared with the rest of the world. Our children want for nothing, yet they have been conditioned to want for everything. I can’t go down the social media road too far, but it is clear our kids are under the influence of influencers. Since when do 10 and11 year old girls ask for Sephora gift cards for birthdays instead of toys. I think I wanted the Barbie dream house at that age. Now, young girls want the skincare Margo Robbie uses as if this can turn them into this unattainable beauty. These girls are perfect, they are beautiful and young, and they are aching to have products that they are being led to believe they need. They are literally being brainwashed into thinking they are not worthy, that they are not enough.

What happens when the focus is always on what you don’t have, on these holes you imagine exist, the ones that need to be filled with stuff? This type of mindset triggers anxiety and depression. It can lead to eating disorders, low self esteem and in risky behaviors. People who approach life from a place of scarcity are more prone to jealousy, stress and have more difficulty in relationships.

How can we help our kids break free of this? How can we help them understand they are enough, that they are blessed and that they truly, in every sense, have enough? There are ways, and they are worth trying. As Sheryl Crow said, it’s not having what you want, it’s wanting what you have.

More on that in a moment, but first a quick plug for my new app, List’m. It is the one and only place your phone needs to keep track of everything you want to remember and all the recommendations you want to share. It can be strictly private or a little more public, in a pressure-free way, and there are never, ever any ads. Oh and it is free. List’m — L – I – S – T – apostrophe – M.

Back to what are we going to do about all this WANT. First, as always, and ever annoying as a piece of advice, I know, check yourself. How do you approach life? Are you grateful for what you have, content with yourself and happy for others’ successes, or do you exemplify by your words an actions a mindset of scarcity. Do you feel that the success or joy of others is somehow robbing you of success and joy? Do you spend a lot of time wanting more, more time, more stuff, more attention? If so, start taking some steps to check yourself, or at the very least, be mindful of the ways in which your child witnesses these negative feelings.

Simply, avoid “I wish I had” and substitute, “I’m so grateful I have”

Elevate other people and their success, rather than diminish them.

Redirect your thoughts. Before you think, I don’t have time to do this, consider, Do I have time to do this? Rather than think, I wish I could afford to have someone else do this for me, consider how lucky you are to be able to do this.

Write. Just writing down three things you are grateful for every day, can make a huge difference.

Spend more time with positive people, and gossip less.

As far as children go, starting young with them is always the best. You don’t have to buy them something every time they go on an outing with you. Just say no to material things they don’t need more often. Wanting something and then getting it is provides a dangerous positive feedback loop to the feeling of want. Say no, and they will want things less.

Exhibit kindness when you are talking about other people, when you are discussing both their successes and their failures. Especially when talking about your kids’ friends. Our instinct is to take the success of another child and try to make sure our child doesn’t feel bad by comparison by taking that other child down a notch or by instinctively building our child up in some way. Just don’t do that. Say, “I am so happy for them. They deserve it.” You’ll be surprised just how much better this feels.

Provide perspective. Not by saying “Do you know how lucky you are, there are children starving?” W hen they have triggered you. But by saying, “I am so grateful we have enough to eat. Many people do not. Can you imagine there being no food in your home?”

Show your kids they are valued for more than how they look and what they wear. Focus on their inner strengths and avoid judgements about appearances.

Always make sure they feel they are worthy of love and respect.

And finally, limit their exposure to social media and marketers, all who are benefitting from keeping them feeling as insecure and inadequate as possible. How to do that has to be reserved for another day.

You can google how to develop a mindset of abundance, and by all means do it. I do hope these little tips help too, but above all, I think the most important thing to do is just to be mindful of how really harmful all this wanting actually is for us and for our kids, and to be intentional about making the changes your gut is already telling you you should be making.

Trust yourself. As a parent, you are definitely enough.

Thanks for listening.   

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Author: Karen Latimer

Dr. Latimer is a Family Physician and Wellness & Parenting Coach. She works with parents who want to feel more confident when helping their children and coaches young adults to help them better navigate college life and transitions. Contact her at to learn more. She is the author of two Audible Originals, Take Back the House -- Raising Happy Parents and Worry Less, Parent Better. She is also the co-founder of the app that makes your life easier and puts social in a healthier place -- List'm.


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